Latest On Rusney Castillo

5:33pm: The Reds, too, will join the party, according to a tweet from C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Likewise, the Padres will be on hand, tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com. The brings the current tally of teams reportedly planning to have a look at Castillo to 17.

4:30pm: John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group tweets that the A’s will also be in attendance at tomorrow’s showcase.

12:46pm: Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo‘s showcase for Major League teams is tomorrow, but MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez adds an interesting twist to the audition: the speedster will work out at both center field and at shortstop (Twitter link).

Previous reports have indicated that the Twins, Cubs, White Sox, Braves, Giants, Mariners, and Orioles would attend the showcase. Additionally, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Rays will be in attendance, while Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel notes that the Marlins will be in attendance, and George A. King III of the New York Post adds the Yankees to the mix. Beyond that, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports adds lists a few other clubs that will attend: the Mets, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros.

Castillo is said by many to have plus-plus speed, and several scouting reports have comped him to Brett Gardner with a bit more power. The right-handed hitting 27-year-old has drawn praise for his line-drive stroke, and he’s thought of as a potential starting-caliber outfielder for a Major League club. Sanchez has tweeted a new scouting video of Castillo (including footage of him pushing a car — seriously), while a scouting report can also be seen over at Baseball America, courtesy of international guru Ben Badler. Castillo is represented by Roc Nation Sports.


Twins, Suzuki Far Apart In Extension Talks

JULY 25: The Minnesota field staff is making the case that the club should hold onto Suzuki, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It is not likely that an extension will come together quickly, however, says Rosenthal.

We looked earlier today at the latest on trade interest in Suzuki.

JULY 24: Extension talks are ongoing, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Suzuki’s representatives at MVP Sports are seeking a contract commensurate with the annual values given to free agents Carlos Ruiz (three years, $26MM), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($21MM over three years), and A.J. Pierzynski (one year, $8.25MM) over the last offseason.

JULY 22: There’s mutual interest in an extension, manager Ron Gardenhire told hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio today (Twitter link). Gardenhire’s comments, of course, don’t mean the two sides are any closer to a deal.

JULY 21: The Twins and catcher Kurt Suzuki recently engaged in extension talks, but the two sides aren’t seeing eye to eye in terms of contract parameters, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Berardino characterizes the talks as “exploratory” but notes that establishing fair parameters looks like it will be a challenge.

The news is significant, as Suzuki figures to be a prime trade chip if the Twins aren’t able to secure a new contract with the first-time All-Star. Signed to a one-year, $2.75MM contract (with $500K of incentives), Suzuki seems a highly unlikely candidate to receive a qualifying offer after the season. As such, a trade may be the only way for the Twins to receive long-term value, should Suzuki sign elsewhere as a free agent this winter.

Suzuki, 30, has served as Minnesota’s primary backstop all season and slashed a strong .305/.364/.389. While he’s cracked just a pair of homers, he’s shown the best full-season walk rate of his career (7.5 percent) and is striking out at a career-low rate (8.8 percent). That strikeout rate is currently the sixth-lowest in all of Major League Baseball (among qualified hitters).

Defensively speaking, Suzuki has been a mixed bag. He’s thrown out a solid 24 percent of opposing base-stealers and rates as one of the best in the league at blocking potential passed balls and wild pitches, per Baseball Prospectus. However, he ranks at the bottom of the league in terms of pitch framing, per BP and Matthew Carruth at StatCorner.com.

Both the Cardinals and Orioles have seen their starting catchers go down with serious injuries, while other contenders such as the Dodgers and Blue Jays have also received below-average offense behind the plate.


Bruce Billings, Jeff Manship Outrighted

Here are today’s outright assignments and minor moves from around the league…

  • After being designated for assignment recently, Bruce Billings has been outrighted to Triple-A by the Yankees, according to the International League transactions page. As he has previously been outrighted, Billings will have the right to elect free agency.
  • The Phillies announced that Jeff Manship has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Manship was designated for assignment earlier in the week when righty Phillippe Aumont was recalled from the minors. The 29-year-old veteran posted a 6.65 ERA in 23 innings for the Phillies this season.


Giants Designate Nick Noonan, Jose De Paula

The Giants have designated infielder Nick Noonan and lefty Jose De Paula for assignment, the club announced. In corresponding moves, the club purchased the contracts of Dan Uggla and Tony Abreu. (To create active roster space, Marco Scutaro and Ehire Adrianza were DL’ed.)

