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.