Results tagged ‘ Ruben Amaro Jr. ’

Phillies Eye Cuban Outfielders

Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week the Phillies need to make serious upgrades to their offense.

He could start in the outfield.

Despite the fact Marlon Byrd is fourth in the National League in home runs and sixth in RBIs and Ben Revere has the highest batting average in baseball since June 25, Phillies outfielders entered yesterday’s series finale against the Mariners at Citizens Bank Park with a combined .706 OPS, which ranked 19th in baseball. Domonic Brown‘s .622 OPS ranked 56th out of 60 qualifying outfielders. Brown is on pace to have the lowest OPS of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch (.582) in 2002.

Multiple sources said recently the Phillies will take a shot at Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, but they are not expected to sign him. Castillo established residency in Haiti and was cleared by the U.S. government to sign with a team in July.

The Phillies could be more aggressive with other international free agents in the coming months. Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has big-time power, and is somebody to watch closely. Tomas could hit the market in the next couple of months.

Yozzen Cuesta is a corner infielder, which would require the Phillies to shuffle several pieces if they plan to pursue him.

Tomas and Cuesta have established residency outside the United States and Cuba. They need to be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), then declared free agents by Major League Baseball before they sign. But action on those players could pick up once Castillo signs with a team.

Montgomery: Amaro Is Not On Hot Seat

Ryan Howard, David MontgomeryThe Phillies might have the third-highest payroll in baseball, but they are going to miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.

But Phillies president David Montgomery‘s support for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has not wavered publicly, including yesterday at the organization’s Baseball 101 Clinic and Luncheon for Women at Citizens Bank Park.

“Ruben is not on the hot seat,” he told a large group of Phillies fans during a question-and-answer session.

The comment hit Twitter shortly thereafter. Montgomery could not be reached later for further comment.

Montgomery has continually supported Amaro, despite nearly constant criticism from outside the organization. He told MLB.com in February, “I think we have somebody whose experience working under two general managers served him well and positioned him to be very effective at his job. We — we — need to do better.”

He told The Philadelphia Inquirer in June, “I think we have pretty good people doing these jobs. We saw, over a long period, pretty good success with this group of people. Obviously, Ruben is part of that group.”

Phillies Like Valentin

valentinThe Phillies hope Jesmuel Valentin is one of two quality players to join the organization following the Roberto Hernandez trade with the Dodgers.

The Phillies acquired him yesterday as the first player to be named in the deal. The Phillies have until the middle of next month to select the second player, which will come from a remaining pool of three players. Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated they are leaning toward a pitcher.

“We have a pretty good idea of who we want but we’re still waiting to make a decision right now,” he said. “We’ll check on some medical stuff. They’re younger guys. For the situation we’re in and the player we gave up, I think we did pretty well. Even if we had just this guy, we’d be happy with it.”

MLB.com ranked Valentin, who is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin, as the No. 13 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization. Selected 51st overall as a supplement pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Valentin was hitting .282 with 22 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 47 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 107 games with Great Lakes.

Valentin will report to Class A Clearwater.

“We like the kid,” Amaro said. “He’s got baseball acumen. He’s advanced pretty quickly. He plays short and second; we’ll probably have him play second base for us. Switch hitter. Plays the game well. … We’re not sure if he’s better from the right or from the left side. He doesn’t have a whole lot of Minor-league at bats yet. But he’s all right. He’s someone who handles the bat pretty well. He has a little bit of pop. He’s not a big guy, but has a little pop. He can run. He plays the game right. He plays hard.”

Amaro said there is chance the Phillies could make at least another trade before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.

Howard’s Big Week

Ryan Howard, Cody Asche, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, Jason CastroRyan Howard had one heck of a series against the Astros, especially when it is stacked against his recent struggles and the uncertainty surrounding his future with the organization.

In the past couple weeks:

  • Ryne Sandberg has said it is time to see what others can do at first base.
  • He also said the remaining $60 million on Howard’s contract will not affect future lineups and he would consider a platoon moving forward.
  • There were multiple reports the Phillies front office kick around the possibility of releasing Howard in the offseason, which Ruben Amaro Jr. denied.
  • Howard upset fans when he said nobody would want to trade places with him right now, despite the fact he is in the midst of a $125 million contract.
  • Howard went 1-for-25 on a recent road trip through New York and Washington.
  • He hit .135 (15-for-111) with two doubles, two home runs, 13 RBIs and a .451 OPS in 30 games from June 26-August 3. It was the second-lowest OPS out of 163 qualifying players in that stretch.
  • He is on pace to have arguably the least productive season of any cleanup hitter with 575 or more plate appearances in the No. 4 spot in the past 100 years.

But then Howard hit .357 (5-for-14) with one double, two home runs and eight RBIs in the three-game sweep against the Astros. It included tonight’s game-winning grand slam in the eighth inning of a 6-5 victory. It preceded a curtain call for a player fans have booed regularly this season.

