Ryan Howard began fielding ground balls and taking batting practice this week, but his rehab from a torn Achilles will be put on hold for a couple of days so he can visit with surgeon Mark Myerson in Baltimore on Monday or Tuesday.
There appears to be a minor difference of opinion on the nature of the visit, as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Howard had a little “a little setback” while general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. and assistant general manager Scott Proefrock indicated that his visit to Myerson is nothing more than a routine check-up.
“He’s come along good,” Manuel said. “He had a little setback, but the setback is nothing to get alarmed about. It’ll be healed up and he’ll be fine. The doctors and the trainers say he’s ahead of pace.”
“Sometimes they leave a little stitch in to dissolve,” he said. “It’s sticking out and causing a little soreness.”
Keep in mind that Howard was hitting on the field today, so it’s safe to say the Phillies wouldn’t have had him out there if there was any cause for concern.
Barring a significant setback, Howard could be back in the Phillies’ starting lineup sometime in May. Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome and John Mayberry, Jr. are expected to fill in at first base until he’s ready.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.