HOUSTON -- Could Lance Berkman wear the Astros' new orange and blue colors next year?
Berkman, one of the most accomplished and most popular players in team history, could be returning to the Astros next year in free agency. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said Friday he plans to reach out to the Big Puma to gauge his interest in returning.
"Lance can still produce at the Major League level," said Luhnow, who was with St. Louis when Berkman played a huge role in the Cardinals' run to the 2011 World Series. "He's a guy a lot of clubs are going to be interested in. We'll have a conversation with him and see where it goes."
Berkman, who's been hobbled by bad knees the past few years, could get extended time at designated hitter for the Astros, who are moving to the American League West next year. He lives in Houston year round and could opt to finish his career in his hometown.
"He is an offensive weapon and has been his entire career," Luhnow said. "No matter how you get that bat in the lineup -- and obviously in the AL you have an opportunity to use him as a DH -- he's an offensive force, no question about it."
Berkman, 36, played the first 12 years of his career with the Astros, hitting 360 home runs with 1,200 RBIs. He was traded to the Yankees midway through the 2010 season before signing a pair of one-year deals with the Cardinals.
He hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 2011, but was limited to 81 at-bats last season because of knee injuries. The Cardinals have said they're not interested in bringing him back, and Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week he'll wait until December to decide if he wants to keep playing.
"Clearly, Lance has a great history here and was a key part of a great franchise at a great time," Luhnow said. "If we feel there's a fit in terms of what we need and what he can provide, we won't hesitate to pursue it. We have a lot of different options out there and we're not going to leave any stone unturned."