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Ryan Howard Rumors
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.
Dismissed Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens set off some controversy today when he told Michael Kay of ESPNNewYork.com (audio link) that, if Mets GM Sandy Alderson “could do everything he wants to do, they would have a winner here,” and suggested that the club’s ownership needs to “let the purse strings loose.” Of course, it is worth noting that Hudgens added that he has no personal information as to how the front office is run. For his part, Alderson said that payroll was not the problem in New York, as Marc Carig of Newsday tweets.
Here’s more from the Mets and the rest of the NL East:
- The Mets received good news on top prospect arm Noah Syndergaard, whose MRI results were negative. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets, Alderson said that Syndergaard is “essentially fine.” Certainly, a prolonged absence for Syndergaard would have dealt another tough blow to the club’s timeline for putting a competitive MLB club on the field.
- Darin Ruf started in place of Ryan Howard against a lefty today for the Phillies, which could potentially be the beginning of a platoon, reports Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard has struggled mightily against same-handed pitchers over the course of the season, with a 41.7% strikeout rate and 73 wRC+. When asked if Ruf might keep seeing time against lefties, manager Ryne Sandberg responded: “Yeah, if it happens to work. It’s an opportunity to have a lineup like that, and if it produces that becomes an opportunity … to possible get some consistency with the offense against right-handed and left-handed pitching.” Howard, of course, is earning $25MM this year and is still promised an additional $60MM over 2015-17.
- Meanwhile, Phillies‘ international signee Miguel Gonzalez has experienced a case of dead arm and will be checked out by the team’s top physician, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gonzalez, 27, had been working on a rehab assignment at High-A, where he had allowed seven earned runs (on three strikeouts and nine walks) over 9 1/3 innings. “Hopefully, it’s nothing serious,” commented GM Ruben Amaro Jr. As Gelb implies, it looks increasingly unlikely that the club will get any major league production out of Gonzalez this year.
- The Marlins are hoping to avoid losing another pitcher to season-ending elbow surgery, as reliever Carter Capps will shut down and rehab an undisclosed elbow injury, reports Craig Davis of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. “He’ll be down for an extended period of time and start building back up, and see where we’re at,” said manager Mike Redmond. Capps, a hard-throwing 23-year-old righty, came to Miami in the Logan Morrison trade, and had tossed 12 innings of 3.00 ERA ball with an impressive 11.25 K/9 against just 2.25 BB/9. The injury situation is all the more difficult in light of the fact that the Fish surprisingly remain right in the thick of things in the NL East.
It's been a rough season for the Phillies, with injuries to many of their top players weighing down the team's record prior to the firing of longtime manager Charlie Manuel. We know they'll be looking for both bullpen help and catching help this offseason to try to right the ship, but here's the latest on the Phils in the meantime…
- Interim manager Ryne Sandberg says that it would be "counterproductive" for Ryan Howard to return this season, writes Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sandberg told reporters that he doesn't feel playing 10-15 games when he's not at full health would do Howard much good, and instead he needs to focus on being as fit and healthy as he possibly can in 2014. Sandberg still believes that Howard can be a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat if he returns to full health.
- Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly conducted a Q&A with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., in which Amaro said that while the bullseye may be on him after Manuel's dismissal, he's not currently feeling any heat from ownership: "David Montgomery has been very supportive. David and the ownership group — I know they’re disappointed, but they’re supportive."
- Amaro also said that Jonathan Papelbon's presence at the back of his bullpen is "crucial" to winning games, and he thinks Papelbon will be part of a Phillies contender in 2014. Amaro added that he's heard good feedback about Papelbon's work with the team's young relievers, though he did stop short of firmly calling Papelbon a positive clubhouse force when asked by Salisbury.
- "You'd have to ask Jimmy," Amaro replied when Salisbury asked if shortstop Jimmy Rollins would benefit from a change of scenery. Rollins has a no-trade clause that he's not interested in waiving anyhow, but he's been questioned for lapses in hustle recently. Amaro didn't sound interested in the thought of trying to move Rollins, stating: "Jimmy is our shortstop. We signed him for a reason."
