When the Astros signed Carlos Pena, that indicated to us (and most everyone else) that it meant there would be no return to Houston for Lance Berkman. That may not be the case.
With Pena holding down 1B/DH duties, where would Berkman fit? I can't imagine that the Astros are interested in signing a full-time DH, as it limits flexibility with the rest of the defensive positioning. The team is looking for maximum value, and if Berkman can't play in the field, then Bo Porter wouldn't be able to cycle players in and out of the DH spot to keep them fresh.
So, with the news that the Astros are interested in Berkman, it means that: (a) Berkman's knee is actually okay, or (b) Crane is pushing this move.
Let's rundown the last 15 hours of Berkman news, by team:
Astros: Luhnow was in talks with Berkman on Thursday and Friday. In the linked Mark Berman piece, Nolan Ryan says Berkman is still deciding if he wants to continue his career.
Rangers: The Rangers have an offer on the table of an undetermined length, but "two industry officials" say Berkman wants a two-year deal. The Rangers intend to primarily use him as a DH.
Rays, Phillies, Orioles, and Red Sox: Linked by former Astros writer Rafael Rojas Cremonesi (and Jon Heyman) as having interest in signing Berkman. Cremonesi says the Astros have extended an offer to Berkman, as well.
Yankees: The Yankees are interested, according to the New York Post, but writer Dan Martin says the team doesn't want to add 2014 payroll, indicating that they're looking for a 1-year deal.
Cardinals: Berkman told the Post-Dispatch that his daughters want to go back to St. Louis, but it won't happen. Derrick Goold says that Berkman is working out as though he'll be at Spring Training somewhere. On compensation, Berkman said:
"In a way they have to buy me out of retirement, and I know that sounds crass - I wish it didn't - but it's a big commitment...If I'm going to play, I'm going to give my heart and soul to the team. But if the carrot's not big enough, the mule isn't going to want to go."
So if we're ranking likely destinations for Berkman, I'd peg it as such:
4) Everyone else
Berkman has history with Nolan Ryan, they have money, and a better chance to get to the post-season in the two years Berkman is seeking. If that happens, it'll be fun to bring this up, from February 2012:
"Did you really want the Rangers to win? Being from Houston, I felt like I was doing this city a favor. I don’t want Dallas to have the first ring in the major leagues here."