Phillies officials “have contemplated the possibility of paying off” and releasing Ryan Howard

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Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was inked to a massive five-year, $125 million contract extension in April 2010 and is still owed more than $60 million in guaranteed money. But the 34-year-old is batting just .224/.305/.377 through 417 plate appearances this season and Darin Ruf got the start at first base for Philadelphia on Wednesday night against the Giants. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com now reports that Howard’s future with the club is very much in question

The team has floated his name in trade talks, but Howard is owed the remainder of $25 million for this season and $60 million over the next two seasons. No team is interested in taking on that amount of money — or even part of it because the Phils know they’d have to eat a large portion of Howard’s salary — for a declining player.

The logical next step is to release Howard. Sources say team officials have contemplated the possibility of paying off Howard and moving on without him after the season.

“It’s been a disappointing year for me, period,” Howard told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki on Wednesday afternoon. “Things haven’t necessarily shaped up the way I’ve wanted them to, coming back after basically not playing for the last two years, trying to make it through a full season. There have been a lot of highs and lows. A lot of frustration. There’s frustration from the fans, frustration period. I have my own frustrations as well. You know, it’s really, you try to stay positive. I know people are going to put a lot on either how much money I make, or what I’m doing on the field, this or that or whatever, but at the end of the day, you go out there and try, you try to do what you can. I’m really just trying to get back in the flow of things.”

The Phillies are expected to be one of the most active sellers at this year’s trade deadline.

It appears that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Co. have finally been forced to embrace a rebuild.

Athletics DFA Liam Hendriks

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The Oakland A’s have designated reliever Liam Hendriks for assignment.

Hendriks got blown up for four runs on four hits — two homers — in an inning of work yesterday and the A’s have apparently seen enough. It’s been a rough go if it all around, really, as he’s posted a 7.36 ERA over 13 appearances.

Hendriks, who appeared in 70 games last season, signed a one-year deal last winter to avoid arbitration. The deal is for $1.9 million, so anyone claiming him off of waivers or trading for him will owe him a bit over half of that. Given the durability the eight-year veteran has shown in previous seasons that’s not out of the question, but his ineffectiveness this year, combined with a groin problem that caused him to miss some time, may give suitors pause.