Ryan Howard tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that a productive second half in 2016 — Howard batted .262/.324/.608 in his last 140 plate appearances — convinced him that he still has “a lot left in the tank.” Howard is working out and waiting in hopes of receiving an offer for the upcoming season, Rosenthal writes. The longtime Phillies cornerstone is open to signing in the American League and serving as a designated hitter, and he’s realistic and understanding of the fact that he isn’t likely to be given an everyday role. Howard is one of many left-handed sluggers on the free-agent market — Brandon Moss, Pedro Alvarez, Adam Lind and Justin Morneau are all also available, for instance — but a strong finish and 24 home runs against right-handed pitching (in 327 plate appearances) could get him a look as a part-time DH or a bench bat in 2017.
Here are a few more late-night notes from around the game…
- The Marlins’ acquisition of right-hander Severino Gonzalez filled the team’s 40-man roster, making further guaranteed contracts unrealistic, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. The Marlins could still add some players on minor league deals, but with a full 40-man roster and a payroll that is at its limit (roughly $110MM), additional spending is a long shot. Miami was recently connected to both Chris Carter and Mark Reynolds, but Frisaro calls the chances of signing either “extremely remote.” The Fish do have interest in Jeff Francoeur, but he’d have to be willing to sign a minor league contract in order to return to Miami. That could ultimately happen, but Francoeur does have interest elsewhere, as the Braves are said to be in on him as well.
- Sticking with the Marlins, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears that it was the agents for Carter and Reynolds who reached out to the Marlins recently, and not vice versa. That would certainly make sense, as Miami could look like an appealing landing spot, on paper, for either slugger. Jackson writes that the Marlins are considering a 13-man pitching staff and a four-man bench, making the addition of even a modestly priced right-handed bat like Carter or Reynolds unlikely. There’s still some interest in Francoeur and Chris Johnson, he notes.
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila spoke with Rockies GM Jeff Bridich about a number of topics, interestingly touching on what lessons that Major League front offices can learn from the front offices of teams in other sports. Laurila notes that Bridich is a diehard Green Bay Packers fan, and the two discussed Green Bay’s ability to build through the draft as well as the Atlanta Falcons’ turnaround from a sub-.500 club to a Super Bowl participant. Bridich also spoke about the Rockies’ focus on youth and athleticism as well as their growing analytics department. “We’ve worked in leaps and bounds to do that, but it’s probably unfair to say we’ve brought our analytics process up to par with our scouting process,” said Bridich. “…in terms of the human capital, in terms of the financial capital, and the time spent in the growth of the analytics over the last year, year and a half… it’s real. We’re starting to really see some movement there.”
- Rays general manager Erik Neander tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that newly acquired right-hander Jose De Leon is very close to making a “significant impact” on the team, though Topkin writes that De Leon could open the year in Triple-A. De Leon’s shoulder has been a source of concern for some, but the right-hander denies that there’s any cause for concern and said his arm is healthy. “I’m on a mission,” De Leon tells Topkin. “I was a low draft pick, nobody knew about me, nobody believed in me, so I’m on a mission to fulfill my dreams. Getting to the big leagues is just the beginning.”
- Topkin also notes at the end of that column that the Rays are “possibly” considering free-agent catcher Matt Wieters in their search for a bat. While that may seem like a curious fit at first glance, offseason signee Wilson Ramos will be out early in the season as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ACL. Even when Ramos is healthy enough to take the field, it’s all but certain that the Rays will want to be cautious at first once he’s activated. Wieters could catch regularly for a good portion of the season and eventually be part of a catcher/DH timeshare with Ramos, in theory.