Results tagged ‘ Ruben Amaro Jr. ’
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.
Ryne 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
“Some guys want to stay on a losing team?” he said. “That’s mind-boggling to me.”
Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are two long-time Phillies who have said in recent weeks they have no desire to leave Philadelphia. Both have 10-and-5 rights, so they can reject any trade at any time. Utley said nothing this morning at Miller Park when asked about Papelbon’s comments and if anything has changed for him. He shooed away the question with his hands.
Rollins said little more than that.
“Not until I say so,” he said, asked if anything has changed for him. “You don’t have to investigate.”
Ruben Amaro Jr. said he had no problems with Papelbon’s candid comments.
“Every single player on this team should want to play for a winning team,” he said. “Simple as that. … Don’t misconstrue his words. He never said he’s unhappy here. He never said anything like that. He never expressed to me that he’s been unhappy. Why wouldn’t players want to play on a contending team? It’s really rather simple.”
Cole Hamels walked past Amaro in the visitors’ dugout at that moment.
“He wants to play on a winning team,” Amaro said about Hamels. “Why wouldn’t he?”
Amaro said Papelbon has not requested a trade. He would not say if there is much interest in his closer, although he said, “I’m getting calls on people all the time.”
But Papelbon is 10th among 149 qualified relief pitchers in baseball with a 1.24 ERA. His 0.85 WHIP is 15th out of 203. He is 22 of 24 in save opportunities.
He could help a contending team in need of bullpen help.
“It’s not a problem,” Amaro said. “I don’t view it as a problem. I’ve never viewed him as a problem.”
Asked about Papelbon’s bewilderment that anybody would want to stay on a losing team, Rollins said, “Pap is entitled to say whatever he wants to say. And he will. As all of us will. Those who have enough courage to.”
But there has to be many more people in the Phillies’ clubhouse that feel that way. They just don’t want to say it publicly.
“I can’t necessarily agree with that,” Rollins said.
Amaro said the Phillies are open-minded about a lot of things as the Trade Deadline approaches. It could mean eating some of Papelbon’s contract. He is owed about $19.5 million through next season, plus a potential $13 million more in 2016 if an option automatically vests based on games finished.
“Something is probably going to happen,” Rollins said. “No one knows who, what or when obviously. Something is likely going to happen.”
But Rollins figures to be here August 1.
“Probably,” he said.
It could come in the form of trades before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, injured players finally getting healthy or Minor Leaguers finally getting a shot.
“It’s disappointing, particularly the offense,” Amaro said about the Phillies’ performance. “What more can you say other than we’re not swinging the bats very well? I didn’t anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they’re better. But they haven’t shown it. So at some point we’re going to have to make some changes. Some guys, once they are ready to play, may be factors for us.”
The Phillies hit just .206 and averaged just 2.56 runs a game over their recent 3-13 slide. They hit .148 with runners in scoring position in that stretch. For the season, the Phillies are 26th in baseball in runs per game (3.75) and 29th in OPS (.661), despite having a franchise-record $180 million payroll and nearly every high-paid hitter healthy.
Possible changes include Triple-A outfielders Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore and infielders Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis.
“Whoever else in the organization may be factors for us,” Amaro said. “We have to get them healthy and see if it behooves us to make any of those changes.”
Ruf is recovering from a knee and wrist injury, Sizemore can opt out of his contract over the All-Star break if he is not in the Phillies’ plans, Galvis is recovering from a broken collarbone and Franco is trying to get on track after struggling most of the season.
Franco, who was the organization’s top hitting prospect entering the season, is hitting .342 (13-for-38) with two doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBIs in the past nine games.
“He’s swinging the bat well,” Amaro said. “Hey, listen, I’m looking for people who can swing the bat. Because we’re not doing it here. If he gets to the point where he starts swinging the bat consistently, he’s a guy who could be in play too.”
But Franco plays third base and Phillies third baseman Cody Asche warrants a longer look. Could both be on the field at the same time?