Noonan, 25, was the 32nd overall selection in the 2007 draft. He has only 111 largely unsuccessful MLB plate appearances to his name, all last season, and was struggling mightily at the plate this year with a .239/.281/.302 slash line over 340 plate appearances at Triple-A and High-A.

De Paula has yet to see major league action at age 26. The Dominican native owns a 4.21 ERA through 51 1/3 innings pitched (10 starts and six relief appearances) at Triple-A. Over that span, he has struck out 7.2 and walked 2.8 batters per nine, both of which are in line with his career averages.


Stark’s Latest: Howard, Peavy, Reds, Red Sox, Rollins, Murphy

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com spent an hour chatting with readers about the trade deadline. Here are some highlights from his session…

  • The Phillies have offered Ryan Howard to any American League club they think could theoretically use him and received no takers. GM Ruben Amaro has even offered to pay the vast majority of Howard’s deal while asking for little in return, but to no avail.
  • The possibility of Jake Peavy heading to the Cardinals is still very much alive, Stark hears. The Red Sox just sent their top scouts to watch St. Louis’  short-season Class A club, which would fit with previous reports that Boston likes outfield prospect Rowan Wick (though he has since moved up to the Midwest League).
  • Despite a six-game losing streak, the Reds are still buying, and their preference is to add a bat that they can control beyond this season. As such, Marlon Byrd and Ben Zobrist both are targets, though it’s far from a guarantee that the Rays will sell.
  • Stark says he’s “barely heard [Stephen] Drew‘s name” on the trade market due to how poorly the shortstop has played since signing. If the Red Sox sell, he notes, the team will trade some combination of Peavy, Andrew Miller, Jonny Gomes and Junichi Tazawa. The addition of Tazawa’s name is a new wrinkle in the trade market. The 28-year-old has been dominant for the Sox and is controlled through 2016 via arbitration. One would think he could fetch a very nice return, given his 2.52 ERA (2.66 FIP), 9.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9.
  • The Giants “really want a starter,” but Stark can’t see them seriously pursuing David Price. He does note that GM Brian Sabean usually ends up getting what he’s looking for at this time of the year. San Francisco has also shown some interest in Jimmy Rollins, but the chances are very low due to the former MVP’s 10-and-5 rights, his contract and the fact that Brandon Crawford would have to slide over to second base. (Alternatively, Rollins could simply play second, given Crawford’s defensive prowess.)
  • While most reports out of New York indicate that the Mets don’t want to trade Daniel Murphy, Stark hears that they’d “definitely” move him if they received enough quality in return. I’d imagine the asking price on Murphy to be very high, given Alderson’s reluctance to sell off assets that are under control beyond the current season.

Rangers Release Justin Marks

The Rangers have released left-hander Justin Marks in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Jerome Williams, the team announced. Williams’ contract was selected from Triple-A Round Rock, and he will start from the Rangers tonight.

The Rangers claimed Marks off waivers from the A’s last month, but he appeared in just 5 1/3 innings for the club’s Triple-A affiliate, yielding three runs in that time. Overall, the 26-year-old has posted a 5.03 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings this season at the Triple-A level.

Williams signed a minor league deal with the Rangers after being released by the Astros earlier this month. His contract reportedly contained an Aug. 1 opt-out clause, which was thought to be a formality, as Texas was expected to call him up prior to that date. He posted a 4.46 ERA in 351 innings for the division-rival Angels from 2011-13, but he struggled to a 6.04 ERA in 47 frames for Houston earlier this year.


Central Links: Cubs, Twins, Prospects, Sox

While the Cubs are among the most clear-cut sellers at this year’s deadline, the team may hang onto Justin Ruggiano and Luis Valbuena, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Both are enjoying solid seasons and both are controlled through 2016. While the team wants to get as much young talent in the door as possible, each provides a veteran presence to help with the club’s impending influx of young talent.

Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that it was difficult to designate Matt Guerrier for assignment, given the right-hander’s history with the club. “That’s not the way you like to see things go,” said Ryan. “He’s a class guy. He’s been a great member of this organization for about a decade.” The GM added that it’s too soon to tell if Guerrier will accept an outright assignment, but Berardino gets the impression that Guerrier’s time with the Twins organization is done.
  • Berardino also asked Ryan if he expected more moves for the Twins in the coming week after trading Kendrys Morales to Seattle for righty Stephen Pryor yesterday (Tout link). Ryan replied: “It’s always active, Mike, at this time of year. You’re going to have activity, especially if you’re in a situation that the Twins are in right now. We’re going to have active calls, whether you place them or field them, it’s going to be a little busy. … We’ve got some people here that there will be interest in.”
  • One more from Berardino, who spoke with Twins backstop Kurt Suzuki about the possibility of being traded. Suzuki says he’s not focusing on rumors circulating his name because it’s out of his control but admitted that it’s not always easy to do and can be tough for families. Berardino wonders if the Minnesota would reignite its interest in former Twin A.J. Pierzynski, should Suzuki be dealt. Minnesota made a two-year offer to Pierzynski in the offseason.
  • The Pirates sit atop Jim Callis of MLB.com’s list of five contenders with young talent that they can afford to move in trades. He lists Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, Harold Ramirez, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Alen Hanson and Reese McGuire as appealing chips, noting that, “No contender can match the Bucs’ combination of prospect quality and quantity.” The Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners and Royals round out Callis’ list.
  • Jim Margalus of SB Nation’s South Side Sox wonders why the White Sox (and teams around the league in general) have been so hesitant to trade within their own division and opines that this stigma shouldn’t prevent a deal sending Dayan Viciedo to the Royals, who reportedly have interest. Margalus runs down the list of previous intra-division trades and sees no catastrophes to speak of.

Trade Market For Right-Handed Relievers

Needless to say, right-handed relief pitching is perhaps the most-moved asset during July. Last year, things got started with a swap of righties Carlos Marmol and Matt Guerrier, with Mitchell Boggs, Francisco Rodriguez, Guillermo Moscoso, Jesse Crain, and Jose Veras also moving in July. The August revocable waiver trade period saw John Axford and Vic Black change hands.

Significant movement has already occurred this year, of course, with Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli swapping jerseys. Since that time, quality arms like Joakim Soria, Huston Street, and Jason Frasor have gone to contending clubs. That does not mean that the action is over on this front, however. Let’s see who else might be available:

Current/Former Closers

Koji Uehara (Red Sox), Joaquin Benoit (Padres), Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies), Steve Cishek (Marlins), Brad Ziegler (D’backs), Chad Qualls (Astros), LaTroy Hawkins (Rockies), John Axford (Indians), Grant Balfour (Rays), Jim Johnson (Athletics)

  • If the Red Sox decide to market Uehara, rather than holding onto him and either making a qualifying offer or extending him, he would likely be the best arm available. Uehara is the kind of dominating closer that can add huge value down the stretch and in the postseason, and would figure to draw substantial interest from any team with an eye on October. He is owed very little this year, and would be a pure rental.
  • Benoit has somewhat quietly been nothing short of dominant over the last two years. He is owed $8MM next year and comes with a $8MM club option ($1.5MM buyout) for 2016. Of course, San Diego has indicated that it will only move its newly-minted closer for a big return, having already dealt away Street.
  • Papelbon has actually been quite a bit more effective than one might expect, given all the negativity surrounding his contract and stay in Philadelphia. The 33-year-old’s velocity is down, but so is his ERA (1.91). And while the contract still looks bloated, it no longer seems entirely untradeable. Papelbon’s annual rate is $13MM both this year and next, and he comes with an achievable vesting option for the same price in 2016 (vests with 55 games finished next year or 100 total between 2014-15).
  • Cishek is an arb-eligible 28-year-old playing on a $3.8MM Super Two salary. His ERA is at a career-worst 3.32 — he’s allowed less than three earned per nine in every full season of his career — but his FIP is at a career-best 2.06. Though it seems that the Marlins are unwilling to move him, his swiftly rising salary means that you can’t rule out the possibility if the right offer came in.
  • Though he has not spent much time in a closing capacity, Ziegler does have some experience there after logging 13 saves last year. More importantly, the 34-year-old has not seen his ERA land above its current 2.84 level since the 2010 season. He is striking out more batters than usual (7.8 K/9), while his walk totals remain in line with his career numbers (3.0 BB/9)  and he continues to induce a ridiculous number of ground-balls (66.4%). Owed a reasonable $5MM next year, and coming with a $5.5MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2016, his contract also looks pretty good — although that is also why Arizona is reportedly inclined to keep him.
  • Qualls and Hawkins, both veterans of the league, are currently working as closers but would almost certainly be dropped in the pen hierarchy on a contender. The pair has been effective over the past two seasons, and both play for obvious sellers. But the Astros have indicated that they are hesitant to move the more desirable Qualls (who they control for two more years), while the Rockies could also opt for stability rather than a meager return on Hawkins (who will be a free agent and has struck out just 4.4 batters per nine).
  • Then we arrive at the highly-paid, deposed closers: Axford, Balfour, and Johnson. The 31-year-old Axford comes with control, but could be a non-tender candidate again this year. Though he is the only one of this trio that has been reasonably productive this year (3.23 ERA, 11.1 K/9 vs. 6.0 BB/9), little in the way of rumors suggest that he is being asked about or shopped. Meanwhile, Balfour and Johnson are both grossly overpaid and underperforming, and could surely be had for a meager return, with their current teams eating most or all of their salaries. (The latter, of course, is in DFA limbo at the moment and could become freely available at league minimum in short order.)

