When the New York Yankees swooped in and plucked a big name off the trade market in Lance Berkman, it was notable. When they added depth to their outfield with the acquisition of Austin Kearns, it was a bit overshadowed.
But it is that second move that could have implications on the Boston end of things. Berkman, while far and away the more accomplished player than Kearns, was brought on to fill the Yankees? designated hitter role that has acted like a carousel since Nick Johnson went down with a wrist injury early in the season. The Red Sox are one of the few teams in Major League Baseball still employing a full-time DH, and we all know who he is. Therefore, while their interest in Berkman was there, the at-bats might not have been.
In Kearns, the Yankees add depth to an outfield that has lacked it for much of the season. Sound familiar? Their injuries in the outfield have not been anywhere near what the Red Sox? have been, but the backups have included the green Juan Miranda and the strikeout-prone Marcus Thames. Neither of them are Gold Glovers. Far from it.
Kearns was rumored to be on the Red Sox? radar as the litany of injuries took out Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Jeremy Hermida. With Ellsbury expected back soon and Cameron at least playing more regularly, perhaps the club shied away from Cleveland?s demands, although they seemed rather paltry.
At the very least, a guy like Kearns could?ve been used over the past month or so, when production out of Boston?s outfield positions has really bottomed out.
The 30-year-old Kearns, a former first-round pick who was expected to achieve stardom with Cincinnati, is due just a few hundred thousand dollars after inking a minor league deal with the Indians this offseason. It?s a pittance that the Yankees were more than willing to pay in order to bolster their bench.
He is hitting .278 with eight homers and 42 RBIs in 84 games, production the Red Sox would?ve loved in this time that has seen Hermida?s average plummet toward .200 and the power numbers of everyone who has filled in remain pedestrian, at best.
In Berkman, the Yankees take a position that had rotated Thames, Miranda, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher and others in the wake of the injury to Johnson, who was brought in this offseason to hold down that DH role and bat second.
At 34, Berkman is languishing through his worst season and is now batting .245 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs. He will help New York with his experience and his ability to hit from both sides (they love that), and he has owned right-handers in his career, making him the latest Yankees acquisition brought in to take advantage of the short porch in right. He also has some solid postseason numbers, a factor that always comes into play when the Bronx Bombers are involved.
But lurking beneath Berkman?s lofty career numbers, his hefty price tag (owed the remainder of his $14.5 million this year, club option for $15 million next) and his marquee name in lights is Kearns, a lesser-known bat that may mean just as much in an American League East race where depth and versatility are key.
Just ask the Red Sox.