Philadelphia Phillies' Howard reacts to striking out during their MLB Divisional Series playoffs against St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis

The Phillies’ bats have gone cold

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Don’t kill the messenger. I merely pass along the observations of others about how the Phillies’ offense sucks right now, not to make judgments myself.  But of course, reasonable people can only draw so many conclusions from data.

ESPN’s stats crew — passed along in Buster Olney’s column today — noted that in yesterday’s Cards-Phillies game, Edwin Jackson threw 15 sliders out of the strike zone, and that the Phillies chased 10 of them.  What’s more, Jackson — not known for his control — went to only one 2-0 count.  Jackson basically junkballed the Phillies to death and they couldn’t lay off.  Especially Ryan Howard who went down on strikes three times, the tenth time he has done so in the playoffs.  Howard has the highest strikeout rate in postseason history.

Meanwhile, Matt Gelb of the Philly Inquirer points out that while Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have gotten the job done as best they can, the Phillies’ 3-4-5 hitters are ice cold.

Having Roy Halladay on the hill for Game 5 may all but moot this.  After all, picturing him having some sort of disaster start is just not part of a reasonable person’s frame of reference, and you know that Charlie Manuel won’t take the ball out of his hands until the game is over or he hits 130 pitches, whichever comes first.

But in the off chance that Halladay isn’t Halladay, does anyone have any faith that the Philly offense is going to suddenly wake up?

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.