Set-Up Men

Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica (Red Sox), Juan Carlos Oviedo (Rays), Scott Atchison (Indians), Ronald Belisario and Javy Guerra (White Sox), Casey Fien and Jared Burton (Twins), Neftali Feliz (Rangers), Jose Veras (Astros), Carlos Torres and Daisuke Matsuzaka (Mets), Carlos Villanueva (Cubs), Tim Stauffer and Blaine Boyer (Padres), Matt Belisle (Rockies)

Among these players, only Belisario, Guerra, Torres, and Fien come with control extending beyond 2015. Neither of the ChiSox hurlers has been that good, however, and the Mets and Twins will probably be in no rush to move Torres and Fien since they come with multiple years of control and should remain fairly inexpensive.

The other arms are purely short-term options who could help with depth down the stretch and (in some cases) next year. Feliz has had his struggles and will not be cheap as a project arm, and probably will get a chance to regain his form in Texas. Otherwise, Badenhop is probably the prize of this group after Fien; he has been steady for the third straight year and shouldn’t be expensive (in dollars or prospects) as he prepares to hit the open market. Belisle could be an intriguing buy-low rental, as his numbers continue to be inflated by pitching at Coors Field, though he has also seen his FIP rise to 4.12 on the back of a troubling dip in his strikeout numbers against recent seasons (6.4 K/9 this year after averaging 7.9 K/9 over prior four campaigns).


AL East Notes: Robertson, Lester, Barnes, Pompey, Byrd

The Yankees and standout closer David Robertson haven’t had any discussions about a contract extension, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily blog (Insider subscription required/recommended). The free-agent-to-be could end up being hit with a qualifying offer this winter, Olney writes, and given the declining willingness teams have shown to pay big money for relievers, he could be inclined to take the deal. Doing so would give the Yankees an elite arm at a decent price without assuming any long-term risk.

More from Olney’s blog and the rest of the AL East…

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington hasn’t made a formal offer to Jon Lester since the four-year, $70MM pact the team offered in Spring Training. Cherington wouldn’t be doing his due diligence if he didn’t at least listen to offers for his ace, in order to gauge whether or not a club like the Dodgers would offer up a top prospect like Joc Pederson or Corey Seager, Olney continues.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes things a step further, writing that it is time for the Red Sox to trade Lester. MacPherson notes that the lack of a competitive offer shows a clear unwillingness to take that type of risk on the organization’s part. If the team wasn’t willing to go to $100MM or so in Spring Training, MacPherson asks, why then, would it vault into Zack Greinke territory by offering a market value extension or free agent contract? Collecting a draft pick and letting Lester walk is a “timid half-measure,” MacPherson concludes.
  • The Blue Jays have shown interest in Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes, reports Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. However, while the Jays have scouted Barnes extensively, they’ve yet to put together an offer.
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports (via Twitter) that Blue Jays top prospect Dalton Pompey has changed representation and is now a client of CAA Sports. The toolsy center fielder hit his way onto Baseball America’s midseason Top 50 prospect list, ranking 47th overall.
  • While the Yankees are focused on adding pitcher, John Harper of the New York Daily News opines that the team should turn its focus to Marlon Byrd. Injuries to Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira have left Brett Gardner looking like the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, Harper writes, and Byrd has more homers than the entire outfield of Ichiro Suzuki, Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury combined. While there’s been no indication that the Yanks are interested, one executive tells Harper that GM Brian Cashman has gotten very good at keeping acquisitions under wraps.

