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In case there are still any questions whether the Nationals' Bryce Harper can continue to adjust to big league pitching as it attempts to adjust to him, this story from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post may put them to rest. Harper recalls that he began developing a flexible approach at the plate when, as a seven year-old playing in an under-10 tournament, the opposition decided it was too dangerous to give him an inside fastball. Kilgore goes on to explain in detail the development of Harper's swing, and why it is so effective at such a young age. Here are some notes from the Nats and a few of their National League competitors:
- While Nationals starter Dan Haren seems to be turning his season around, Carlos Marmol of the Cubs continues to struggle. As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, the Cubs not only missed out on adding a starter to bolster their rotation, but could have flipped Haren for a nice haul at the trade deadline. Of course, the Cubs were apparently close to acquiring Haren before the Angels declined his option and made him a free agent.
- The Phillies should try to trade first baseman Ryan Howard, says David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Looking at the team's free agent options next year, Murphy says there is not much promise for the Phils to improve unless it sheds one of its nine players that stand to make a combined $115MM next season. While acknowledging the limits of Howard's trade value, Murphy posits that the club should agree to eat much of his salary and attempt to obtain a young infielder.This may not be the most promising proposal, however, as Howard's injury history and mediocre start to 2013 (.262/.299/.476 over 137 plate appearances) keep his value down even before looking at his contract.
- Meanwhile, Murphy's Inquirer colleague Bob Vetrone laments that two former Phillies are having an impact elsewhere. Both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were traded mid-season last year after the Phillies fell out of contention, and both are off to productive starts this season. Meanwhile, the Phils' outfielders have been among the worst in baseball. On the other hand, those deals brought much needed youth into the Phillies' organization, including two prospects (Tommy Joseph and Ethan Martin) ranked by some in the club's top 15.
- The Mets could make sense as a destination for Shin-Soo Choo when the outfielder reaches free agency this offseason, explains John Harper of the New York Daily News. Choo is currently sitting at third on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings after his hot start for the Reds. According to one big league executive, Choo fits the profile that Mets GM Sandy Alderson will be looking for as a high on-base outfielder with some pop. Certainly, an outfield upgrade is in order for the Mets, as the combined production from Mets outfielders currently rates right alongside that of the Phillies.
The Phillies have made multiple inquiries on the availability of Giancarlo Stanton over the past several months, Major League sources tell Jim Sailisbury of CSNPhilly.com, but have received the same answer as every other team in baseball: Stanton isn't available for the time being.
Salisbury notes that while the Phils lack a deep farm system, they do have plenty of near-MLB-ready arms such as Jesse Biddle, Jonathan Pettibone and Adam Morgan that could be used to headline a Stanton package. Of course, as Salisbury notes, if and when the Marlins decide to listen to offers on Stanton, they may not be keen on trading him within the division. That hasn't stopped the Phillies — and reportedly the Mets — from showing interest.
Salisbury writes that the very reason that the Phillies have such great need for Stanton's services could lead the team to be sellers come the trade deadline. Philadelphia outfielders are hitting just .215/.285/.330, which has contributed to their 13-16 record. Here are the highlights from his list of potential trade chips…
- Cliff Lee could become the prize of the July trade market should the Phillies sell. The Red Sox inquired on Lee before the Winter Meetings but were rebuffed. Given their first-place standing, they could look at Lee as a means to push them toward a World Series run.
- Jonathan Papelbon is another expensive piece that the Phils could move, and Salisbury wonders if the Tigers could be interested, given deep-pocketed owner Mike Illitch's desire to win a World Series. Detroit has had bullpen issues all season and recently re-signed Jose Valverde to reprise his role as closer. However, Salisbury reports that the Tigers are one of the team's in Papelbon's no-trade clause.
- Jimmy Rollins could be moved but would have to waive his full no-trade clause in order for that to happen.
- There's a sentiment that the Phillies would prefer to keep Chase Utley than deal him this summer if he remains healthy. Utley will gain 10-and-5 rights in August, Salisbury notes.
- Salisbury also mentions Carlos Ruiz, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Delmon Young as players the Phillies would consider. Halladay's inconsistency and Howard's price tag would be prohibitive factors in any trade talks for that duo.
The Phillies were a .500 team in 2012 after winning five consecutive NL East titles. They enter the 2013 season with a payroll in excess of $150MM and new additions such as Michael Young, Delmon Young, John Lannan and Mike Adams. Here's the latest on the Phillies…
- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told the Associated Press that he wants to continue managing the Phillies after the 2013 season (link via ESPN.com). Manuel, who's entering the final year of his contract with the team, said he has no plans to retire. "I'm not ready for somebody to tell me to go home. I'm not ready to quit managing." Ryne Sandberg looms as a possible replacement for Manuel.
- Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has drawn positive reviews from scouts this spring, but there are some questions surrounding Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. Halladay, a potential 2014 free agent, hasn’t looked good in recent outings. “I’ve got to believe he’s just working to get ready at this point,” one scout told Martino.
- Howard "was hobbling around a little and struggled versus good stuff" in the words of a scout. This could become a long-term problem for the Phillies, who owe Howard $105MM through 2017.
CAA Sports is the lone agency representing Ryan Howard, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal reports (Twitter links). The Phillies first baseman had previously been co-represented by CAA Sports and Excel Sports Management.
“I believe that CAA Sports is best positioned to help me achieve my goals both on and off the field,” Howard said in an official statement.
Meanwhile, Excel Sports Management has added two pitchers who were former clients of CAA. MLB agents Casey Close and David O'Hagan added free agent right-hander Jeremy Guthrie and Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz to their list of clients at Excel, Mullen reports.
Be sure to check MLBTR’s Agency Database for up to date information about players and their agents.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports points out that we should expect the unexpected once trade talk picks up this summer. For example, who expected Ubaldo Jimenez to be traded this time last year? Here are Rosenthal’s notes from around MLB…
- White Sox GM Kenny Williams says he’d prefer to focus on short-term goals for now and figure out whether to buy or sell closer to the July 31st trade deadline. “We’ll see where we are in July and then we’ll figure it out,” he said.
- Chase Headley is a popular trade target, Rosenthal reports. The Padres could replace Headley at third with Jedd Gyorko or move Gyorko to second if they hold onto Headley.
- The Diamondbacks explored the trade market for young catchers before signing Miguel Montero to an extension, only to find that acquiring a backstop such as Travis d’Arnaud or Austin Romine would have cost them top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs and then some.
- Some executives wonder if the Blue Jays should make their move this summer, asking “If not now, when?” One person says the Blue Jays are monitoring Matt Garza of the Cubs.
- Carlos Lee can block trades to 14 teams, including the Dodgers, Rosenthal reports. Almost all of the teams on Lee’s no-trade list are high-revenue clubs. This provides Lee with some leverage, but doesn’t necessarily mean he’d block a deal.
- Brett Myers’ $10MM option for 2013 likely vests with between 40 and 50 games finished, Rosenthal estimates. If a team acquired the right-hander and used him as a setup man, the option wouldn’t become an issue. But teams interested in using Myers as a closer might have interest in re-working the option like the Brewers did with Francisco Rodriguez a year ago.
- The contracts for Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay of the Phillies include the same no-trade protection, Rosenthal reports. Each player can block deals to 21 teams per year.
- Dodgers president Stan Kasten expects his team to be “aggressive, but not reckless” in considering possible upgrades.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Brett Myers | Carlos Lee | Chase Headley | Chase Utley | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Cliff Lee | Houston Astros | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Garza | Philadelphia Phillies | Roy Halladay | Ryan Howard | San Diego Padres | Toronto Blue Jays | Travis D'Arnaud | Tyler Skaggs
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke to FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi about his team's offseason moves, and what he still might have in store before Opening Day…
- Amaro would like to add a left-handed reliever or rotation depth, provided either could be had at a reasonable price. The club would also like to add a bench option who can provide some added speed.
- The team is happy with its four-year, $50MM deal with Jonathan Papelbon, even after ex-closer Ryan Madson signed a one-year, $8.5MM deal with the Reds that looks like a major bargain. “That’s the beauty and difficulty of free agency,” Amaro said. “We knew there were other teams who were going to be very competitive in the market for closers. Once we got to an AAV (average annual value) of $12.5 million with Papelbon, we felt that was a reasonable deal for us to make….Markets can be fluid and difficult to gauge. I’m happy with the player we have.”
- Ryan Howard was recently cleared to resume weight-bearing and strength-building exercises but Amaro says the club is being "very cautious" with their star first baseman. Howard ruptured his left Achilles tendon while making the last out of the NLDS and his DL stint will last into next season. Amaro says it would be "great" if Howard could return to the Phillies by May.
