Arlington, Texas – The Texas Rangers formally announced tonight that the club has signed free agent first baseman/outfielder/designated hitter Lance Berkman (#27) to a one-year contract for the 2013 season. The deal includes a club option that can vest for 2014. Financial terms were not disclosed, per club policy.
To make room for Berkman on the 40-man roster, the club has designated left-handed pitcher Tommy Hottovy (pronounced HAWT-uh-vee) for assignment.
Berkman, who will turn 37 on February 10, is a six-time All-Star who has finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting three times in his career (2002, 2006, 2008). He has nine seasons of 25-or-more home runs, trailing only Eddie Murray (12), Mickey Mantle (10), and Chipper Jones (10) among switch-hitters in baseball history. His .409 career on-base percentage ranks 4th among active players (minimum 3000 plate appearances), trailing only Todd Helton (.419), Joey Votto (.415), and Albert Pujols (.414).
He placed seventh in National League MVP voting in 2011, when he hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBI for St. Louis. He appeared in a career-low 32 games for St. Louis last year due to injury, and traveled with the club in the postseason despite not being on any of the Cardinals’ three playoff rosters. He endured three stints on the disabled list in 2012: April 19-May 12 (left calf strain), May 20-July 13 (right knee sprain), and August 3-31 (right knee inflammation). He was on the active roster from September 1 through the end of the season, but had right knee surgery on September 11 and appeared in only the season finale as a pinch-hitter on October 3 vs. Cincinnati.
The Texas native played at Rice University and was selected in the first round (16th overall) of the 1997 June draft by the Houston Astros. Berkman played for Houston from 1999-2010 and ranks among that organization’s all-time leaders in slugging (1st, .549), home runs (2nd, 326), average (3rd, .296), and RBI (3rd, 1090).
Berkman will be playing for an American League team for just the second time in his career. He appeared in 37 games for the Yankees in 2010, and was on that club’s postseason roster when the Rangers beat New York for the American League pennant. In 34 career games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (regular season only), he has a .289 (35-121) average with 7 home runs, 7 doubles, and 21 RBI. In the annual Lone Star Series between the Rangers and Astros from 2001-12, Berkman led all players with 11 home runs, and his 37 RBI ranked second in the series behind only Michael Young (42).
Berkman has a career .296 average with 360 home runs and 1200 RBI in 1806 major league games with Houston (1999-2010), New York-AL (2010), and St. Louis (2011-12). He ranks 11th among active players in home runs.
The Rangers have 10 days to trade, release, or outright Hottovy to the minor leagues. He was acquired from the Kansas City Royals on a waiver claim on November 8. He had previously been designated for assignment by Kansas City on November 2. He has a career 4.05 ERA (6 ER/13.1 IP) in 17 relief outings in the major leagues with Boston (2011) and Kansas City (2012).
With these moves, the Rangers still have a full 40-man roster.