Ruben Amaro denies that the Phillies have considered releasing Ryan Howard

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Yesterday Ryan Howard was benched and rumors sprung up about the Phillies trying to trade him. The day before it was reported that the Phillies were considering simply eating Howard’s contract and releasing him.

Today Ruben Amaro says that’s nonsense. From Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com:

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. emphatically shot down reports that the organization is considering releasing struggling slugger Ryan Howard after the season.

“That is not something we are contemplating,” Amaro said Friday morning. “I don’t know where that’s coming from.

Well, the report came from sources who spoke to Salisbury the other day. And, while Amaro may not actually release Howard, how a GM can approach a problem like Ryan Howard without at least considering the idea of releasing him — it’s one of a couple of options obviously available to him — is rather curious. I realize he can’t exactly publicly say that he’s thinking about releasing one of his guys, but it doesn’t seem credible that the conversation hasn’t at least been had.

Report: Orioles interested in Alex Cobb

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.

Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.

It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.