Athletics Acquire Deck McGuire

The A’s announced that they have acquired right-hander Deck McGuire from the Blue Jays in exchange for cash considerations. The former first-round pick was designated for assignment last week.

McGuire struggled in his first exposure to Triple-A at age 25, posting a 5.56 ERA in 55 innings with 6.2 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. The promotion to the highest level of the minors came after McGuire posted a 2.98 ERA over 60 1/3 innings in his fourth go at Double-A.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Cards, O’s Among Clubs With Interest In Kurt Suzuki

The Cardinals and Orioles are among the teams that have interest in acquiring Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Both clubs have seen their starting catchers go down with significant injuries, as Matt Wieters is out for the season following Tommy John surgery, while Yadier Molina is out through mid-to-late September with a torn ligament in his thumb.

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently reported that the Twins have had extension talks with Suzuki, but the two sides are far apart. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported yesterday that the first-time All-Star was looking for salaries commensurate with those achieved by Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia this past offseason — a significant step up from the one-year, $2.75MM deal that Suzuki inked with Minnesota over the winter.

It’s not a shock to see Suzuki ask for a sizable raise, nor is it surprising to see clubs with a need behind the plate showing interest. The 30-year-old is enjoying one of the finest seasons of his career, batting .308/.367/.393 with a pair of homers in 331 plate appearances. Suzuki’s contract contains $500K of performance incentives, per Berardino, but even if it’s assumed that he maxes out his earning potential, he’d be owed roughly $1.17MM from now through season’s end — an affordable sum for nearly any contender (Minnesota could, of course, simply pay the remaining salary to make him that much more enticing to clubs).

Currently, the Cardinals are using the light-hitting Tony Cruz behind the plate, while the Orioles have gone with a combination of rookie Caleb Joseph and trade acquisition Nick Hundley.


Yankees Designate Chris Leroux For Assignment

The Yankees announced that they’ve selected the contract of the recently acquired Chris Capuano and designated right-hander Chris Leroux for assignment.

Leroux’s most recent callup with the Yankees lasted just a day, and he didn’t appear with the club during last night’s contest. The Canadian righty allowed five runs in two innings with the Bombers earlier this season and has pitched to a 5.08 ERA with a 23-to-10 K/BB ratio in 28 1/3 innings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.

The 30-year-old Leroux has a fair amount of Major League experience (71 2/3 innings), highlighted by 25 innings of 2.88 ERA ball with a 24-to-7 K/BB ratio for the Pirates back in 2011.


Mets Would Pay Some Of Colon’s Salary In Trade

The Mets are willing to absorb roughly $2MM of Bartolo Colon‘s remaining salary in order to facilitate a trade, sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Colon, who earns $9MM in 2014 and $11MM in 2015, has about $14.25MM remaining on his contract at this time.

However, Martino also reports that the growing sense is that if Colon is to be moved this month, it won’t happen until just before the deadline. Many teams consider him a fallback option if they are unable to acquire the likes of David Price, Ian Kennedy and Cliff Lee. The overall price tag on Colon will have dropped to about $13.95MM at that point, meaning that an interested club would have to take on about $11.95MM of salary for eight months of Colon’s pitching (not including any postseason innings, of course).

General manager Sandy Alderson isn’t desperate to move Colon, Martino notes, so if he doesn’t find an offer to his liking in the next week, he can simply hang onto Colon, as he did with Marlon Byrd last summer. (Byrd was eventually dealt to the Pirates in August.) The Mets are willing to wait until August, or even the offseason, to move the veteran right-hander, Martino writes. If the Mets really don’t feel any pressure to trade Colon at this time, it’s fair to wonder just how much Alderson would be willing to budge from that $2MM figure (one would assume, of course, that the Mets would be comfortable eating more salary if the other team paid a greater price in terms of prospects).

