Ryan Howard is having a revival.
Over the last 30 days, he has looked like vintage Ryan Howard. You know, the slugger that averaged 47 home runs per 162 games from 2006 to 2011.
This season, Howard's been nothing more than a laughingstock in Philadelphia as he plays out the final season of his five-year, $125 million contact.
On Jun. 29, Howard was sporting a .151 batting average over 205 plate appearances, posting a .564 OPS. He did hit 11 home runs over those 62 games, putting him on a 29 home run per 162 game pace.
If it was not already, it was clear that Howard is well past his heyday. At the very least, he provided a veteran presence in the young Phillies clubhouse and did hit the occasional home run.
But in the past 30 days--more so the past two months--, Ryan Howard has been a treat for Phillies fans to watch as he finishes up his time with the team.
Minimum 50 plate appearances, Howard ranks third in the Major Leagues in wRC+ and wOBA since July 21. He's hit .360 with a 1.196 OPS in that time, swatting six home runs and driving in 15. Sure, it's a short sample, but that's a 58 home run and 143 RBI pace when extended out to 162 games.
In short, right now, Howard is hitting home runs at the same pace that he did over a full season in 2006, when he was named National League MVP.
With this great play, many are wondering whether the Phillies will want to trade Howard at the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline.
And, frankly, I don't see it happening.
Overall, Howard is a rental that a team will get for four weeks. For truly anyone, Howard won't be a starter, and while he could provide some pop off the bench, he will not garner a return that is valuable enough for me to envision the Phillies moving him.
And who would even want to deal for Howard? He just does not provide enough value for a championship caliber club, and even a middling team would likely rather use their own talent than trade for a player who is pretty much out of the game. Unless an injury gets in the way, the suitors are limited.
At this point, the Phillies probably want to just hold on to Howard. He's a legend in Philadelphia, second in career franchise home runs only to Mike Schmidt. When they likely aren't going to get anything that even resembles a return, it just does not appear to me that Matt Klentak and co. will decide to move him, especially since he and his contract will be off the books at the end of the season anyway.
Look at it this way. Klentak had the perfect opportunity to deal starter Jeremy Hellickson at the non-waiver trade deadline. A rental, like Howard, Hellickson did not seem to draw the return that the Phillies' front office was looking for. Instead, they held pat and are planning on offering him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.
If Klentak did not want to move his best trade chip at a point where his value was extremely high because he did not get the "right" return, why would he want to deal a guy that wouldn't get much of a return, if any, let alone the "right" return?
This is good from a P.R. perspective, too. While he does not have the same appeal he once did, Howard will still sell tickets. This comes into play at the end of the season, as fans should want to see his last few games in a Phillies uniform. No matter how much it sounds like Phillies fans hate Ryan Howard, it's not hard to think they won't still come out there to see him finish out as a Phillie.
Never say never, but Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard will probably still be in a Phillies uniform come Sep. 1.
Phillies' catcher Cameron Rupp went 2-for-4 last night with a two-run home run and an RBI double in the team's 5-4 win over the Padres.
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It is officially six weeks away from baseball season. Pitchers and catchers began reporting for Spring Training earlier this week. Now, it is time for my divisional previews, with a new one coming out every Saturday leading up to the 2016 season. Today, I begin with the National League East.
1. Washington Nationals -- 2015 record: 83-79; Projection: 91-71
The best move the Nationals made this offseason was the hiring of Dusty Baker. Baker gives the team an identity. This is something that the Nationals lacked with Matt Williams, and the team crumbled down the stretch. With Baker, I expect the Nationals' chemistry to be improved. And with all the talent on their roster, including reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, there is no reason to believe why they can't win the division.
Washington had something of a modest offseason but made a few key moves. I really liked the acquisition of Ben Revere. He will give them a presence at the top of the lineup that they truly missed all of last season. Revere is a catalyst and should steal plenty of bases in D.C., while playing a very good center field.
The pitching staff took more of a hit this offseason with the loss of Jordan Zimmermann to the Tigers. Now at the back-end of their rotation is Tanner Roark and Joe Ross, the latter of which posted a 3.64 ERA and a 3.42 FIP in 76 2/3 innings pitched last season. I am expecting the Nationals' pitching staff to hold up, which in turn should lead them to the National League East crown.
2. New York Mets -- 2015 Record: 90-72; Projection: 88-74
The Mets are going to take a small step back this year. Their lineup is not as deep as it was at the end of last season, when they made the run into October, winning the National League. The big offseason move for them was the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes. Without Cespedes, the Mets' lineup could be an even bigger issue, as they were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball last season before their trade deadline acquisition of the Cuban outfielder.
