Ryan Howard Rumors

Quick Hits: Hamilton, Howard, Otani

The Rangers will activate outfielder Josh Hamilton on Monday, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. GM Jon Daniels has announced that Hamilton is “physically and game ready” per Wilson (via Twitter). The Angels are on the hook for most of the remaining salary on his contract. Hamilton is hoping to rebound from a couple sub-par seasons by his standards. Statistically, 2013 was his worst season on a rate basis, and he was still five percent better than the average hitter. His rehab work produced mixed results. He battered Double-A pitching (9-for-17), but scuffled in Triple-A action (7-for-29).

  • Ryan Howard has recovered some trade value after a hot month of hitting, writes Corey Seidman of CSN Philly. The Phillies‘ first baseman has hit 10 home runs with 21 RBI and a .303 average over his last 30 games. Seidman identifies three clubs as potential fits for Howard – the Angels, Rays, and Twins. The Angels have struggled mightily against right-handed pitching. They could easily insert Howard into the designated hitter slot to help solve that issue. The Rays and Twins have performed better overall, but both clubs have received poor production from their designated hitters. I happen to agree with Seidman’s analysis and even tabbed Minnesota as a potential fit for Howard earlier this evening.
  • Shohei Otani could be the next Japanese star to transition to the majors, writes Jim Caple of ESPN. The 20-year-old is still three to four seasons from being posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters. He owns a 2.71 ERA with 274 strikeouts in 259 innings. The righty can reach back for 100 mph heat, but he also displays solid ability at the plate. In between starts, he plays about three to four games a week in the field. In 485 plate appearances, he’s hit .253/.303/.445 with 15 home runs. Major league teams will be more interested in his triple-digit heater, but pitchers like Madison Bumgarner can tell you about the value of an offensive presence in the nine-hole.

Phillies Notes: Revere, Utley, Howard, Nola

Ben Revere‘s name has begun to surface in trade rumors, but the speedy outfielder tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he isn’t fazed by seeing his name floated as a trade candidate. Revere says that the talk isn’t distracting, characterizing it as something that every player has to deal with at some point. (I’d imagine that having been traded once in the past has prepared him somewhat as well.) “This is a business,” Revere says. “When [Cody] Asche and [Domonic Brown] come back we’re going to have a lot of outfielders and someone might be out. I just have to prepare to help my team win whether it’s here or somewhere else. Just bust my tail and try to stay in the lineup.” Salisbury adds that he, like others, hears that the Angels have indeed discussed Revere with the Phillies.

Some more Phillies notes…

  • Continuing to play Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could actually help the Phillies’ rebuild, opines MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Zolecki points out that in mid-April, fans wanted Howard to be benched, if not released, but he’s hitting .292/.346/.615 with eight homers in 27 games dating back to April 21. By demonstrating that level of production, Zolecki notes, Howard can only have helped his trade value. The same could eventually be said of Utley, who is struggling badly this year. The Phils have little to lose by continuing to run Utley out there, however, he argues. The club will have plenty of time to see Cesar Hernandez play in the coming years, and Utley isn’t blocking a top-tier prospect. While some are worried about triggering Utley’s vesting option, Zolecki notes that if he’s still hitting well below .200 come July, the team can very easily alter that pace in the second half of the season.
  • General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and president Pat Gillick were on hand for yesterday’s Double-A Reading game, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, and the two saw a masterful performance by 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ top decision-makers saw Nola fire seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk against seven strikeouts in an effort that dropped his ERA to 1.54 through 52 2/3 innings. However, Amaro said that the team is not yet ready to give Nola a look at the Major League level, Lawrence writes. “There are some things he needs to work on still,” said Amaro. “There’s some areas he’s continuing to work on. We continue to discuss and put together a plan for him. We’re in the middle of formulating that plan.” Amaro wouldn’t say what specific areas Nola needed to improve, but the GM did say that it was certainly within the realm of possibility that Nola would pitch in the Major Leagues this season.

NL East Notes: Johnson, Howard, Flores, Murphy, Puello

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson is expected to miss three to six weeks after receiving good news from his MRI, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Because his hand fracture was “preexisting,” per the report, Johnson will not be out as long as originally feared.

