Astros: Reviewing the 2010 Lance Berkman trade with Yankees

HOUSTON - JUNE 10: Lance Berkman #17 of the Houston Astros bats during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park on June 10, 2009 in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Cubs 2-1. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
HOUSTON - JUNE 10: Lance Berkman #17 of the Houston Astros bats during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park on June 10, 2009 in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Cubs 2-1. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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We take a look back at the 2010 trade in which the Houston Astros sent Lance Berkman to the Yankees.

We just recently evaluated the 2010 trade sending Roy Oswalt to the Phillies. It was the start of the Houston Astros‘ rebuild in earnest, and two days later, they traded their other franchise cornerstone. On July 31, 2010, Lance Berkman became a Yankee.

The Astros shipped Berkman to the Bronx in exchange for relief pitcher Mark Melancon and infielder/outfielder Jimmy Paredes. Berkman was in the final year of his contract, so he was a pure rental for the Yankees, which limited the return the Astros could get. But in the end, it didn’t turn out too badly.

What the Astros Gave Up

Berkman was one of the game’s best sluggers for a decade. In 12 seasons with the Astros, he hit .296/.410/.549 with 375 doubles, 326 homers, 1,090 RBIs and an OPS+ of 146, indicating he was 46 percent better than league average over his Houston tenure.

He totaled five All-Star selections and five top-10 MVP finishes. He’s the club’s all-time leader in career OBP, slugging and OPS, is second in homers, and third in doubles, RBIs, walks and runs scored. Without a doubt, he’s one of the best to ever wear an Astros uniform.

However, at the time of the trade, he was 34 and in the midst of a down year. In 85 games, he was hitting only .245/.372/.436 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs. His trademark plate discipline was there, but the rest of the production simply wasn’t. The Yankees needed help at the DH spot as they chased the Rays in the AL East and took a chance, hoping being moved into a pennant race would awaken Berkman’s bat.

Unfortunately for them, it did not. In 37 games for the Yankees, Berkman hit .255/.358/.349 with only one home run. He walked more than he struck out, but he did not provide the jolt they were looking for. He homered in the only game he played in the division series and hit .250 with a couple of RBIs in the ALCS, but that was it. His brief Yankees career was done after providing -0.3 WAR to the team.

MILWAUKEE, WI – JULY 18: Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals makes some contact at the plate against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 18, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI – JULY 18: Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals makes some contact at the plate against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 18, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

He landed in St. Louis for the 2011 season and rediscovered his form, putting up a stellar .301/.412/.547 line with 31 homers and 94 RBIs, earning another All-Star nod and finishing seventh in the MVP voting. He homered and drove in four in the NLDS, hit .300 in the NLCS, then hit .423 with five RBIs in the World Series as he finally captured that elusive ring.

His final two years were marred by injuries, but Berkman finished out a stellar career with an even 52.0 WAR. There are Hall of Famers who didn’t reach that total, and the fact that he did it as a switch hitter is all the more impressive.

What the Astros Got

Melancon, at the time, was a 25-year-old reliever with just 20.1 major league innings under his belt (with a 4.87 ERA). But he proved himself quickly, pitching to a 3.12 ERA in 20 appearances down the stretch in 2010, then worked to a 2.78 ERA in 71 appearances in 2011, notching 20 saves.

Then for some reason, the Astros traded him to the Red Sox for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland. Lowrie put up a respectable one season in Houston, though Weiland made only three poor starts with the Astros. Melancon did not fare well in Boston, either, but he ended up in Pittsburgh one season later and really hit his stride.

In four seasons with the Pirates, Melancon worked to a 1.80 ERA with 130 saves and made three All-Star games. He was worth 8.0 WAR for PIttsburgh and 1.0 WAR in his season and a half with the Astros.

Paredes never caught on in Houston, hitting .234/.274/.311 in 118 games over three seasons before leaving via a waiver claim. He hasn’t played in the majors since 2016 and gave the Astros -1.8 WAR in his time in town.

The Final Verdict

In the end, neither team got a great deal of on-field value here. Paredes’ performance means the Astros got a combined -0.8 WAR from their two players, while Berkman gave the Yankees -0.3 WAR in his couple of months in pinstripes.

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The main thing holding the Astros back in that stat is the fact that they traded Melancon. If they’d kept him, this would be a no-brainer win for the Houston ballclub. That extra 8.0 WAR he gave the Pirates would’ve looked really nice coming from this trade.

In the end, I still give the Astros the win here. The fact that they eventually let Melancon go shouldn’t count against this trade grade itself. The Yankees gave up a future All-Star closer for a couple of months of a slumping Berkman. If they could do it over again, I’d be willing to bet Brian Cashman doesn’t pull the trigger.

The Astros may not have had the foresight to keep Melancon, but they came away with an excellent reliever and only gave up the last couple of months of Berkman’s contract. He was unlikely to return in free agency with the team entering a rebuild anyway, so there was no real reason to keep him other than sentimentality and loyalty.

The Astros definitely came away with the better end of this trade. It’s a shame it had to end the tenure of one of the franchise’s greatest players, but the game is unfortunately a business. This was the right deal to make, even if they would later stunt the on-field return they could have gotten from it.

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