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Phillies Still Favorites for Tomas or Not?

yasmany tomasSome folks in baseball still consider the Phillies to be the favorites to sign Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.

But are they?

Update: MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports the Padres and Braves are emerging as frontrunners for Tomas.

The Phillies have seen Tomas multiple times over the past several weeks and sources said they believe he could be a productive power hitter in the big leagues, which is something they desperately need. But they also said some in the organization have continued concerns about Tomas’ conditioning and defense.

Tomas has been linked to a $100 million contract, but sources said the Phillies will not approach a nine-figure deal. One source told MLB.com’s Paul Hagen today the Phillies have cooled on Tomas as a result.

That said, if the asking price drops in the coming weeks the Phillies could be in play.

It could happen. While the Giants, Padres, Royals and Braves are some of the teams mentioned as potential destinations for Tomas, he does not have the offer he seeks. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, who reported Atlanta’s interest in Tomas, said Tomas will attend next month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego.

That indicates nothing is imminent.

The Red Sox signed fellow Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $75 million contract this summer. Sources said the Phillies never seriously pursued Castillo because they liked Tomas more. But it is unclear if how much further north they would go above $75 million, if at all.

For comparison’s sake, the White Sox signed Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal, the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42 million deal and the A’s signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal.

Each of those players has been a tremendous value.

Tomas’ agent Jay Alou said at last week’s GM Meetings that Tomas has “a lot more power” than Abreu, who hit 36 home runs this season on his way to the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

The Phillies need power like that. They also need to get younger. Tomas just turned 24 this month. It seems like a great fit for many reasons, including the fact the Phillies have nobody close to fitting Tomas’ description in their farm system (i.e. young power hitter close to big-league ready).

But Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sounded frustrated when asked at the GM Meetings about signing a Cuban free agent like Tomas.

“Just because one guy did well signed from one country doesn’t necessarily mean the next guy is going to do well,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the guys before or after that are going to do well. It’s all individual. We’ll try to scout the players and try to project them in a way that you feel necessary and go from there. It’s like saying, ‘This Dominican player played real well one time so we’ve got to sign Dominican players.’ It’s ridiculous.”

Ryan Howard’s Sad Family Story

Howard Is BackCharlie Manuel has plenty of opinions on hitting a baseball, and one of them centered on the psyche of the hitter.

It is a difficult game to play, he often said, but it can become more difficult if the mind is not clear. Manuel reminded people that a divorce, a breakup, an argument, a sick family member or other family issue can affect a hitter at the plate.

Manuel’s words came back today following FOX29’s initial report and The Philadelphia Daily News’ detailed report about Ryan Howard’s twin brother Corey suing him for $2.8 million, Howard’s father requesting $10 million as severance from the “family” business and Howard countersuing because he thought his family conspired to defraud him.

It is hard to imagine Howard had a clear mind at the plate the past couple seasons because of it.

Howard and his family settled out of court last month, but if everything alleged in the court documents are true his family bond has been severely if not completely destroyed. And that has to kill him.

It is sad, if true. Howard’s parents were major forces in his life. They were always around the ballpark, either in Spring Training or during the regular season. (I had not seen them over the past couple years, which makes sense now.) They were very open about how close they were. But those stories from the past look much different today. Howard jettisoned his first agents before the 2005 season for Larry Reynolds. There were rumblings at the time the family was not happy with how the Phillies were handling Howard, who was blocked at first base by Jim Thome. They thought a different agent could force the Phillies into action, even though their logic was completely flawed. Still, Reynolds faxed a trade request to former general manager Ed Wade in April 2005, despite Howard having played in just 19 big-league games at the time. “It is duly noted,” Wade said. (more…)

Heyward Trade, Martin Contract Could Affect Phillies

Cole Hamels, Carlos RuizTwo things happened yesterday that could affect the Phillies indirectly this offseason.

