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Phillies trade rumors - Rays discussing Ryan Howard
by Scott Butler 12/19/16

Allen Iverson Bud Selig

MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post.

Let's start with a rumor that hasn't reached MLBTR yet and it has to do with Ryan Howard.

December 19

Rays have discussed Ryan Howard

The Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times says that the Rays have discussed the possibility of adding Ryan Howard, along with several other left-handed bats, this offseason. Howard is part of a second-tier group of hitters such as lefties Pedro AlvarezBrandon Moss and Luis Valbuena, or righties such as Billy Butler and Chris Carter, in addition to the possibility of of bringing back Logan Morrison, who hit 14 homers in half a season between his wretched start and season-ending injury.

Onto the rest of the Phillies rumors:

December 18

Phillies Could Add Reliever, Backup Outfielder

Phillies GM Matt Klentak said his team is looking at adding another hitter or reliever, though neither move is a necessity, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes.  The hitter is likely to be a reserve outfielder, as the Phillies want to see what they have in their young outfielders as they continue their rebuilding process.  “We continue to prioritize roster flexibility and payroll flexibility so players that are in position to sign shorter term contracts are going to be more appealing to us,” Klentak said.


December 17

Phillies To Sign Bryan Holaday To Minor League Deal

The Phillies have agreed to terms with catcher Bryan Holaday on a minor league deal, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. Holaday is represented by Lagardere Sports.

Holaday is expected to compete for the backup catcher job in Philadelphia, Crasnick notes. Cameron Rupp currently is slated to start. The Phillies also appear likely to have 2016 Triple-A catcher Andrew Knapp in camp, along with top prospect Jorge Alfaro, with Holaday providing the team with a more veteran option. A.J. Ellis, who finished the 2016 season as the Phillies’ backup, recently signed a one-year deal with the Marlins.

The 29-year-old Holaday began the 2016 season with the Rangers, then headed to the Red Sox on a waiver claim. The Red Sox ultimately non-tendered him rather than paying a projected $900K salary. For the year, he batted .231/.281/.359 over 129 plate appearances, roughly in line with his career .245/.282/.346 marks in parts of five big-league seasons. He caught eight of 21 batters attempting to steal.

December 17

Phillies Extend Odubel Herrera

SATURDAY: Heyman tweets that Herrera will receive a $1.75MM signing bonus, $1.25MM in 2017, $3MM in 2018, $5MM in 2019, $7MM in 2020, and $10MM in 2021.

FRIDAY: The options come with $2.5MM and $1MM buyouts, respectively, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets.

THURSDAY: The Phillies have announced a five-year extension for center fielder Odubel Herrera, which comes with a $30.5MM guarantee, per Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). The deal includes club options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, which are valued at $11.5MM and $12.5MM, respectively, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki (on Twitter). Herrera is represented by Victor Tranquillo.

With the move, the Phils will add control over three projected free-agent seasons over their present and future center fielder. Herrera entered the year with two full years of MLB service, meaning he would have expected to qualify for arbitration next winter and hit the open market in advance of the 2021 season.

Instead, Herrera — who’ll soon turn 25 — will be under contract through at least his age-29 season. As Gelb notes on Twitter, it appears to be the first significant contract extension the team has struck with a player of such little experience.

Taken as a Rule 5 pick from the Rangers under the former regime, led by much-maligned GM Ruben Amaro Jr., Herrera immediately blossomed into a quality regular. In his first season in the majors, Herrera slashed .297/.344/.418 and contributed eight home runs and 16 steals (though he was also gunned down on eight other attempts). With high-quality, up-the-middle glovework and strong overall baserunning contributions factored in, Herrera was a four-WAR player right out of the gates.

Though his overall offensive output remained at about 10% better than league average in 2016, it’s certainly arguable that Herrera took a big step forward at the plate. He not only trimmed his strikeouts to a 20.4% rate that falls just below league average, but nearly doubled his walk rate to a strong 9.6%. Herrera also jumped to 15 home runs, though he’s still below-average in overall power (.134 ISO), and stole 25 bags (against seven times caught stealing). While both UZR and DRS were somewhat less enamored of his glovework in the sophomore campaign, he still rated comfortably above average in the field and also on the bases.

Even if Herrera’s batting average on balls in play comes back down to earth a bit — he carried a .387 mark in his first year and .349 in his second — he seems a solid bet to deliver at least average offensive work for the foreseeable future. And there’s perhaps room to grow still in the power department after showing some strides, which was especially promising given that it occurred along with the step forward in his plate discipline.

Though Herrera was less productive in the second half — his power and K/BB numbers dipped — the total package is quite appealing. That made this a rather easy deal to make for the Phillies, an organization with massive untapped spending capacity in the future. Even in a true downside scenario, there’s little chance that Herrera’s contract (which is worth only $6.1MM on an average basis annually) will significantly harm the team’s ability to add major league talent.

