Ryan Howard Rumors

Rosenthal On Headley, Blue Jays, Myers, Dodgers

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.

Amaro On Pitching, Papelbon, Howard, Thome

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 Notes: Hamels, Galvis, Howard

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.


NL East Notes: Phillies, Mets, Morgan

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). 

Heyman On Reyes, Lowe, Peavy, Howard

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 Extension One Year Later

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.


Agent Casey Close Joins New Firm

Casey Close, the agent for prominent MLB Players including Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard will join NBA agent Jeff Schwartz at Excel Sports Management, according to Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal. Close left CAA Sports in February.

Close is expected to represent Jeter, Howard and Derrek Lee on baseball matters, but the agent will share the marketing responsibilities for Jeter and Howard with CAA going forward, according to Mullen. Paul Pierce and Blake Griffin are among Schwartz’s notable NBA clients.

Jeter (through 2014) and Howard (through 2016) are under contract long-term, but Lee is on a one-year deal and will become a free agent again after the season. MLBTR's Agency Database has agency information for all teams and players.


Casey Close Leaving CAA Sports

Agent Casey Close is leaving CAA Sports when his five-year contract expires at the end of the month, reports Liz Mullen of The Sports Business Journal (subs. req'd). A hat tip goes out to Maury Brown at The Biz of Baseball.

Mullen says that CAA and Close are still trying to work out the details of his departure, "which may involve CAA and Close sharing the representation of some of the clients going forward." Close represents Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, Michael Cuddyer, and Derrek Lee, among others.

It's unclear if Close will join a new a firm or work independently, though Brown notes that high profile agents (such as Dan Lozano) have been going out on their own recently. Close was one of the first sports agents that CAA hired when it launched its sports division in April 2006. It is primarily a Hollywood talent firm.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Cox, Crawford, DeJesus

Two years ago today the Athletics acquired Matt Holliday from the Rockies in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, and Greg Smith. Holliday hit .286/.378/.454 in exactly 400 plate appearances with Oakland before being dealt to the Cardinals for a package led by Brett Wallace at the 2009 trade deadline.

Street has battled injuries but has been solid when on the mound for Colorado, pitching to a 3.30 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 109 innings. Smith has appeared in just eight games for the Rox (all starts), putting up a 6.23 ERA. The real get was CarGo, who will certainly be in the MVP mix after a .336/.376/.598 season with 34 doubles, 34 homers, 26 stolen bases, and a batting title.

The hot stove league will certainly bring us more blockbuster trades, but for now you'll have to settle for this long collection of links, the best the blogosphere had to offer this week…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Winfield, Gio, Hawpe, Cubs

On this date three years ago, the Astros fired manager Phil Garner and GM Tim Purpura. They were replaced on an interim basis by Cecil Cooper and Tal Smith, respectively. Cooper kept the job until he was fired last September, and the team is now under the direction of Brad Mills. Ed Wade took over the GM job about a month after Purpura was fired, and has held it since.

Here's a look at what's being written in the baseball corner of the web…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.