First, the Cardinals traded pitcher Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins to the Braves for outfielder Jason Heyward and setup man Jordan Walden. Second, the Blue Jays signed catcher Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million contract.

Everybody in baseball knows the Phillies are willing to trade anybody on their roster as they plan a significant rebuilding process. That includes left-hander Cole Hamels and catcher Carlos Ruiz, two of the five remaining pieces from the 2008 World Series championship roster.

The Phillies will trade Hamels only if they receive what they consider a legitimate return. (They are not looking to shed payroll here.) The Cardinals-Braves trade gives a rough outline for what the Phillies could request for Hamels. He is significantly more accomplished than Miller, although he also is owed $96 million over the next four seasons. Still, he could be viewed as an attractive alternative to free-agent aces like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. The $96 million Hamels is owed certainly will be less than Lester and Scherzer will receive as free agents, although the teams that sign them will not have to give up prospects to get them.

(The team that signs Scherzer will lose a draft pick. The team that signs Lester will not.)

But if the Cardinals can acquire an everyday outfielder – albeit one that becomes a free agent next winter – and a setup man, the Phillies theoretically should be able to acquire more. That is not to say the Phillies will be looking exclusively at big-league talent for Hamels, but they at least will be looking for a blue-chip prospect or two, not a handful of fringe prospects that need a little luck to pan out.

The Cliff Lee-Seattle trade is on the minds of Phillies’ front office officials as they talk to teams about Hamels.

They cannot make the same mistake twice.

Now that Martin is off the market, teams needing a catcher are looking at a remarkably thin free-agent market. Teams serious about upgrading at catcher might have to make a trade to fill that need.

Ruiz is an option, although Arizona’s Miguel Montero is the hottest name at the moment. Ruiz is owed $17.5 million over the next two seasons. He is known as a good game caller (Roy Halladay loved the guy) and has been one of the most well liked and highly respected players in the Phillies clubhouse for years.

Ruiz hit .252 with 25 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 31 RBIs, a .347 on-base percentage and a .717 OPS last season. Ruiz and Montero each have a career .763 OPS.

The knock against Ruiz, 35, is that he has trouble staying healthy. He has spent time on the disabled list each of the previous six seasons.

Montgomery Feels Better, Expects Return as President

Ryan Howard, David MontgomeryEverybody wants to know how David Montgomery is feeling these days.

He said today he is feeling much better.

Montgomery took a medical leave of absence as Phillies president in August following jaw bone cancer surgery in May. The news hit the organization hard as Montgomery is beloved by his employees.

Pat Gillick took Montgomery’s place as interim president. Gillick is running the baseball side of the organization, while senior vice president of administration and operations Mike Stiles is running the business side.

“Next Wednesday it’ll be six months since the surgery,” Montgomery said this afternoon at Loews Philadelphia Hotel, where he spoke at a luncheon celebrating the Phillies’ 30-year relationship with the Philadelphia chapter of the ALS Association. “The good news is my prognosis is excellent. The chemo and radiation I did was preventative. I’ve basically kind of been dismissed by doctors. I have periodic PET scans … Hopefully I’ll have that 45th season.”

Montgomery has been with the Phillies since 1971, becoming team president in 1997, making this season his 44th with the organization. He said he expects to return to his post as president at some point.

“Oh, yeah,” he said.

It remains uncertain if and when it will happen.

“It’s not entirely my call,” he said. “The disease has shifted now. I think I’m overloved and a little bit overprotected.”

Asked what he thinks about the Phillies’ offseason of rebuilding, he said, “We’re rebuilding, but we have some people that are still going to be part of it. I think our middle infielders (Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley) are both 10-and-5 (full no-trade rights) and both want to stay here. I have more optimism about next year.”

Phillies Sign Elvis

araujoThe Phillies are looking for as many young players and pitchers as possible this offseason.

They signed a young reliever to a Major League contract today.

