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Darin Ruf Rumors
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki runs down a number of decisions with which the Phillies are faced in the coming offseason and examines some of the perceived problems on the roster. Sources have indicated to Zolecki that despite manager Ryne Sandberg’s desire to play Darin Ruf more often at first base, the Phils feel they need to let Ryan Howard play if they have any hope of moving him to an AL club this winter. Zolecki adds that while Sandberg would like to learn more about Ruf via extra playing time, the organization feels it knows that Ruf is a platoon player — a view shared by other clubs as well.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Despite the common belief that the Mets should move Bartolo Colon this offseason, Ben Berkon of SNY.tv’s MetsBlog opines that the pitching-rich Mets should at least consider the possibility of moving a different starter such as Jon Niese. While Colon could potentially net some minor league pieces to help out in 2017-18, flipping Niese and his desirable contract (but oft-questionable health status) could bring the Mets more immediate help. Berkon speculates that Niese — perhaps paired with prospects Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki and/or Rafael Montero — could allow the Mets to land an impact bat that the Mets have been lacking despite strong seasons from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.
- The acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera has helped the Nationals not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams offered nothing but praise for Cabrera’s professionalism, and shortstop Ian Desmond said he strives to live up to the clubhouse reputation and league-wide repsect that Cabrera has built.
- Between top prospects Christian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza, only Bethancourt should expect a September callup, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Peraza has very little experience above Class A to this point, whereas Bethancourt impressed the Braves in his handling of the pitching staff in a brief two-week audition this summer. Bowman feels that the Braves’ comfort level with Bethancourt’s glove increases reason to believe that Evan Gattis should be traded to an AL club this winter. That seems like a leap in my eyes, given Bethancourt’s modest production at Triple-A and struggles against MLB pitching. Of course, Bethancourt, 22, is quite young to have played a full season at Triple-A as well, making his pedestrian numbers more understandable.
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.
Catching figures to be a major priority for the Phillies this season with Carlos Ruiz eligible for free agency and top catching prospect Tommy Joseph having endured a lost season as a result of concussion issues. However, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com provides an in-depth look at the Phils' catching depth beyond Joseph, noting that Cameron Rupp has already reached the Majors. Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan tells Salisbury that he's also very excited about 2013 second-rounder Andrew Knapp, and a rival scout familiar with the Phillies' system was particularly enthusiastic about Dominican prospect Deivi Grullon. Here's more on Ruiz and the Phillies…
- Ruiz would like to return to Philadelphia, writes Salisbury in a separate piece, and the organization has taken note of his recent surge at the plate, with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. stating that Ruiz looks far more relaxed. Pitching coach Rich Dubee, who knows Ruiz quite well, feels that Ruiz is best limited to 100 games behind the plate at this point in his career, however.
- Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus writes that Darin Ruf is exceeding expectations of scouts and talent evaluators with his production at the big league level so far. Lindbergh's piece includes an excellent interview with Ruf, conducted last week, in which Ruf discusses what scouts thought of him, his limitations on the field and his journey from senior sign/20th-round pick to a potential long-term asset for the Phillies. "I’m probably a bad person to ask prospect-type questions because, I don’t know, I never was one," Ruf candidly replied at one point in the interview.
- Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick will force the Phils to make tough decisions this offseason, writes MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. The Phillies have four more starts to evaluate Halladay's progress from shoulder surgery, but as Amaro noted to Zolecki, it's possible that Doc won't be at full strength until next spring. Amaro and his staff will have to decide whether or not to bring Halladay back on an incentive-laden deal or seek a more certain commodity.
- Likewise, the decision on whether or not to tender Kendrick a contract that could approach $8MM via arbitration is no easy decision. Kendrick has never been on the disabled list, Zolecki noted in a different piece, a trait that would make him desirable to other teams should the Phillies non-tender him and try to sign him for less money. Dubee agreed: "If something doesn't happen here, I'm sure there's going to be plenty of seekers. He's durable. He hasn't missed a start all year. Those guys are highly sought."
- Zolecki also adds that left-hander John Lannan is likely to be non-tendered by the Phils this offseason following surgery on his left knee.
The Phillies saw their streak of five consecutive NL East titles ended by the Nationals in 2012. But, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes there is optimism since the Phillies won 60% of their games after July 31 despite the health issues of Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz, trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, and not having a reliable setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies, however, enter the new year with several question marks which Zolecki says centers around the health of Halladay and Chase Utley, the continued recovery of Ryan Howard, and how much offense new acquistions Michael Young and Ben Revere will contribute. For more news and notes on the Phillies, Zolecki opened his inbox:
- Zolecki, when asked about the health of Halladay, quoted GM Ruben Amaro Jr. who recently said, "He's going to start throwing off the mound here very shortly. I guess he's working down there with Kyle Kendrick pretty extensively. He's doing well, but we don't know what kind of Doc we're going to get until Doc's down firing in Spring Training."
- Speaking of Kendrick, Zolecki believes he's a lock for the starting rotation as long as he remains healthy.
- Scott Hairston would be the best fit to fill one of the corner outfield vacancies. Zolecki notes the Phillies have tried to acquire Hairston in the past. Zolecki also mentioned Alfonso Soriano, who he thinks would slot in nicely hitting behind Utley and Howard.
- If the Phillies acquire a right-handed outfield bat, look for Darin Ruf to open the season at Triple-A.
- The Phillies don't have have enough top-tier talent to tempt the Marlins into trading Giancarlo Stanton to the City of Brotherly Love.