“Yeah, because he could play first base, too,” Amaro said about Franco.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is hitting .230 with 14 home runs, 51 RBIs and a .701 OPS, which ranks 114th out of 165 qualifying hitters in baseball.
Amaro said there is still interest in his players, despite their poor play recently. He also said the front office has been active in pursuing improvements.
“Whether we’ll actually get it done or if there is something that can improve us, it depends on how our club is being evaluated,” Amaro said. “If we’re going to make changes, we make changes to get better. Everything we think about is thinking about how we can improve our club. Will we be better? That’s what you have to analyze.”
He reached a big one this afternoon when he singled to right field in the fifth inning in a 7-3 victory over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. It was the 2,235th hit of his career, which moved him past Mike Schmidt as the franchise’s hits leader.
“I’m not done,” Rollins said afterward. “Hopefully we can bring another championship to the city if I’m here long enough and the rest will be the rest.”
That is the question, isn’t it? Will Rollins be here long enough? He is signed through this season with an $11 million option that automatically vests with just 156 more plate appearances this season.
He will hit that mark with ease.
In fact, he should fly past that mark before the July 31 Trade Deadline, which brings up the biggest question of all. Rollins has 10-and-5 rights, so he can veto any trade at any time for any reason. He said last July in Detroit he would not waive his rights because he wanted to break the hits record.
Well, he has it. He also is playing on a team that, despite four wins in five games this week, is just 29-37 and on pace to lose 91 games following an 89-loss season in 2013 and an 81-loss season in 2012. Five consecutive National League East championships, two National League pennants and one World Series championship between from 2007-11 seems like a distant memory.
If the Phillies hold a fire sale next month would Rollins maintain his no-trade stance?
“It really depends if everything is blown up,” Rollins said. “Then you take that into consideration. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that right now. But if that time does come, and it’s time to go … people move on.”
Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke for a few minutes this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, where he was asked numerous questions about the upcoming July 31 trade deadline. He said no decisions have been made and he holds out hope the Phillies will do something with their current three-game winning streak.
If not, if the team returns to its losing ways, it seems safe to say a fire sale is a certainty.
Here are a few highlights:
Q: Are some of the contracts on the books inhibiting your ability to trade players?
A: Not that much because we’ve taken money back on deals before, so we’ll do it again if we have to.
Q: Are you already getting calls?
A: We’ve had discussions with a lot of teams about things.
Q: Do people like your guys?
A: Yes. Wouldn’t you? We have some pretty good players.
Q: In your mind, can Cliff Lee get back in time where he could become appealing to contending teams, if you go in that direction?
A: I think so. Cliff threw again today and it went well, which is good. Hopefully he can start going in a straight line.
Q: If you get into a rebuild situation and you subtracted, do you have any untouchables?
A: I can’t say there are any untouchables. We’ve talked about this before. I mean, some guys are less touchable than others.
Q: Where is your confidence/faith level this team can put together a run and get into this thing when it hasn’t won more than three straight in more than a year?
A: Yeah, it hasn’t been great in that regard. No question. Our recent history is not great. We’ve got to see what happens over the next couple of weeks because we’ve got (Cody) Asche coming back, we’re waiting on Cliff to jump back in this thing. We have our bullpen starting to do some things we hoped they would do earlier in the year. You’re seeing some of that growth now, finally. What’s my confidence level? I believe in our players, but if they keep playing at this same rate they were playing … if they play like the did the last three or four guys that’d be different. But if they keep playing at the rate they were playing the last week and a couple weeks prior then my confidence would be low. We’ll see. They have ability.
Q: You said a couple weeks ago you have no intentions to trade Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins and you’ve received no indications they’re interested. Has anything changed?
A: It’s hard to speculate because they’re 10-and-5 guys. If someone comes and says we’d like to have Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley or whatever player is out there, I have to do my job and listen and explore. But the reality of it is it could be all wasted time because they may not want to go anywhere. And at that time we may not want them to go anywhere either. A lot of it depends on what we want to do, and most of it depends on what they want to do.
Q: Are you confident in your ability to rebuild if you go that way?