The club announced it signed left-hander Elvis Araujo. He has never pitched in the big leagues, but Araujo had several teams pursuing him after he become a Minor League free agent. The 23-year-old split last season with Double-A Akron and Class A Carolina, where he went a combined 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA and 11 saves in 43 games. Araujo struck out 50 in 50 innings.

“He adds depth and gives us another quality arm in the system,” Phillies pro scouting director Mike Ondo said. “With (Antonio) Bastardo, (Jake) Diekman and (Mario) Hollands, he’s just another guy in competition.”

Araujo, who is 6-foot-6, is pitching for Zulian in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he has struck out eight in seven scoreless innings.

“We’ve seen him at 92-97 mph this year with a slider,” Ondo said.

Araujo originally signed with the Indians as an amateur free agent in 2007.

Francoeur, 7 Others Sign Minor League Contracts

francoeurThe Phillies had a remarkable lack of depth in the outfield last season, so the players they signed Thursday to Minor League contracts should have surprised nobody.

Six of the eight can play in the outfield, including Jeff Francoeur.

Each player will be in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.

The group includes:

  • Andres Blanco, INF. Blanco, 30, hit .277 in 25 games for the Phillies last season. He played 10 games at third base, six at shortstop and five at second base.
  • Brian Bogusevic, OF. Bogusevic, 30, hit .260 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 79 games with Triple-A New Orleans. He missed nearly two months because of two separate fractures in his right leg. He played 299 games over four seasons (2010-13) with the Astros and Cubs, hitting .236 with 17 home runs, 62 RBIs, 22 stolen bases and a .682 OPS.
  • Russ Canzler, INF/OF. Canzler, 28, split last season between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting a combined .276 with 32 doubles, 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in 112 games. He played 29 games between the Rays (2011) and Indians (2012), hitting .271 with three home runs, 12 RBIs and a .700 OPS.
  • Chase d’Arnaud, INF/OF. – D’Arnaud, 27, played second base, third base and all three outfield positions last season with Triple-A Indianapolis. He hit .250 with 16 doubles, nine triples, two home runs, 23 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He has appeared in 64 big-league games with the Pirates, hitting .208 with a .507 OPS.
  • Jeff Francoeur, OF. – Francoeur, 30, has hit .262 with 250 doubles, 140 home runs and 619 RBIs in 1,237 games in the big leagues. He appeared in 10 games last season for the Padres. He has has played for the Braves (2005-09), Mets (2009-10), Rangers (2010), Royals (2011-13), Giants (2013) and Padres (2014).
  • John Hester, C. Hester, 31, hit .261 with six home runs and 29 RBIs in 71 games with Triple-A Salt Lake. He has appeared in 93 games for the Diamondbacks (2009-10) and Angels (2012-13).
  • Darin Mastroianni, OF. Mastroianni, 29, split last season between the Twins and Blue Jays organizations. He played 92 Triple-A games between Rochester and Buffalo, hitting a combined .277 with 20 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 23 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He appeared in 129 games with the Blue Jays and Twins, hitting .212 with a .564 OPS.
  • Xavier Paul, OF. – Paul, 29, played in 14 games last season for the Diamondbacks. In 349 career big-league games, Paul hit .250 with 12 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .679 OPS over six seasons with the Dodgers, Pirates, Reds and Diamondbacks.

Giles Finishes Fourth for NL ROY

Ken GilesAt least a few people recognized Ken Giles’ stellar rookie season.

He finished fourth Monday in National League Rookie of the Year voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He received two second-place votes and two third-place votes to finish with eight points, which put him behind Mets pitcher and winner Jacob deGrom (142 points), Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (92) and Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (14 points).

Giles went 3-1 with a 1.18 ERA and one save in 44 appearances following his promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in June. Spending the first two months of the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley certainly cost him votes, but it is tough to get votes as a relief pitcher, if he is not a closer.

Giles could be closing games for the Phillies as early as next season, if they trade Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason.

