Ryan Howard Rumors

Where Could Alex Gordon Go?

Let's face it: if the Royals aren't going to give Alex Gordon a chance to play regularly when they are 11-21, 10 games out of first, and weeks shy of Memorial Day, he has fallen out of favor with the club. After just 38 plate appearances, the Royals sent Gordon - the player they once selected him second overall - to Triple-A to make way for… Alberto Callaspo.

But Gordon, still just 26, is a career .320/.433/.577 hitter in the minor leagues. Clearly, some team should take a flier on Gordon as a possible long-term answer at third base. Which teams are best suited to do so, and how much is it likely to cost?

  • The Phillies seem like an interesting landing spot for Gordon, though not at first blush. Placido Polanco, after all, is signed through 2012. But Gordon could be an upgrade from Greg Dobbs at the very least. If Gordon fulfills his promise, the Phils could attempt to deal Polanco. More to the point, Gordon seems to fit the Phillies' template- his acquisition would be akin to the buy-low on Jayson Werth- and Philadelphia has depth in the farm system. A couple of their secondary pitching prospects could get it done.
  • The Orioles have a combined zero homers from Rhyne Hughes and Garrett Atkins, so Gordon could appeal to them as an option at first. Corner infield prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell lurk in the minors, but with Miguel Tejada locked up for just one year, Gordon would provide the O's with depth and upside.
  • The Athletics don't have a ton in the way of a present or future player blocking Gordon. Kevin Kouzmanoff is a decent option, but he hardly has Gordon's upside at this point. With a number of nearly-ready pitching prospects to integrate into a young staff, the Athletics could well deal from pitching depth for Gordon, too.
  • The Padres are another possible landing spot, with Chase Headley unlikely to keep up his batting average-fueled start. San Diego has several third base prospects, including James Darnell, who Baseball America ranked as the organization's third-best prospect heading into the season. Still, none of the Padres prospects have even proven themselves at Double-A, so acquiring Gordon and giving him the chance to win the third base job wouldn't impact any of them in the short-term. It would also echo the acquisition of another buy-low, former top draft pick: Adrian Gonzalez. A package of one of the Padres' third base prospects and a pitcher should be enough to pry Gordon loose.

Odds & Ends: Red Sox, Howard, Francisco, Mendoza

Links to check out as we await Cliff Lee's Mariners debut…

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Howard, Prince, Konerko

On this date five years ago, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux faced off in the first matchup of 300-game winners since Don Sutton and Steve Carlton in 1987. Maddux's Cubs topped Clemens' Astros by the score of 3-2.

Let's look at what's being written around the blogosphere, with a heavy dose of Ryan Howard contract reactions…

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

Stark On Fielder, Howard, Sizemore, Frasor

Jayson Stark's latest Rumblings and Grumblings column is hot off the press at ESPN.com.  Let's take a look.

  • Stark explains that the potentially legendary 2012 first base free agent class may be further depleted, as Albert Pujols is expected to stay in St. Louis and Adrian Gonzalez could be traded and extended by his new team.  Even Lance Berkman might stay put, leaving Prince Fielder as the remaining big name.  There are some who rank Fielder below Ryan Howard, writes Stark.
  • Stark says the Phillies signed Howard now because they felt a Pujols extension would drive up Howard's price.  For an explanation straight from the horse's mouth, check out Todd Zolecki's MLB.com chat with Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick. 
  • If the 2012 first base free agent class is loaded, will there be enough teams willing to shell out massive contracts?  Stark says yes, naming a dozen teams he figures could be in the mix.  Don't forget the Nationals and Orioles, two clubs that made huge bids for Mark Teixeira.
  • Jayson Werth's agent Jeff Borris named the Jason Bay and Matt Holliday deals as frames of reference for his client.  Stark takes that to mean Werth will be looking in the $16-17MM range.  My question: does he get five years?
  • One source of Stark's says the Indians have shown zero inclination to trade Grady Sizemore.  Sizemore's $10MM club option for 2012 becomes a player option upon a trade, and Stark feels Sizemore would "almost certainly" exercise it – decreasing his trade value.  That assumes, of course, that Sizemore doesn't turn things around anytime soon.
  • Stark doesn't think the Red Sox have reached a desperation point regarding acquiring a catcher who can throw.  Bringing in a Chris Snyder or a Gerald Laird might necessitate releasing David Ortiz or Mike Lowell.
  • The Orioles have interest in Blue Jays reliever Jason Frasor.
  • In a table, Stark provides an interesting look at teams' guaranteed money rankings for 2011 and '12.  The Dodgers, interestingly, are very light on '12 commitments ($3.3MM).

Odds & Ends: Smoltz, D’Backs, Kemp, Howard

Links for Wednesday, as the Brewers wonder how to fix Trevor Hoffman

Heyman On Howard, Pujols, Adrian, Werth

The latest hot stove thoughts from SI's Jon Heyman

  • The people Heyman talked to feel that with Ryan Howard averaging $25MM a year starting in 2012, a contract discussion for Albert Pujols has to start at $30MM a year.
  • Heyman says that "the belief among skeptics of the deal that [the Howard extension] was an obvious overpay isn't reflected one bit among baseball people."  Of course, there are hundreds of baseball people, and the ones I've spoken to agree with the skeptics.
  • Adrian Gonzalez's agent John Boggs said, "We're just kind of innocent bystanders," noting that the Padres have not made contact about an extension.
  • Jayson Werth's agent Jeff Borris believes his client will be "the premier free agent outfielder" if he doesn't sign an extension.  Looking at the list, only Carl Crawford would have an argument.  Heyman says there's a "belief around baseball" that Werth will be seeking $100MM.  Previously we've heard suggestions of the four-year, $66MM Jason Bay range.
  • Heyman says Stephen Strasburg has a contract clause that "permits 100 innings at the major-league level this year."  I haven't heard of any clauses of that nature before, but Strasburg and Scott Boras is a powerful pairing.