The loss of Daniel Murphy is going to hurt the Mets more than they thought. Replacing him is Neil Walker, who they got in a trade from the Pirates for Jon Niese. I liked the move, but Murphy has slightly more offensive upside than Walker, posting a .770 OPS to a .756 OPS last season. Walker now heads to an even more extreme pitcher's park at Citi Field, while Murphy heads to a hitter's park out at Nationals Park. Lastly, the Mets cannot expect Cespedes or Michael Conforto to be as good over a full season as they were down the stretch last year.
On the other side of the ball, I love the Mets pitching staff. The only addition they made to it this offseason was the signing of Antonio Bastardo, who is a good seventh or eighth inning guy. Their starting rotation is amongst the best in baseball, boasting the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon. It will be hard to take two of three from the Mets, but the way to do it is to out-hit them. And that can be done.
3. Miami Marlins -- 2015 Record: 71-91; Projection: 78-84
Every year I look at the Marlins roster and wonder why this team isn't better than they are. They have some of the most exciting young talent in the Majors in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna, and Jose Fernandez. But yet this team continues to underperform year after year. So, I can't expect big things out of the Marlins anymore.
If there's one thing that is in their favor, it is the fact that they hired Don Mattingly to be their new manager. Mattingly has experience working with tough personalities in Los Angeles, notably Zack Greinke and Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers never went deep into the postseason, but Mattingly was the glue that held them together. In Miami, he will be expected to do the same.
How do the Marlins succeed this year? They need their rotation to come through. The team added Wei-Yin Chen during the offseason, but Jarred Cosart (4.52 ERA), Tom Koehler (4.08 ERA), and Edwin Jackson (3.07 ERA; no starts) to step it up. If they can, the Marlins might be able to surprise some people this year. But I wouldn't expect it.
4. Philadelphia Phillies -- 2015 Record: 63-99; Projection: 66-96
The Phillies will still be bad in 2016, but they won't be as bad as the Atlanta Braves. Philadelphia's rebuild is still in full swing, and the team should not be projected to do anything special this season other than perhaps see their top prospects begin to make their Major League debuts.
This offseason, the Phillies added three underrated pieces: Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, and David Hernandez. They aren't going to help the team during their next contending phase, but could be dangled as trade pieces at the deadline if they prove valuable. More notably, they subtracted hard-throwing closer Ken Giles to net them four prospects.
This is the first offseason for Philadelphia without Ruben Amaro Jr. since 2007-2008. Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak have done a solid job thus far as they look to make the Phillies more analytically-friendly and rebuild their core. In 2016, the Phillies may be a bit improved, but the will still be among the worst in the Major Leagues.
5. Atlanta Braves -- 2015 Record: 67-95; Projection: 62-100
The Braves, like the Phillies, are in the midst of a big rebuilding phase. This season will probably be a lost year too. Outside of Freddie Freeman, the Braves lack many top-tier players in both their lineup and starting rotation.
This offseason, the Braves have been focused on subtracting some of their talent. They traded Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels and Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team brought in Ender Inciarte, Erick Aybar, Kelly Johnson, and Jim Johnson this offseason through trades and signings to provide depth (though Inciarte could be in Atlanta the next time they contend).
For the Braves to beat this projection, their rotation is going to have to step it up. The Braves rotation includes: Julio Teheran (4.04 ERA), Matt Wisler (4.71 ERA), Manny Banuelos (5.13 ERA), Bud Norris (6.72 ERA), and Williams Perez (4.78 ERA). If they want to finish in fourth, that rotation is going to have to outperform its 2015 result. I don't see that happening.
The Phillies will probably be trading star second baseman Chase Utley here in the next few weeks.
The 36-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season. Due to a recent hot stretch since a return from the disabled list, many teams are showing interest in Utley, including the Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, Cubs, and possibly Astros.
As much as the Phillies have shown the need and willingness to rebuild, I’m not sure dealing one of the greatest players in their franchise history is the smartest move for them.
First off, Utley’s payroll obligations already limit the type of return they could get for him. He’s owed more than $6 million between contracts throughout the rest of the season and a $2 million buyout on a team option at the end of the year.
The only scenario where the Phillies could even get a prospect for Utley that is good enough to make a real impact at the big league level is through taking on most, or even all, of his salary. The Philadelphia market size will allow them to do that and they’ve already shown that they will do that in taking on a good chunk of Cole Hamels’ deal in the trade with the Texas Rangers and all of Matt Harrison’s deal in the same swap.
So, say the Phillies do decide to take on $4 million or $5 million or even all of Utley’s salary. The question now becomes: Does a team really want to give up a Top-20 or Top-25 prospect just to get six weeks of Utley? As each day passes, each team has fewer regular season games left, and is closer to seeing where they will stand at the end of the year.