But Giles put up some eye-popping and historically impressive numbers in 2014. He allowed 25 hits, 11 walks and struck out 64 in 45 2/3 innings. His 0.79 WHIP is fifth among all rookie relievers since 1914. His 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio is sixth, and his 12.61 strikeouts-per-nine innings average is 10th.

Burnett Declines Player Option, Becomes Free Agent

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizThe Phillies need starting pitching help, but A.J. Burnett did them a huge favor tonight.

The team announced Burnett declined his $12.75 million player option, which makes him a free agent. Burnett, who signed a one-year, $16 million deal with mutual and player options in February, went 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA in 34 starts, pitching with an inguinal hernia most of the season. He led Major League Baseball in losses, earned runs allowed (109) and walks (96).

Burnett received a $1 million buyout from the Phillies for declining their half of a mutual option.

“It’s obviously a frustrating year,” Burnett said on his final start of the season in September. “You come over here and you expect to make an impact. And you make the wrong impact.”

The Phillies are in rebuilding mode, so they hoped they would not have to pay Burnett a hefty sum to pitch for a team that does not expect to contend until 2017 at the earliest. The Phillies can allocate Burnett’s 2015 salary elsewhere, if they choose.

The team lacks starting pitching depth, but if they sign a pitcher on the free-agent market it is expected to be on a short-term deal.

The Phillies are not expected to make a big splash in the free agent market this offseason, unless they sign Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas. If they pass on Tomas or fall short in their pursuit, perhaps they will feel more comfortable eating some of the salaries they owe other players still on the roster.

The Phillies are willing to trade almost anybody this offseason. The biggest name is Cole Hamels, but the list includes Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, Antonio Bastardo and Carlos Ruiz. The front office would trade Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, too. Utley and Rollins have complete no-trade clauses and both have said they have no plans to waive them, but the prospect of playing on a losing team in the twilight of their careers could get them to reconsider.

During the season, Burnett waffled on whether or not he wanted to pitch next year. Of course, this does not mean he does not want to pitch. He just might not want to pitch for the Phillies. (His agent told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that Burnett wants to pitch for a contender.) Burnett expressed his frustration toward Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure during his final start, uttering an expletive following a mound visit.

Burnett said afterward his relationship with McClure was fine, but sources in the clubhouse said Burnett was not happy with the way things went in Philly.

Both parties got what they wanted Monday. The Phillies got financial flexibility. Burnett got the ability to pitch for a winner.

Phillies Decline Adams’ Club Option

Mike AdamsAs expected, the Phillies today declined Mike Adams‘ $6 million club option for 2015.

He spent much of the previous two seasons on the disabled list with various injuries, making just 50 relief appearances over the life of his two-year, $12 million contract. His option would have vested automatically at $6 million with 60 innings pitched in 2014 or at $6.5 million with 120 innings pitched in 2013-14. But Adams pitched just 18 2/3 innings this season, and 43 2/3 innings the past two seasons.

Kyle Kendrick and Wil Nieves also became free agents Thursday.

A.J. Burnett has through Monday to accept or decline his $12.75 million player option. Burnett and the Phillies also have a $15 million mutual option, which the Phillies certainly will decline.

It is unclear if Burnett will pick up the option. He has gone back and forth about his desire to pitch next season, although Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week he thought Burnett would pitch.

Burnett went 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA in 34 starts. He led Major League Baseball in losses, earned runs allowed (109) and walks (96). He pitched with an inguinal hernia most of the season, which he had surgically repaired earlier this month.

Entire Coaching Staff Returns

The entire Phillies coaching staff will return in 2015.

The team said today each coach is signed through next season. The Phillies announced late last month that they had invited every coach to return following a 73-89 campaign in Ryne Sandberg’s first full season as manager.

Sandberg’s coaches include bench coach Larry Bowa, pitching coach Bob McClure, hitting coach Steve Henderson, first base coach Juan Samuel, third base coach Pete Mackanin, bullpen coach Rod Nichols and assistant hitting coach John Mizerock.

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