Klentak: Howard, Ruiz 'fit into plans' for 2016
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies admittedly turned the page too slowly on 2008, but the turnover is nearly complete. The only players remaining from their World Series championship team are Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.
Howard will make $25 million next season, which does not include a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. Ruiz will make $8.5 million, which does not include a $500,000 buyout on a 2017 club option. But will Howard and Ruiz be back, just because they are under contract? The Phillies have tried to trade Howard, but found no takers despite agreeing to pay almost the entirety of his contract.
"They definitely fit into our plans for '16," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday. "That's not a concern for me. But I never say never. I'm open to anything. I have so much respect for what Ryan and Chooch have done, and what they have meant to this city and franchise. At some point, frankly it could be next week, I'm going to sit down with their agents and talk to them. I don't know them as people. I want to understand sort of what their motivations are. But the question about, 'Can they exist on our roster next year?' Absolutely."
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin turned Howard into a platoon player this past season, splitting his time at first base with Darin Ruf. Howard hit .229 with 29 doubles, one triple, 23 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .720 OPS in 129 games. He posted an .802 OPS against right-handed pitchers, which ranked 55th out of 140 qualified hitters in baseball. Howard posted a .418 OPS against left-handers, which is the ninth-lowest mark in baseball in the past 20 seasons (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties).
Ruf's 1.107 OPS against left-handers tied Nelson Cruz for the best in baseball (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties).
"I spent quite a bit of time with Pete last week [at the organizational meetings], and we talked about that among many other things," Klentak said about a Howard-Ruf platoon. "We will seek the best combination of players to find results. The strengths and the skill sets of the players will dictate how we utilize them."
Klentak said he believes Howard can still hit effectively in the middle of the Phillies' lineup. He said Howard has earned the benefit of the doubt.
"I'm a big believer in providing opportunities for players," Klentak said. "The players will let us know. We're not going to draw a conclusion over a couple of games or an at-bat, but if the circumstances of the performance dictate we make an adjustment, we will. I go into this with some degree of optimism ... and let's give players opportunities and if they fail to achieve, we'll adjust. But let's not adjust before we have to."
But Klentak also has to prepare for the possibility that those players don't perform, or that they are unhappy in their future roles. Ruiz said late in the season he still views himself as the No. 1 catcher, although he acknowledged Cameron Rupp outplayed him.
"If we're doing our jobs and communicating with players throughout the process, I think that goes a long way towards minimizing issues," Klentak said. "If everybody understands where each party is coming from -- that doesn't mean everybody has to agree with it -- but as long as people understand and are open and honest about it, I think that is probably the biggest thing I've learned over time.
"You can't fool the players -- they know. You can't fool the media -- they know. You can't fool the fans. So being open and honest with the plans and what the intentions are, I think, is often the best medicine."