On the surface, it’s easy to see why: Berkman’s been a great hitter for a long time, neither of the prospects the Yankees are sending to Houston (Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes) are among the team’s best, and the Astros are paying $4 million of the $7 million still owed Berkman.
But let’s look at it another way – Berkman is 34, is having a subpar season by his standards (.245/.372 [okay, the OBP is still pretty good]/.436), and his age suggests we should expect such a downturn to continue. Plus, the Yankees are picking up some of Berkman’s forthcoming salary, and here’s the kicker:
Berkman’s contract contains a $15-million mutual option for next season — the buyout is $2 million — and he had said it would be a condition of any trade that his new team buy him out for 2011. Berkman wants to have the option of returning to Houston. A native of the Texas republic, he’s a loyal son of a gun.
So it could well be that this is a rental for the Yankees – not a problem for them – and Berkman just goes back to the Astros after the season is over. If that’s the case, getting anything at all in return for Berkman would be a bonus, and a slight amount of salary relief plus two middling minor leaguers doesn’t sound like such a bad deal at all.
As fun as it can be to make fun trades that appear awful on the surface, this looks like a classic deal that works out for both sides…unless Berkman doesn’t go back to the Astros next year. In that case, the Astros probably got robbed, and Yankee haters can tweet away.