Ryan Howard Rumors

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.

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…

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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).