While a team in the Phillies’ situation doesn’t need to strike early to lock up talent, as the organization can afford to do so later, that doesn’t mean that such a move can’t yield huge dividends. Indeed, as the pre-2015 Adam Eaton extension shows — particularly in light of his recent trade to the Nationals — it’s possible to add quite a bit of value to player control rights by buying out arb years and picking up some options. The Herrera pact is structured identically (five guaranteed years plus two options), though his guarantee handily beats the $23.5MM that Eaton received. Of course, it also fell well shy of the $50MM+ promised to 2+ players such as Matt Carpenter and Andrew McCutchen.

That’s certainly not to say that the deal isn’t a fair one from Herrera’s perspective. He was not a major bonus recipient as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela — various internet reports suggest he was inked for a modest $160K — and had only earned at (and then just over) the MLB minimum in each of the last two seasons. While his current trajectory suggests there would’ve been big earnings to come, none of that was guaranteed, and Herrera’s skillset would not have been particularly lucrative in the arbitration process.

It remains to be seen whether Philadelphia will move to negotiate with any of its other younger assets, though none are quite as established as Herrera. Third baseman Maikel Franco is the other most likely candidate, perhaps, though he may have already secured his downside protection by striking a deal with Fantex. Pitchers such as Aaron NolaJerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez could conceivably draw consideration as well, though there’s no rush in any of their cases and the club may allow things to play out before reaching any decisions. Looking further down the line, top talent J.P. Crawford and others could eventually be candidates for long-term deals — even, perhaps, before or just after they reach the majors — though we’ve heard nothing to suggest that any such aggressive moves are in the works.

December 14

Phillies Re-Sign Andres Blanco, Designate David Rollins

1:46pm: Philadelphia has announced the signing, noting that lefty David Rollins was designated for assignment to clear roster space. Rollins continues to traverse the majors via the waiver wire this winter; he has already moved from the Mariners to the Cubs, then on to the Rangers, before landing in Philadelphia.

12:54pm: The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $3MM to bring back utility infielder Andres Blanco, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (via Twitter). Blanco, 32, has spent the past three seasons in the Philadelphia organization.

[RELATED: Updated Phillies Depth Chart]

The veteran utilityman has revived his career since landing with the Phils as a minor-league free agent. While he wasn’t a big part of the 2014 team, he made his way back to the majors for the first time since 2011.

Blanco ended up returning on another minors pact in the ensuing offseason, cracking the roster out of camp. Nobody foresaw the career-year that ensued. Ultimately, Blanco slashed a robust .292/.360/.502 with seven home runs over 261 plate appearances in 2015.

That surprise performance led the Phils to tender Blanco, which netted him a $1.45MM payday. While he wasn’t quite able to keep up the offensive output in 2016, he still provided a sturdy .253/.316/.405 batting line in his ninety games.

Blanco’s new contract recognizes both his useful bat and his defensive versatility. While metrics were more favorably inclined toward his glove earlier in his career, Blanco remains capable of playing anywhere in the infield and has been trusted with spot duty in the corner outfield as well.

December 14

Phillies Claim Richie Shaffer, Release Phil Klein To Pursue Asian Deal

The Phillies have claimed infielder/outfielder Richie Shaffer off waivers from the Mariners, per a club announcement. Additionally, the team announced that righty Phil Klein was released in order for him to sign a contract to play with an organization in Asia.

Philadelphia announced Shaffer as a third baseman, perhaps suggesting that’s where they see him being utilized — though, of course, that position will almost certainly be manned regularly by Maikel Franco. Shaffer can also play the corner outfield or first base.

The 25-year-old Shaffer, a former first-round pick, bounced from the Rays to the Mariners earlier this offseason. He was riding high after a big 2015 season in which he hit 30 total long balls between the upper minors and the majors (where he received his first, brief look). But he largely struggled in the campaign that just ended, posting a meager .227/.329/.367 batting line at the Triple-A level and earning only twenty games in the bigs. Those struggles made him expendable, but the Phils evidently see enough upside to take a chance with a 40-man spot — though the team could ultimately attempt to sneak him through waivers at some point.

Klein, 27, also landed in Philadelphia through a waiver claim — in his case, from the Rangers. He did not pitch particularly well in his four appearances late in 2016 for the Phils, and owns only a 5.50 ERA over his 55 2/3 total major league innings. But Klein has carried impressive strikeout numbers and posted dominant results in the upper minors, which surely lent to his appeal to ballclubs on the other side of the Pacific. It is not yet clear just where Klein is headed.

December 14

Phillies Outright Michael Mariot

The Phillies outrighted righty Michael Mariot, who was recently designated for assignment.

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