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.

Ohtani keeping watch on Angels’ offseason moves from afar

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SAN DIEGO – Even though Shohei Ohtani is back in Japan for the offseason, he has been in frequent contact with Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian about the team’s offseason moves.

“We talk a lot. He’s asking me daily who we’re getting,” Minasian said during baseball’s winter meetings. “He’s into it. We have a lot of players like that. Mike (Trout) and Anthony (Rendon) are like that. I think it’s a very motivated group.

“They want to see activity. They want to see the organization making a commitment to making the team better. We’ll see how it shakes out when we get to spring training what exactly we have, but we’re going to continue to look for opportunities to improve,” he said.

Minasian also reiterated his support for Ohtani taking whatever role he deems best for Japan during the World Baseball Classic in March. Ohtani said he is open to being a reliever.

“I don’t have any issue with whatever he does. He’s not one I’m worried about,” Minasian said. “He knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season. I know when the bell rings, he’ll be ready to go. There’s a comfort and trust to that.”

The Angels’ offseason moves, their future owner and the team’s performance will all be under the microscope as the two-way Japanese superstar begins his final season before hitting free agency.

Ohtani agreed to a $30 million contract for next season in September. After winning the AL MVP award in 2021, Ohtani finished second to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge after going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA on the mound and batting .273 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs.

Despite Arte Moreno putting the team up for sale, the Angels have been proactive since the season ended. They acquired outfielder Hunter Renfroe from the Milwaukee Brewers and infielder Gio Urshela from the Minnesota Twins. They upgraded the rotation by signing Tyler Anderson and added to the bullpen with Carlos Estevez.

Minasian said the message from ownership has been business as usual.

“I know we’ve spent more money, I guess. But I mean nothing’s been drastically different for me. I think there have been more things that have presented themselves that made sense, compared maybe in previous offseasons, where we were and what we were trying to do,” Minasian said.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday that multiple groups have expressed interest in the Angels with a possibility that a sale could be completed by opening day.

Manager Phil Nevin also is on a one-year deal as the Angels try to end a string of seven consecutive losing seasons and eight consecutive years out of the postseason after going 73-89 this past season. Both are the longest active skids in the majors.