Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported yesterday that the Phillies have considered releasing struggling first baseman Ryan Howard with more than $60 million remaining on his contract and today is the day it becomes totally clear that the former MVP has been benched.
Philadelphia is facing a right-handed pitcher, which the left-handed-hitting Howard has made a career of knocking around, and that right-handed pitcher is Tim Hudson, against whom Howard has hit .328 with seven homers and a 1.112 OPS in a ton of career matchups.
So if ever there was a game to start Howard it’s today, yet manager Ryne Sandberg has Darin Ruf starting at first base. Ruf hits right-handed and it’s possible Sandberg will eventually simply platoon him with Howard at first base, but it’s also possible that Howard will be released with the Phillies eating a huge portion of his $125 million contract and the odds of that seemingly rose today.
The Mets signed left-hander Matt Purke to a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Purke will also receive an invitation to spring training, where he could presumably beef up the club’s left-handed relief options alongside Jerry Blevins and Josh Smoker.
Purke has not appeared in the majors since 2016, when he was used in a dozen relief appearances by the White Sox. The 27-year-old racked up a 5.50 ERA, 6.0 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 in his first 18 innings with the team, and was demoted to Triple-A Charlotte in June to finish out the season. He spent the entire 2017 season in Triple-A as well, showing more promise with a 3.84 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 11.0 SO/9 in 48 appearances.
While Purke may not amount to much more than a depth piece in New York’s ‘pen, the veteran lefty figures to be part of the Mets’ new bullpen-first strategy next year. Reports from MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo indicate that the club will be focusing on improving their relief options in order to ease the workload of their starting pitchers, and will likely add a few more arms before the offseason comes to a close.