Colon’s ERA has spiked from 2.65 in 2013 to 4.03 in 2014, though some metrics — xFIP (3.72 in ’14, 3.95 in ’13) and SIERA (3.76 in ’14, 4.10 in ’13) — feel he’s actually been better than he was last season. That’s likely due to an uptick in his strikeout rate and a slight improvement in his already outstanding walk rate. Colon struggled through his first six weeks with the Mets but has turned in a 2.98 ERA with a 62-to-14 K/BB ratio over his past 84 2/3 innings (12 starts).


Amaro: Phillies Have Not Considered Releasing Howard

FRIDAY: Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “emphatically” denied reports suggesting that the team was considering a release of Howard, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury“That is not something we are contemplating,” Amaro told Salisbury. “I don’t know where that’s coming from.” Later in the interview, Amaro repeated that releasing Howard “has not been a thought” and added that Howard “should have no concerns” about being released.

Amaro did note that a platoon situation was a possibility if it improved the club’s production, but he said his real hope was to get Howard’s bat back on track. “I don’t expect him to be the Ryan Howard of 2006, 2007, 2008,” said Amaro. “What we expect is him to perform better than he is. I know he’s a better player than this.”

THURSDAY: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has some additional details on Philadelphia’s efforts to deal Howard. The club has shopped him, indicating that it would eat “much or most” of his remaining salary. Rival executives say that Philly is working hard to line up a match.

As Heyman notes, an American League team would seem most likely to add the former MVP, and two GMs told him yesterday that Howard was probably worth between $3MM and $5MM annually at this point. (Though presumably that does not mean that a multi-year commitment at that price would be desirable.)

WEDNESDAY: As his struggles worsen, the Phillies have had internal discussions about releasing one-time star first baseman Ryan Howard after the season, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Howard is owed the rest of his $25MM salary this season and comes with $60MM in future guarantees.

It does not appear that the club has reached any finality in regards to Howard’s future. The possibility of a trade has been explored, but Philadelphia has not found another club interested in taking on any substantial part of Howard’s contract. That is not surprising, of course, given that the 34-year-old is slashing a career-low .224/.305/.377 through 417 plate appearances on the year.

Now, with Howard’s decline becoming more pronounced, Philadelphia appears set to give more playing time to younger first base option Darin Ruf, who was recalled today. Manager Ryne Sandberg did not call it a platoon situation, but suggested as much. “As far as the lineup, that will be a day-to-day thing,” he said. “I think it’s important to see what a guy like Darin Ruf can do also going forward,” the skipper added.

Howard signed his extension at the start of the 2010 season, coming off of a four-year run in which he put up a composite .278/.379/.589 line and hit 198 home runs. Though he continued to produce at an above-average clip at the plate for two more seasons, things began to head south when he tore his Achilles tendon while making the last out of the team’s Game 5 loss in the 2011 NLDS. (That, of course, was also the Phils’ most recent postseason game.) Since that time, Howard — long considered a substandard fielder and baserunner – has mustered only 917 trips to the plate and owns an OPS that falls below league average.


Mariners Have Made Offer For Drew Stubbs

FRIDAY: The Mariners made a formal offer to the Rockies for Stubbs earlier this week, according to Nick Groke of the Denver Post. Groke, like Morosi and Harding, hears that the Rockies aren’t actively looking to deal Stubbs.

THURSDAY, 9:41pm: There are no talks ongoing regarding Stubbs, Harding reports, but sources tell him that increased activity on the outfielder could occur over the coming week.

7:02pm: The Mariners have inquired with the Rockies about the possibility of acquiring outfielder Drew Stubbs, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Colorado is willing to listen on Stubbs, tweets Thomas Harding of MLB.com, and would be interested in bringing back a controllable young arm in return.

Stubbs, 29, has played exclusively in center field with the Rockies, though he also has experience in right. He has posted a career-best .297/.335/.498 slash with ten home runs an 11 stolen bases in 258 plate appearances. That comes on the heels of three straight seasons of below-average production with the Reds and Indians, however, which led to his being dealt to the Rockies from the latter club in exchange for southpaw reliever Josh Outman.

The right-handed hitting Stubbs is earning $4.1MM through arbitration this year and should be in line for a nice raise in 2015, his final season of arb eligibility. That contract situation limits his trade value, of course. Colorado is not yet sure if they would like to part with Stubbs, Morosi adds. Of course, he is part of a fairly crowded outfield situation at present, particularly given reports that the club would like to bring back veteran Michael Cuddyer.