Here’s more from New York and the rest of the NL East:

  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard will qualify for ten-and-five rights tomorrow, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Howard downplayed the importance of that fact as regards his contract status, though he rightly noted that it was a worthwhile achievement standing alone. As Lawrence notes, there is little practical effect, as a modification to Jimmy Rollins‘ contract before his trade left Howard with virtually complete no-trade protection regardless.
  • Despite a troubling start to the year defensively — he tacked on a seventh error tonight — Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores is in no danger of being replaced, as Rubin reports. The club thinks that the youngster will return to making the routine plays that are giving him fits right now, with GM Sandy Alderson saying that Flores has “plenty of room” to get back on track.
  • Dilson Herrera did not do much in his first appearance of the year for the Mets, but New York is already considering what will happen if he’s as good as advertised during his call-up, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The present alignment will feature Herrera at second and Daniel Murphy at third. But when David Wright returns from the DL, something will have to give. GM Sandy Alderson would say only that “the plan” is for Murphy to return to second, adding that “at the moment” there is no movement toward keeping Herrera there. But sources tell Martino that the Mets would be increasingly willing to move Murphy, even for a lesser return and even well before the trade deadline, if Herrera seems ready.
  • The Mets will soon face another decision on Cesar Puello, the outfielder whose outright was rescinded earlier in the offseason when he was found to have a back issue that required a DL stint. As ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin explains, Puello is likely to hit the waiver wire again once his rehab stint is finished.


Heyman’s Latest: Padres, Buehrle, Greene

The Padres declined to part with top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe in their deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  At the same time, the Braves weren’t sold on top catching prospect Austin Hedges and feared that his hitting might not develop enough. Ultimately, that left pitcher Matt Wisler as the key prospect in the deal.  Here’s more from Heyman’s column..

  • Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is considering retirement following the 2015 season, Heyman reports. While he notes that April retirement ruminations often prove to be inaccurate, there seems to be a strong possibility that the 36-year-old Buehrle will call it quits.
  • Tigers executives were shocked that they were able to pry right-hander Shane Greene away from the Yankees this winter, Heyman writes. The Yankees considered trading Greene “painful,” but the team was desperate for a shortstop, and New York scouting guru Gene Michael was a strong supporter of Gregorius.
  • Trading Ryan Howard seems less and less likely for the Phillies each coming day, Heyman writes, noting that one scout said that Howard simply looks “lost” at the plate. Heyman also notes that the stacked starting pitching class on next year’s free agent market may be hindering the Phillies’ ability to move Cole Hamels, as teams are content to wait to bid on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and others.
  • The Orioles checked in on Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro at some point late in the spring.  Navarro, who has been supplanted as the starting catcher in Toronto by Russell Martin, is hoping to go elsewhere and start.  The diplomatic Navarro spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links last month about the trade talk surrounding him.
  • One GM who has some interest in Elvis Andrus suggested to Heyman that it’d be hard for the Rangers to trade him now.  While Texas has infield depth, most of it is at the lower rungs of their system.  Meanwhile, they’ll be without Jurickson Profar for a second straight year.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has one year to go on his contract, but word is that the front office likes him and they mainly want to see progress from their younger players before extending him.  It’s said that Gonzalez won’t be judged on his win-loss record, but so far he’s doing pretty well in that department too.
  • The Red Sox made at least a preliminary offer to Yoenis Cespedes before trading him, which seems to poke a hole in the theory that Boston coaches “hated” the outfielder.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Heyman’s Latest: Kimbrel, Howard, Perez, Salty, Soriano, Cueto

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has penned a lengthy column that’s chock full of Hot Stove related items as the season gets underway. First and foremost, he chronicles the Braves‘ trade of Craig Kimbrel at length. Heyman spoke to president of baseball ops John Hart, who candidly told Heyman that the team took a hard line of refusing to trade Kimbrel unless Melvin Upton Jr. was involved in the deal. “We were not going to separate Kimbrel and trade him by himself,” Hart told Heyman. Atlanta reached out to the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers and Padres, among others, this winter in an effort to move Upton, and despite the Dodgers’ bullpen needs, they weren’t willing to add Upton’s contract to that of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, having already shed Matt Kemp‘s contract. The Padres trade didn’t heat up until about four days before it was agreed upon, Heyman writes, with Hart even remaining in Orlando to finish negotiations rather than fly with the team to Miami at the end of Spring Training. Hart credited assistant GM John Coppolella for doing much of the legwork and his creativity in getting the trade finalized.