Odds & Ends: Rosario, Red Sox, Bernazard, Storen

Links for Tuesday….

Will Phillies Be Able To Retain Werth?

The long-term effect of Ryan Howard's new contract extension on the Phillies has been breathlessly debated over the last two days, but Howard's deal also raises questions about Philadelphia's short-term future. Outfielder Jayson Werth is set to hit free agency following this season, and it's unclear if the Phillies will be able to afford him.

David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News points out that Howard's extension, which starts in 2012, doesn't affect the team's bottom line for next year, but it could impact the Phillies' ability to commit long-term to Werth. Assuming he enjoys a strong 2010 campaign, Werth may be in position to command a deal similar to the four-year, $66M contract Jason Bay signed with the Mets over the winter, which would put the Phillies on the hook beyond 2011.

According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, the Phillies' organization believes they'll be able to re-sign Werth, a stance reiterated when GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Howard's contract wouldn't affect their chances of retaining the 30-year-old. Werth's agent, Jeff Borris, echoed Amaro's sentiment, though he added that it wouldn't be appropriate to say whether he was optimistic about a Werth extension.

The Phillies won't have a ton of money to work with next year if, as Murphy suggests, they hope to keep their payroll around $140MM. They already have about $130MM committed to returning players, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the club has misspent a lot of the money that could have gone to Werth. Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks that the Phils' best move would be to re-sign Werth and find a way to replace Raul Ibanez with prospect Domonic Brown. Considering Ibanez will be owed $11.5MM and will turn 39 next year, moving him may be easier said than done.

While the financial issues involved in re-signing Werth are challenging enough, the Phillies also have to consider the problems facing their offense if he walks. Replacing Werth with Brown would give the team yet another left-handed bat in a lineup that already includes Howard, Ibanez, and Chase Utley.

Zolecki writes that extension discussions with Werth seem to have been put on hold while the Phillies finalized the Howard deal. Now the team will have to hope that Howard's extension, which will likely hamper their negotiating flexibility with Werth, won't entirely kill their chances of retaining the star outfielder.

Phillies 2012: A Look Ahead

With the signing of Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125MM deal, the scope of what the Phillies can do heading into the 2012 season has come into greater focus. And at the risk of hyperbole, the key takeaway may be: when the Mayans said the world would end in 2012, were they specifically talking about the Phils?

Let's take a look at what Philadelphia will be spending money on as the 2012 season dawns. Roy Halladay is signed for $20MM. Howard, too, is signed for $20MM.  Chase Utley is signed for $15.3MM. Joe Blanton is signed for $10.5MM, Shane Victorino for $9.5MM, Placido Polanco for $6.4MM, Carlos Ruiz for $3.7MM, and almost certainly, Brad Lidge will be given a $1.5MM buyout.

That's $87MM going to seven players to play and one player to not play. And for their money, the Phillies will receive:

  • The age-32 season of a first baseman whose numbers overall have been in decline through age 30, and whose difficulties against lefties make him a good deal less valuable against situational relievers late in games (Howard).
  • The age-35 season of a pitcher who is dominant now, but will be 35 years old (Halladay).
  • The age-33 season of a second baseman, a position that is notoriously tough on aging players (Utley).
  • The age-31 season of a pitcher with a career 4.21 ERA (Blanton).
  • The age-31 season of a center fielder whose value is largely tied to his legs (Victorino).
  • The age-36 season of a third baseman whose value is largely tied to his defense (Polanco).
  • The age-33 season of a catcher whose career OPS is .720 (Ruiz).

Now obviously, the above list merely points out the red flags of the players under contract. Perhaps all seven of them will perform in 2012 as they did in 2009.

The problem is that even if they do, the Phillies will need to make a relatively small amount of money go a long way.

Consider that the team traded Cliff Lee this past offseason, passing up a chance to have a 1-2 punch in the rotation of Halladay and Lee over concerns that Lee would cost C.C. Sabathia-type money ($23MM annually). It seems fair to assume that the money that would have gone to Lee went to Howard instead. In other words, the $140MM threshold the Phillies find themselves at right now isn't far from where they expect to be in 2012. Certainly, they had no intention of being at $160MM, which is where Lee plus Howard would have landed them.

But we want to be fair to the Phillies, so let's split the difference, and plan for a $150MM 2012 payroll. With $87MM gone, Philadelphia has $63MM left over for: three starting pitchers, six or seven relievers, a shortstop, a left fielder, a right fielder, and four or five bench players.

In other words, even without any decline from any of the seven players under contract that year, the Phillies are going to need a lot of their prospects step up. And if they decide to sign current right fielder Jayson Werth and shortstop Jimmy Rollins- both likely to cost $10MM or more annually and both entering their age-33 seasons in 2012- the entire remaining team will have to be low-cost options fresh from the farm system to make the numbers work.

And we haven't even discussed what Cole Hamels, signed for $9.5MM in 2011, is likely to get in 2012 in what will be his final year of arbitration.

With so many holes to fill, it is hard to believe that Philadelphia decided to put so much of its 2012 payroll into Ryan Howard. This analysis doesn't even get into the problems for the team when Howard pulls down a cool $25MM annually from 2014-2016 for his age 34-36 seasons.

For a team that has managed to position itself as the clear favorite in the 2010 National League, such success may be fleeting.

Ryan Howard Extension Reactions

The Phillies signed slugger Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125MM extension today.  The contract begins with the 2012 season and includes a 2017 option and a limited no-trade clause.  At $25MM per year, Howard's deal ranks third in baseball history for average annual value.  Unsurprisingly, the megadeal has not been well-received by analysts…