Sure, Utley is an add for the postseason, as well. That’s where he will provide the most value. And it might not even come via his performance. Utley is well respected around the game as a “true professional” and will add clubhouse leadership. While this cannot be seen on the back of baseball cards, it is definitely something that will go a long way for the team acquiring him.
Which is why he's a good fit for the Cubs, where he might be able to fix Starlin Castro (although, that might be a little too farfetched), but could provide postseason experience to a team that’s oldest infielder is 26-year-old Anthony Rizzo (if you include Castro).
But Utley could do exactly the same thing back in Philadelphia. They are rebuilding, but they could still use a mentor and a leader for their increasingly younger team. As they continue to move veterans out of Philly, they need to realize that the guys left need someone to provide leadership, to help them if they happen to be in a slump.
Utley doesn’t want to leave Philadelphia. But should the team really want him to go?
Using Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds, you should be able to tell who has the best chance of doing just that. Teams really should take those odds to determine whether they should be buyers and sellers because more often than not, they are right.
After games being played on July 6 last year, five of the ten eventual postseason teams had a 80 percent chance of making the playoffs or better. Every team that did have an 80 percent or greater chance of making the playoffs on this date last year did.
The team with the highest percent chance to make the playoffs on July 6 that ultimately didn't was the Milwaukee Brewers, who had a 71 percent chance to punch their ticket, but collapsed down the stretch and failed to make it.
Only three (Orioles, Royals, and Pirates) had less than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs following action on July 6. By July 31, the Orioles were up to a 71 percent chance, the Royals were at a 17 percent chance, and the Pirates were at a 46 percent chance.
Knowing this, I will use Baseball Prospectus' current postseason predictions to determine who should buy and who should sell at the 2015 Trade Deadline.
All In (85% or greater)
St. Louis Cardinals (99.3%)
There's no reason why the Cardinals, who own MLB's best record at 54-28, should consider selling. In fact, Baseball Prospectus says that they have a 99.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, leaving just a very small chance for an extreme collapse. If the Cardinals play just .500 ball the rest of the way, that would put them on pace for 94 wins, which would definitely put them in prime position to punch their ticket to the postseason. The Cardinals have no reason to do anything but buy.
Los Angeles Dodgers (92.9%)
The Dodgers have the second-highest playoff percentage in the league, and nothing suggests that this team won't buy at the trade deadline. I predicted them to go out and get Johnny Cueto, perhaps the best pitcher available not named Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are always willing to spend money and prospects to make their team better and can easily justify doing so at the deadline.
Washington Nationals (85.6%)
The Nationals have arguably not played their best baseball yet, but still have an 85.6 percent chance to make the playoffs. They could use some reinforcements in their bullpen, but most of the additions the Nationals will be getting will be players coming back from injury, such as Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg. They may not need to make a ton of moves in July, but if they do, they have good reason to do so.
Houston Astros (84.7%)
The Astros have already shown interest in some of the top pitchers that will be available, and Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds completely backs that up. Houston's playoff percentage, at 84.7 percent, is so close to 85 percent that I had to shove them into this category. The Astros have showed that while they are a bit of a surprise, they still can win ballgames and do it over a period of time. The Astros by no means are "pretenders," as they have been able to hold a comfortable AL West lead since late April.
Should be buyers (70-85%)
Pittsburgh Pirates (81.3%), Chicago Cubs (73.1%)
The Pirates and Cubs have a case of some serious bad luck. They are playing in the National League's toughest division and would be either leading or close to leading any other division in the league. The only reason I'm wary of either of these teams buying at the deadline is because they are not division leaders and have more of a chance to collapse and fall out of the playoff race altogether. Unless they believe they have a real shot at the Cardinals (which it appears they don't), they shouldn't completely unload their farm systems to go out and get the best guy on the market.
Kansas City Royals (75.3%)
Of the three teams in this category, I am most comfortable with the Royals buying at the trade deadline due to the fact that they lead their division by a comfortable margin and need just one or two pieces to really put the pressure on the rest of the division. All signs point to the Royals making the playoffs again this year, so I would go ahead and pencil them in as buyers at the deadline.
Los Angeles Angels (64.8%)
The Angels are in a good position right now. They are playing good baseball and have shown the need for an upgrade in left field. Of the teams listed in this section, I truly believe they are the best and most complete team, so therefore they should be buyers at the deadline. The Angels could use some rotation help as well, but if they patch up a few spots, they will get into the postseason. My verdict? They should be buyers.