More highlights from Heyman’s article (though the entire piece is well worth your time)…

  • While some reports late in Spring Training indicated that the Phillies would be willing to eat up to $50MM of the remaining $60MM on Ryan Howard‘s contract, two GMs tell Heyman they hadn’t heard that figure. One of those GMs was of the belief that the Phillies’ top offer was to pay about $35MM, which, Heyman speculates, may have been a large reason that the Royals opted to sign Kendrys Morales for two years and $17MM rather than pursue a Howard trade.
  • Speaking of the Royals, Heyman hears that the team is open to pursuing a second extension with catcher Salvador Perez and would be happy to make him a Royal for life. Heyman notes that some in the organization even have some sympathy for Perez, whose five-year, $7MM contract is widely considered the most team-friendly deal in all of baseball. Perez’s deal contains three startlingly low club options valued at $3.75MM, $5MM and $6MM for the 2017-19 seasons — two of which would have been free-agent seasons beginning at the age of 28.
  • The Marlins tried to trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter after the catcher’s first season on a three-year, $21MM pact was a struggle, but his salary was too great a deterrent. The Marlins presumably feel that top prospect J.T. Realmuto could step into the catcher’s role in the not-too-distant future.
  • The Tigers are believed to be at least monitoring Rafael Soriano‘s workouts at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Miami, per Heyman. However, Soriano has seen his stock suffer not only due to ineffective innings late int he 2014 season but also due to perceptions about his personality and negative clubhouse impact. At least one club that was taking a hard look at late-inning relievers ruled out Soriano entirely due to that perception, Heyman reports.
  • The Reds felt the odds of extending Johnny Cueto prior to Opening Day were so slim that it’s not even clear if they made a formal offer, writes Heyman. Cueto is seeking a figure in the range of $200MM following Max Scherzer‘s mammoth contract this offseason, he adds. Heyman also opines that David Price would probably be selling himself short if he took much less than $200MM from the Tigers at this point as well.
  • Anecdotally, Heyman tells the story of how Cody Ross‘ career began when he was sold to the Marlins from the Reds in exchange for “cash considerations” of precisely one dollar. Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky spoke to Heyman about the deal, explaining that they didn’t have room on the Cincinnati roster back in ’06 but genuinely wanted to get Ross into the best possible position to have a chance at a Major League roster spot. Ross has gone on to earn more than $52MM in the game of baseball.

NL East Notes: Wheeler, Howard, Nationals

The Mets have announced that starter Zack Wheeler underwent successful Tommy John surgery today, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. New York will hope that it is all uphill from here for the well-regarded young righty. While the team certainly appears to have ample rotation depth now and in the future, he still figures as a key cog as the organization looks to ramp up into contention.

Here’s the latest from the NL East:

  • Ryan Howard‘s previously-reported list of teams to which he cannot block a deal did not seem to provide him with much leverage; rather, as I noted at the time, it seemed to be motivated by other considerations. That is, in fact, the case, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports: Howard replaced his formerly NL-heavy slate with American League clubs in an effort to help the Phillies find him a new home. Of course, that has yet to occur, though Howard has shown some promise this spring and could be a worthwhile mid-season addition for the right team.
  • While much attention has focused on the potential free agent departure of Nationals starters Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister (among other players), Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes that the club believes it has more than adequate pitching talent percolating through its system. Of course, it also seems worth noting that the Nationals could conceivably use those arms not only to fill in the big league rotation and provide depth, but also to acquire replacement pieces elsewhere via trade. GM Mike Rizzo has done just that in the recent past, dealing young pitching to acquire players like Denard Span, Doug Fister, and Jose Lobaton.

East Notes: Swihart, Howard, Soriano

The Red Sox announced this morning that they’ve optioned catcher Blake Swihart and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Triple-A Pawtucket. Swihart, of course, has attracted attention as a key name in Cole Hamels trade rumors, although the Red Sox have so far been unwilling to part with him. It comes as no surprise that he’ll evidently start the season in Pawtucket — he’s only played 18 games at the Triple-A level, and Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan are set to begin the season as the Red Sox’ catchers. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • With the Phillies reportedly willing to pay $50MM of the $60MM remaining on Ryan Howard‘s contract, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee examines which AL teams might have a use for Howard. He suggests the Indians and Blue Jays might be the best fits, and even then, it wouldn’t make sense for either team to pay $10MM.
  • Free-agent closer Rafael Soriano has been working out in the Dominican, but he will soon stop by the Boras Sport Training Institute at St. Thomas University in Florida, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. (The institute hosted Boras clients Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales while those players when through protracted free-agent periods last year, Heyman notes.) Soriano could then host a workout for interested teams. Heyman suggests that the Blue Jays, who will probably have Aaron Sanchez head from the bullpen to the rotation to replace the injured Marcus Stroman, could be the best fit for Soriano, who remains a free agent deep into Spring Training.