- Amaro is satisfied with his club's internal first base options, including Jim Thome, who Amaro says could play first up to four or five times per month. “Our medical people are surprised at the shape he’s in,” Amaro said. “They think he might be better now than he was when we first signed him in 2002.” Thome has been a full-time DH and pinch-hitter for the last four seasons.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. expects to discuss a possible extension with left-hander Cole Hamels at some point this offseason, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Here are more notes on Hamels and the Phillies via Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Daily News:
- "I have got no indication that Cole wants to go anywhere and I think Cole knows we want to keep him," Amaro said, according to Berman. Hamels, 27, posted a 2.79 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 52.3% ground ball rate in 215 innings this past season. The John Boggs & Associates client is set to hit free agency after the 2012 season (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $14MM salary for Hamels in his final season of arbitration eligibility).
- Amaro re-signed Jimmy Rollins recently, but he still thinks 22-year-old shortstop prospect Freddy Galvis is a “very, very good quality prospect.”
- Ryan Howard seems to be recovering well from his ruptured Achilles' tendon, Amaro said. The first baseman will likely go to Florida to continue his rehab at some point in the relatively near future.
Jimmy Rollins said earlier today that there's a "good chance" he re-signs with the Phillies after the season. Here are some more updates from around the NL East, where all five teams are in offseason mode…
- Ryan Howard's five-year, $125MM contract ranks fourth on Joe Posnanski's list of the ten worst contracts in baseball at SI.com. Howard, whose deal kicks in next season, is "becoming a less and less useful player all the time," Posnanski writes.
- The Phillies interviewed Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan for their director of player development position this week, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Philadelphia now has a short window to decide whether they're going to offer Jordan the job, which previously fell under Chuck LaMar's responsibilities.
- The Phillies will look to sign a free agent closer this offseason and a division rival could be interested in similar relievers. GM Sandy Alderson has hinted that the Mets will find their next closer on the free agent market, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
- A Spring Training conflict between Jayson Werth and Nyjer Morgan nearly escalated to the point that punches were thrown, according to Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. Now a member of the Brewers, Morgan has emerged as a star (along with his many alter egos).
The Cardinals, Giants, Brewers, Red Sox, Twins and Mariners are possible suitors for Jose Reyes this summer, writes Jon Heyman of SI.com. However, the Mets don’t have an obvious replacement for their shortstop and attendance could suffer if they deal Reyes, as Heyman points out. (Though the Mariners have won seven of their last nine games and haven't obtained much production at short, it's still extremely difficult to imagine them trading for Reyes.) Here are the rest of Heyman’s rumors:
- Derek Lowe could be available at the trade deadline given the Braves’ starting pitching depth.
- The White Sox have insurance on Jake Peavy, according to Heyman. This means that the team may already have started receiving payments to help cover the injured right-hander’s $16MM salary.
- Heyman, a defender of Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125MM contract from the start, says the first baseman has been “worth every penny so far.”
- On the one-year anniversary of Howard's deal, I concluded that Howard and agent Casey Close had done well to sign the contract.
- The Nationals may want to consider locking manager Jim Riggleman up, Heyman writes. The Nationals have a team option for Riggleman's 2012 services.
Ryan Howard's five-year, $125MM extension doesn't kick in until 2012, but it has been exactly one year since the Phillies signed their slugging first baseman long-term. A year ago this time, the reaction to GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was critical. Why, analysts asked, would the Phillies commit nine figures for Howard's age 32-36 seasons when he doesn't play a premium position and figures to be well into his decline phase by 2016, the last guaranteed year of the contract?
The Phillies had their reasons for making the deal; Howard had reached 45 homers for the fourth consecutive season in 2009, further establishing himself as one of the premier power hitters in the game. Yet Rob Neyer, Keith Law, Dave Cameron, Ken Rosenthal and others argued that Howard's power didn't necessarily justify a five-year deal worth $25MM per season.
Since finalizing the contract, Howard has hit .278/.357/.508 with 31 homers, 111 RBI, 24 doubles and 5 triples. The 31-year-old made the All-Star team in 2010 and cracked the top ten in the NL MVP balloting, though he posted a career-low slugging percentage and hit fewer home runs than usual. Though his numbers are good, they aren't what we're used to seeing from Howard and the Phillies may have been counting on more (he has just 2.4 total wins above replacement since the beginning of 2010).
Howard remains an above-average first baseman, a key player for a perennial contender that currently has the best record in the game. But he's older and less productive than Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the two premier position players who will hit free agency after 2011. If Howard had not signed his extension, he would have hit the open market this offseason as the third-most appealing player at his position.
His career numbers would have generated lots of interest, especially if he continues producing in 2011, and there's no doubt that he would have been in line for an impressive free agent contract. $25MM per year, however, would likely have been out of reach for Howard. We won't know for another five years whether the initial reaction to the deal was fair, but at this point it appears that the analysts were right: Howard and agent Casey Close are looking smart for signing the $125MM contract a year ago.