AL East: New York Yankees (59.4%), Toronto Blue Jays (39.6%), Tampa Bay Rays (34.9%)
The American League East division is lumped together because the division is so muddled and close that really anyone could win it. Baseball Prospectus' simulations give the Yankees the best chance to go to the playoffs out of that division, but with some rotation help, the Blue Jays are the division's best team. The Yankees and Rays should stand pat or make small moves at the deadline, while the Blue Jays should go out and make a splash for a rotation piece.
Detroit Tigers (36.7%)
With Miguel Cabrera being sidelined with his hamstring injury, I'm going to pencil the Tigers in as should be sellers, but as this team continues to try and make a run once again, they will find themselves trying to buy. The Tigers are heading towards a Phillies-esque fall, and if they don't realize that soon, it could only get worse if they decide to buy at the trade deadline in hopes for one last run at the World Series.
Maybe/Stand Pat (20-30%)
New York Mets (28.9%)
Even if the Mets added an offensive piece, I don't think that would be enough to get them to the playoffs this season. With that said, however, I could see them dealing for a guy with more than one season of control, as their young and talented pitching staff comes into their own. The Mets couldn't justify buying for a rental player, but a guy who is at least signed through 2016 could make sense.
Baltimore Orioles (28.7%)
The Baltimore Orioles have a ton of free agents at the end of the season that they probably should move. The Orioles could be one of those teams that tries to get 25-man roster guys with more years of team control in return. The Orioles could be a team that buys and sells at the trade deadline, and I would be fine with that.
San Francisco Giants (22.9%)
It's an odd year. The Giants aren't good enough to win the NL West, and considering that they have to deal with the Cubs and Pirates for the Wild Card, it will be tough for them to really make a run into the postseason. However, they still have a good core group of guys and the team has proved me wrong before. They probably should stand pat.
Shouldn't buy (Less than 20%)
Minnesota Twins (18.2%)
The Twins just aren't that good. Sure, they had a good run earlier this season, but all the numbers suggest that they were going to fall out of first in the AL Central. The Twins should really try and go for 2016, when some of their rookies will be more polished.
Texas Rangers (15.0%)
While the Rangers shouldn't buy, they probably will, as I consider them to be in a similar boat as the Tigers are in. The Rangers could legitimately contend, but they would more than a couple of upgrades, to the point where they probably shouldn't go for it this season.
Cleveland Indians (13.5%)
The Indians were a popular postseason pick prior to this season, but Baseball Prospectus' simulations show that they would need some serious luck to actually get there. The Indians shouldn't sell any pieces other than the impending free agents because my gut says that they will be back in the postseason sooner than later.
Boston Red Sox (11.8%)
The Red Sox are in a tough position right now. It might not be time for a fire sale quite yet, but it's definitely not time to go out and try and contend this season.
Seattle Mariners (7.0%)
The Mariners have had some issues staying in the race this season, and while they shouldn't sell off their entire team, they really shouldn't be buyers either.
Oakland Athletics (6.8%)
The Athletics are already shopping their pieces and it looks like they will be sellers.
Arizona Diamondbacks (6.4%)
The Diamondbacks are a team that should stand pat. They still have pieces to contend in the near future and as their pitching improves with guys coming back from injury, they could be a legitimate contender coming 2016.
Atlanta Braves (3.8%)
The Braves, especially in the offseason, have committed to becoming a selling team. They don't have any exciting pieces, but even though they have kind of surprised, they should by no means buy.
Chicago White Sox (3.2%)
The White Sox are in a tough position. They reportedly won't have a fire sale, which makes sense considering how much money they spent in free agency, but they need to get rid of Jeff Samardzija and still be planning to try again in 2016.
San Diego Padres (2.7%)
The Padres could buy at the deadline, but in all reality, they shouldn't. They've got some important games coming up that they need to win if people start seriously seeing them as contenders. Once again, they are proving that the winners of the offseason don't necessarily win during the season.
Miami Marlins (1.6%)
The Marlins shouldn't go into a fire sale, but Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Brad Hand, and other free agents at the end of the season should be gone.
Cincinnati Reds (1.1%)
The Reds have Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and possibly Aroldis Chapman available, and while they won't sell until after they host the All-Star Game, I expect it to come, as it should.
Colorado Rockies (0.2%)
I'd pull the trigger and deal Troy Tulowitzki. It's time for a real change in Colorado if they want to be relevant down the road.
Milwaukee Brewers (0.2%)
The Brewers should enter into a fire sale.
Philadelphia Phillies (0.0%)
Now, these rankings and categories don't mean that each of these teams will do as I advise. Their postseason percentages could change and perhaps an addition is all they need to do that. However, Baseball Prospectus' odds are very accurate and should not be taken lightly. Teams really should use them to determine whether they could justify buying at the deadline.