Phils Willing To Eat About $50MM Of Howard’s Salary

The Phillies are willing to take on about $50MM of Ryan Howard‘s remaining salary in a trade, Sports On Earth’s Anthony Castrovince hears. That’s most of the $60MM remaining on the two years left on Howard’s contract, so a team trading for him would essentially only pay him $5MM per season for two years.

The Phillies’ efforts to find a new home for Howard have thus far been unsuccessful, but perhaps in the wake of Cliff Lee‘s injury, they could be more motivated to deal Howard and speed up their rebuild. Howard has a 20-team no-trade clause and can block trades to all teams except the Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, Royals, and Mariners. It’s more likely that an American League team would have interest in Howard than a National League team, but as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted in January, many of the clubs to which the Phillies can trade Howard without his approval are not particularly strong fits.


Orioles Notes: Howard, Davis, Joseph

Let’s take a look at the latest out of Baltimore:

  • The Orioles are “keeping an eye” on Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Baltimore is one of nine teams as to which Howard does not enjoy no-trade protection. The Orioles’ level of interest is far from clear, of course, especially since there is no indication that the team has seriously pursued Howard to this point.
  • One player whose present and future would presumably weigh on the addition of someone with Howard’s profile is slugger Chris Davis, who is entering his final year of team control (along with ten other current Orioles). As Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports, Davis is keeping a close eye on how Baltimore proceeds in considering his future. You’ll want to give this piece a full read, as it has several interesting quotes from Davis, who expressed how much he likes playing for the O’s while also making clear that he thinks the team will need to make new investments to keep pace in the AL East.
  • Baltimore has obviously achieved significant value from its lower-profile acquisitions in recent years, with Davis himself being perhaps the prime example. One player who has been a surprising contributor is backstop Caleb Joseph, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Before breaking in at the big league level last year, the 28-year-old spent every offseason as a wage laborer. Joseph is not alone in that, of course, and Encina discusses the hard work put in by several other Orioles in an interesting look at that side of the game.

NL East Notes: Upton, Span, Howard, Marlins

If a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, does a baseball player by any other name peform better? B.J. Upton will answer that question this season as he will go by his given name of Melvin Upton Jr. and, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, will have “Jr.” on the back of his uniform for the first time in his professional career. Upton has struggled since his arrival in Atlanta after signing a five-year, $75.25MM free agent contract in November 2012 slashing .198/.279/.314 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs in those two years. John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, first tipped Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to the name change (Twitter links). For those wondering, B.J. is short for Bossman Jr., his father’s nickname.

In other news from the NL East:

  • Nationals centerfielder Denard Span is one of the team’s seven impending free agents and is looking forward to that opportunity, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. “I’ve worked my whole career to get to this point, to be a free agent,” Span said. “But at the same time, I’m concentrating on trying to do the best that I can to help this ball club win. I feel like if I do my job and we do our jobs collectively I’ll get compensated and everything will fall into place.” Wagner adds the Nationals have not approached Span about a contract extension.
  • With the increasing likelihood of Ryan Howard opening the season in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is making amends for the comments he made about the Phillies being better off without the first baseman, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Frankly, I apologized for those comments that I made that were public,” said Amaro. “And I think he appreciated that. Other than that, I want to keep the conversation private. It was a good talk.” Despite a willingness to eat a substantial portion of the $60MM remaining on Howard’s contract, no market has developed for the 35-year-old.
  • Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, recent Marlins addition Martin Prado told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.
  • The Marlins believe the signing of Ichiro Suzuki already is paying off and he hasn’t even arrived from his native Japan yet, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. Over the weekend, President David Samson said at least 90 Marlins games will be televised in Japan. The 41-year-old won’t be play every day, but the $2MM deal is already paying dividends for Miami.