Ryan Howard Rumors
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).
Links for Wednesday, as the Brewers wonder how to fix Trevor Hoffman...
- GM Frank Wren says not to expect any trades to upgrade the Braves' offense this early in the season, writes David O' Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests the Giants ought to monitor the potential availability of Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez.
- John Smoltz isn't throwing, but he also won't say he's officially retired, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We looked yesterday at a couple teams that could be fits for Smoltz, if the 42-year-old decides to pitch again.
Anthony Castrovince writes that the Indians will have to decide on
the future of Rule 5 pick Hector Ambriz next week. Ambriz's rehab
assignment expires on May 8th.
- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic talked to Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes, who said he doesn't want to overreact to the team's bullpen struggles. Byrnes seems to want to hold on to his trade chips for now.
- Asked about Matt Kemp by KABC's Peter Tilden, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti expressed his dissatisfaction with the center fielder's baserunning and defense. Said Colletti: "Why is it? Because he got a new deal? I can't tell you." Regarding acquiring pitching, Colletti said it's too early to get into trade talk.
- Joe Posnanski wonders when age will catch up with Ryan Howard.
- Designated hitter is supposed to be an easy position to fill, but ESPN's Jerry Crasnick finds nine teams struggling for offense out of the spot.
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.
Links for Tuesday....
- Baseball America's Ben Badler tweets that the Red Sox have signed speedy 17-year-old outfielder Roberto Rosario from the upstart Dominican Prospect League for $150K.
- The Red Sox might be in a terrific position to take advantage of the Ryan Howard contract fallout, says Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.
- FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal interviewed former Mets' executive Tony Bernazard, who was fired last year. It's a very interested read, give it a look.
- MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling explores the financial savings the Nationals could enjoy if they delay calling up Drew Storen.
- Meanwhile, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro says the Marlins aren't going rush Mike Stanton to the big leagues.
- Dusty Baker denied a report that the Reds turned down extension talks, tweets John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Didn't get enough Ryan Howard extension reactions yesterday? Not to worry, there are plenty more pundits weighing in today. ESPN.com's Buster Olney says that many baseball people now feel that Howard, "a star in his prime," is overpriced, and the Phillies might regret the contract long before it expires. ESPN.com's Keith Law agrees, writing that he laughed when he heard the news. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer says the contract may be an overpay but it represents "the cost of doing business," and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com says the Phils had to either pony up for Howard or risk letting him walk after 2011.
- Meanwhile, USA Today's Bob Nightengale suggests Howard's deal could be the beginning of a slew of mammoth contracts for baseball's sluggers.
- John Tomase of the Boston Herald notes that modifications in Fangraphs' UZR model make Jason Bay's defense look a whole lot better. Fangraphs' latest UZR update included adjustments for specific ballparks like Fenway, and improved Bay's 2009 UZR from -13.8 to +1.9. As Tomase indicates, Bay and his agent probably would've liked that change made before Bay signed his four-year deal this winter.
- Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Giants have discussed promoting Buster Posey earlier than June.
- In his MLB.com blog, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann speculates on who would be next in line for each managerial job in both the National League and American League.
- Also at MLB.com, Peter Gammons has a column up that addresses a few intriguing what-if questions, including what could have happened if the Red Sox had acquired either Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira.
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.
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.
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...
- ESPN's Rob Neyer considers the contract "a testament to old-school ignorance" and "a big bowl of wrong."
- Neyer's colleague Keith Law says the deal is "an overpay in both years and dollars."
- FanGraphs' Matthew Carruth says we should "say hello to baseball's newest worst contract." Carruth's colleague Dave Cameron agrees, and tweets that Howard's salary will serve as a full no-trade clause.
- Yahoo's Kevin Kaduk believes the Phillies would've been better off waiting. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports agrees, but in a video piece attempts to explain where the Phillies were coming from.
- SI's Jon Heyman tweets a diferent point of view, saying the deal represents a "good job by the Phillies" and is "just about right" for Howard.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard signed a five-year, $125MM extension, according to CSN's Jim Salisbury. The deal includes a $23MM option for 2017 with a $10MM buyout. Howard is currently under contract through 2011, so the extension runs from 2012 through 2016. AOL FanHouse's Ed Price tweets the yearly salaries, noting that there is a limited no-trade clause. Hot stove junkies won't be seeing Howard join Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Gonzalez in the 2012 free agent class.
Howard is in his age 30 season, so the contract begins with his age 32 season. The length makes this an unnecessary risk, and at $25MM a year the Phillies didn't get a discount for taking the gamble and locking him up two years before free agency. Tip of the cap to agent Casey Close, who negotiated the deal.
Back in '08 Howard set a first-time arbitration record with a $10MM salary. A year later he signed a three-year, $54MM extension to buy out his remaining arbitration years. The Phillies clearly like to lock up their guys.
On this date in 2002, the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network launched. Although the regional network barely broke even that year, YES has gone on to generate millions in revenue, much of which goes right into the Yankees' pockets. As recently as 2008, there was talk that the network was worth more than the team itself.
After you wrap your head around that, here are some links to check out from around the baseball blogosphere...
- The Baseball Opinion says that the Adeiny Hechevarria signing caps off an impressive offseason for new GM Alex Anthopoulos.
- The Friarhood examines the trade market for Padres' closer Heath Bell.
- Phillies Nation has some fun with internal discussions after the Albert Pujols-Ryan Howard rumors.
- DRays Bay wonders if Andy Sonnanstine will start the season in Tampa's rotation so they can send Wade Davis to the minors and push his service time clock back.
- Around The Majors wonders if the Nationals should really be trying to sign Adam Dunn to a contract extension.
- The Dodgerhater says that Sergio Romo and Dan Runzler are the key to San Francisco's bullpen this year.
- Bronx Bombers Beat wonders if Robinson Cano can take that next step towards being a middle of the order hitter for a team with some aging core hitters.
- SPANdemonium looks at some players drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft who have already had an impact in the big leagues.
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Jeff Euston of Cot's Baseball Contracts recently posted an unofficial list of players who will become free agents after the 2011 season. That free agent class will be highlighted by a trio of first basemen: Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, and Ryan Howard, though there's a chance Albert Pujols will join them if he and the Cardinals can't work out an extension.
Some other notable players scheduled to become free agents after 2011 include Jason Bartlett, Carlos Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Heath Bell, and Jonathan Papelbon. Robinson Cano, Yadier Molina, Grady Sizemore, and Matt Cain may also become free agents if their club options for 2012 are declined.
Obviously a lot will change between now and then, but it's never too early to look ahead!