- Amaro also told Salisbury that in addition to signing solid relievers, the team needs to do a better job of adding good depth pieces to the bullpen. As Amaro notes, Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo had strong track records, but injuries to Adams and a suspension for Bastardo have exposed a lack of depth.
Ryan Howard will be out of action for six-to-eight weeks following surgery to repain a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. While Howard wasn't going to be a trade candidate at the deadline (no team would touch that contract), it's possible his absence might convince the Phillies to throw in the towel on the 2013 season and become full-fledged sellers this month. Here's the latest from around the NL East…
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo discussed his team's acquisition of Scott Hairston with reporters (including MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko) today. Hairston was the Nats' top target for right-handed bench help and the club had been negotiating with the Cubs for a couple of weeks, with an eye towards getting the deal finalized before the Nationals' current series with the Phillies. Rizzo liked that Hairston was contracted through 2014 so he can be an asset to Washington next season as well.
- Rizzo also noted that the Nats could make another move before the trade deadline but it won't be anything major. "You never stop trying to improve your club, but with that said, we feel like we like the club that we have and we're certainly playing better and we'll see where it takes us from here," Rizzo said. "I don't see any type of big splashy moves that are remaining."
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the Hairston trade, noting that it's the kind of shrewd low-cost move that can pay dividends if Washington ends up in the postseason.
- Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post opines that a trade package of Danny Espinosa, Ross Detwiler, Tyler Moore and Lucas Giolito might be enough for the Nationals to obtain David Price from the Rays. While that's not a bad offer, I think the Rays could score a lot more elite talent if they started shopping their ace lefty.
- Braves catcher Brian McCann finally seems to be fully healthy and has been red-hot over the last two weeks, leading David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to predict that if McCann keeps it up, he'll score a free agent contact close to Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM deal with the Cardinals. O'Brien notes that this deal will come from an AL team that will eventually transition McCann to a DH role, which is why I'd argue that McCann's eventual contract will fall at least $10-$15MM short of Molina's deal. McCann's bat doesn't carry a $15MM average annual value if it's not coming from the catcher position, plus Molina brought elite defense and a less-checkered injury history into his new contract.
- Zack Wheeler is set to face the Giants on Wednesday, almost two years after he was dealt from San Francisco to the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran. ESPN New York's Adam Rubin talks to Wheeler and Giants manager Bruce Bochy about the trade, and Bochy has no regrets since his club was gunning for another World Series title.
- The Rangers would love to acquire Cliff Lee from the Phillies, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler writes, "but at this point the Phillies seem to have most people in baseball convinced that they won't trade Lee (or maybe anyone else)."
- In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Marlins-related news and also some Mets items as part of a collection of New York Notes.
As we wait to hear more about the much-discussed trade of Ricky Nolasco, here are a few links on some National League clubs:
- The Cardinals will go as far as their rotation can take them, argues Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While the club's outstanding start has slowed, GM John Mozeliak insists that he still feels comfortable with the internal rotation depth he has at his disposal. Nevertheless, he says that he "reserve[s] the right to re-examine things [over] the next four weeks."
- Not so long ago, the Giants looked like a contender that might look to shore up some holes before the trade deadline. Now, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle says (on Sulia), the team is playing its way into becoming an obvious seller. He argues that, unless the team can manage at least a .500 mark on its current homestand, it should consider dealing Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez, and possibly Tim Lincecum.
- With players like Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, and Jonathan Papelbon receiving much of the attention as difficult trade decisions for the Phillies, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer says that the club's most complicated quandary involves catcher Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz could fetch a nice return on a market that does not include many attractive catching options, in spite of his tepid start to the season. Perhaps more importantly, he probably does not make long-term sense for the Phils, as he is set to become a free agent and enter 2014 at the age of 35. Nevertheless, explains Brookover, the club's replacement options all come with serious risk, making Ruiz potentially very difficult to replace.
- The Phillies also received some unwelcome news today, as Ryan Howard finally went to the 15-day DL to rest his aching knee. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says the team will be "conservative" with Howard and could not rule out the need for surgery. Certainly, Howard is no longer a potential piece of trade bait (however unlikely such a scenario may have been), and his loss could edge the Phils away from keeping its full roster together for a postseason run.
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.
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