Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies

Ruben Amaro continues to overvalue Ryan Howard

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Over the weekend Ruben Amaro was quoted as saying that he’d rather have Ryan Howard on his current deal than either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols on theirs.

Like I said at the time, I’ll give him some latitude there because Howard is his guy and it’s not like he’s going to say bad stuff about him, even if he secretly believes it. Amaro is no dummy.

But I’m less inclined to give this bit, from Ken Rosenthal’s latest in which Amaro talks about why he’s loathe to extend Cole Hamels’ contract now, the same latitude:

“The difference between Ryan’s and Cole’s situation is that we’re talking about a guy (Howard) who is very, very difficult to match up what he did in successive years and equate that with what Cole has done,” Amaro said. “He was probably the most productive player during that span of anybody, including Pujols. This is not a slight against Cole — he has had some phenomenal years. But he is not the most decorated player in baseball.”

So for starters, he’s not simply comparing a Phillies player to a non-Phillies player here. He’s comparing two Phillies’ players — the dominance of Howard vs. the dominance of Hamels — and finding Howard’s greater.  As such, one would think he’d be as honest as he can about it and less willing to engage in hyperbole in a way that would anger one of them.

And, really, why anger Hamels here? Does he simply want him to bolt as a free agent next season? He must, on some level, believe that Howard is a more valuable piece at first base than Hamels is in the rotation. Which seems … off to me.

More to the point, by what metric does Amaro have Howard being more productive than Pujols between 2005 and 2009, which is when Amaro is talking about? Because the way I see it:

Howard: .279/.386/.586, 220 HR, 635 RBI and an OPS+ of 143
Pujols: .334/.439/.631, 206 HR, 608 RBI and an OPS+ of 173

Fine: a few more homers and a few more RBI for Howard, but overall he was clearly the inferior player.  And then you can add in the fact that Pujols played superior defense in case you think it is somehow close.

And hell, even if you use Amaro’s phrase “most decorated player,” Pujols won three MVP awards during that stretch to Howard’s one MVP and one Rookie of the Year Award.  So even if you adjust for the strange perception of some that Howard was better than Pujols because of the love he gets at awards time, Pujols still outclasses him there.

Not that I need to make that argument to most of you. It doesn’t take much to appreciate that Pujols, by every single measure that matters, was the better player during the time Amaro specifies.  The thing I don’t get is why Amaro would use such a clear line of specious reasoning as a means to explain why Cole Hamels does not yet have a contract extension.

Don’t you think Hamels might be miffed by that? I think I would.

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

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Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.

J.R. Graham is in The Best Shape of his Life

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher J.R. Graham celebrates after the final out as the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 12-2 in  a baseball game, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 12-2. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.

That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.

The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.

In the meantime:

“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”

It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.