“It is what it is,” Howard said about the up-and-down fan reaction this season. “I mean, its unfortunate. I’ll be honest with you, it’s unfortunate that’s what happens. But I’ll go out there and continue to play. I understand what it takes to play the game. I understand it wasn’t there early, but it only had to be there once. It was there with me and I’ll try to build off that.”

Like anything, it is just three games. The key for Howard is finishing the season strong. Can he build upon this? Or is this just a good three-game series?

No Surgery Required For Lee

Cliff LeeIt is not a surprise, but Cliff Lee‘s season is finished.

Lee’s locker inside the Phillies’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park had been completely cleared out before today’s game against the Astros. He is on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 2 flexor pronator strain, and he is going to rest at home in Arkansas for about two weeks before rejoining the team early next month for a reevaluation.

Lee today visited orthopedist David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. He confirmed the Phillies’ diagnosis of Lee’s injury, which said no surgery is required. Following Altchek’s examination, Lee returned to Philadelphia to visit the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia for a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in the elbow.

“We hope to get him into a throwing program in October or November,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a telephone call late Wednesday night. “But right now he needs to rest.”

Amaro is hopeful Lee, who suffered a recurrence of the injury last Thursday in Washington, will be ready to go by Spring Training 2015. Lee is owed at least $37.5 million following this season, which includes his $25 million salary for 2015, plus a $12.5 million buyout on a 2016 club option.

Howard’s Historic Struggles

Ryan HowardRyne Sandberg spoke assertively a couple weeks ago when he discussed Ryan Howard’s future at first base. He said he knew what Howard could do, so it is time to see what others could do. He talked about a platoon and said the remaining $60 million on Howard’s contract following this season would have no impact on his lineup because he is trying to win.

But since a couple meetings between Sandberg and Howard and since Ruben Amaro Jr. countered his manager’s comments to say he expects Howard to be his first baseman in 2015 and there are no plans to release him following the season, the narrative has changed completely. Howard has started eight of nine games at first base, including one game against a left-handed pitcher.

“We’d like to get him going for us,” Sandberg told reporters Sunday at Nationals Park. “And he’s working on some things. He could be a big bat for us.”

The Phillies face Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Will we see Howard in there, hitting fourth?

Howard is tied for seventh in the National League with 63 RBIs, but there is a reason the Phillies would need to eat every dollar on his contract to trade him. His .664 OPS is 132nd out of 152 qualifying hitters in baseball. And while Howard is on pace for 91 RBIs, he has had 331 runners on base during his plate appearances this season, which ranks third in baseball. Howard’s spot in the lineup has had as much to do with his production than anything.

Howard is on pace for 594 plate appearances in the No. 4 spot. There have been 400 hitters in baseball from 1914-2013 with 575 or more plate appearances hitting cleanup and 322 (80.5 percent) had at least 90 RBIs. In other words, hit fourth regularly and the RBIs will come. But one wonders how much longer the Phillies will hit Howard fourth? His .302 on-base percentage as a four-hole hitter would be fifth-lowest out of those 400 hitters. His .363 slugging percentage would be second-lowest.

His .664 OPS? It would be dead last, 14 points lower than Washington’s Chick Gandil in 1914.

If Howard is the Phillies’ first baseman in 2015, will they continue to hit him fourth? The Phillies need to make changes. If they can’t significantly alter the roster, they can at least shake up the lineup.

Amaro: Other Teams Weren’t Aggressive Enough

Ruben Amaro Jr.The Phillies are headed to their third consecutive season without a winning record and it is clear they need to make changes to have any shot to win in the future. But with a slew of players available to trade to help those efforts they traded nobody before Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Ruben Amaro Jr. kept a stiff upper lip as he spoke to reporters about it Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park.

“Not disappointed,” Amaro said. “More surprised that there wasn’t more aggressive action from the other end. We have some pretty good baseball players here.”

But there seemed to be a clear difference of opinion there. The Phillies look at a roster with Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, Antonio Bastardo and others and see players that can help contending teams. That might be true, but other teams looked at those players with age, injury or performance concerns often with high price tags attached to them.

“Well, I would disagree with that,” Amaro said, asked if the Phillies overvalued their own players. “In no scenario were we asking for players that were their top prospects. We were not looking for exorbitant paybacks, so to speak, we were looking for players that would help us, but I think we were very reasonable in the discussions that we had.

“I think one of the most over-coveted elements of baseball are prospects. I don’t know how many prospects that have been dealt over the last several years have really come to bite people in the ass.”

Amaro said he sensed teams believed the Phillies were desperate to deal and ultimately would cave to their demands.

“I’ve made it very, very clear that we didn’t have any pressure to make deals,” he said. “What our goal was to try and make our club better. So if there’s a deal to help us get there, we would’ve done it. There really wasn’t a deal we felt comfortable with or a deal that we were going to acquire talent that was compensatory to the talent.”

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Papelbon Doesn’t Get His Wish

Jonathan PapelbonJonathan Papelbon practically begged to be traded to a contender before Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he did not get his wish.

It was not a surprise. He signed a four-year, $50 million contract before the 2012 season and that contract almost certainly prevented the Phillies from dealing him. He is owed $13 million next season with a $13 million club option that automatically vests based on 55 games finished next season or 100 games finished in 2014-15.

“It’s not my decision,” Papelbon said, when asked if he wants to stay in Philadelphia. “Whatever happens, happens. I have to do whatever the GM decides to do with me.”

Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause, although he said he would have waived it. But he also said he would not have accepted a trade if he were headed to a team that already has a closer. He has no interest in being a setup man.

“I don’t set up,” he said. “And you should know that.”

Even if it meant a chance to win another World Series?

“The chance to win a World Series is with me closing,” he said. “Period.”

Interestingly, Papelbon said he met recently with Ruben Amaro Jr. about the direction of the team. He said he liked what he heard.

“Ruben had promised me that, going forward, we were still going to compete and, no matter what it took to put a winning product on the field, he was going to do it,” Papelbon said. “If he could trade me and the trade was right for both the Phillies and the other ball club, then a trade could happen. But if it wasn’t right for the Phillies, he wasn’t going to do it. At the same time, he also promised me that we were going to compete year after year and there’s no rebuilding here with the Phillies. So that was a big boost for me.”

But couldn’t those words just be empty promises? Papelbon acknowledged he did not hear an actual plan from Amaro, nor did he ask for one.

“I don’t think Ruben is a person who is just going to say something and then not be able to do it,” Papelbon said. “I think he’s honest in his decision-making, and what he says he goes out and tries to do it.”

Don’t Expect Hamels to Go Anywhere

Cole HamelsDo not expect Cole Hamels to be traded before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

There has been plenty of speculation recently about his availability, but sources told MLB.com on Tuesday that the Phillies have had no substantive talks with any team about him. That includes the Dodgers. There are multiple reports that the Dodgers and Phillies have been in contact recently, and the Phillies have requested the Dodgers’ top three prospects to make a deal.

But one source said the Phillies have made no such requests because the two teams have not talked that in depth.

The Phillies have made teams aware they would need to be thoroughly impressed to trade Hamels, but talks have never gotten much further than that. Hamels allowed six hits and struck out eight in eight scoreless innings last night against the Mets to improve to 6-5 with a 2.55 ERA. He has a 1.58 ERA (15 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings) in his last 12 starts, entering the night sixth out of 95 qualifying pitchers in ERA since June 1.

A source said the Phillies haven’t gotten particularly close to the finish line in any trade discussions. They have numerous players available, including Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett and Antonio Bastardo, but some teams believe Ruben Amaro Jr. is under pressure to deal and ultimately will sell low to make a trade. They seem to be waiting for Amaro to cave.

But ownership has not ordered Amaro to shed payroll, which does not force his hand. Players like Hamels, Lee, Papelbon, Byrd and other veterans are signed through at least next season, which means Amaro can try to clear them through waivers next month and trade them before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline.

The Phillies can also wait to try to trade them in the offseason.

It seems the Phillies are prepared for that possibility.

It looks like nobody is going anywhere right now, although everything can change with one phone call before Thursday’s Deadline.

Amaro: Howard Has Future with Phillies

Ryan Howard, Josh TholeRuben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon that Ryan Howard still has a future with the Phillies.

“I fully expect him to be our first baseman next year,” Amaro said. “I don’t know where people are coming up with him not having a future with us. He’s a very big part of our organization.”

Ryne Sandberg benched Howard for the third consecutive game Friday, and he said Thursday there could be a platoon situation at first base going forward. Howard is the highest-paid player in baseball this season and he is owed $60 million after this year, which makes the benching and possibility of a platoon a strong indication the Phillies are looking at other options for the future.

Sources also said the Phillies have discussed multiple scenarios about Howard’s future, including the possibility of releasing him in the offseason. Asked about that, Amaro said, “All I can tell you is that’s not in our best interest. It’s not something that we’ve discussed.”

Amaro denied this is a matter of a player not being good enough to play every day. He instead said it is a measure meant to get him back on track.

“Let him mentally get regrouped,” he said. “Listen, everyone needs a break. And I think that’s more of what this is about than anything else. All of us want Ryan to be back and for Ryan to be as productive as he can be. I think that’s the goal. … We’re hopeful. We went through this with Pat Burrell. He had some good years, some bad years and some years in between. I think that’s a part of the baseball process, particularly when you get older. Chase Utley went down and became an All-Star. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. A guy can have a poor year one year and a great year the next.”

Howard’s .682 OPS this season is 207 lower than his career average (.889) and 36 points below his career low (.718 in 2012). His .377 slugging percentage is 155 points lower than his career average (.532) and 46 points below than his career low (.423 in 2012).

“I don’t have any issue with his effort,” Amaro said. “There’s some combination of relaxation and focus, there’s some combination in there that will help him get there. We’ll see. … It’s not about (upsetting him). I think it’s more about … giving him a break to get away from it.

“We don’t expect Ryan to be the Ryan Howard of ‘06, ‘07, ‘08. But we know he’s a more productive player than he has been over this past month.”

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