Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. says Ryan Howard is likely to be with the team in spring training

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Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said in a radio interview back in December that they’d be better off without Ryan Howard. One month later, they still haven’t found any takers on the trade front. There’s plenty of awkwardness in the air right now, but Amaro told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News yesterday that the veteran first baseman is likely to be with the team in spring training.

“Regret being too honest?” Amaro said. “I guess sometimes. But I think that if Ryan’s with us, and he’s likely to be with us in spring training, I think Ryan’s got to prove to us that he’s ready to play every day at first base for us. I mean I’m kind of looking forward to him being ready and healthy and contributing. Right now, there’s nobody really that can unseat him.

“He’s a more productive player than anybody else we have there right now. But that could change. But he’s going to get every opportunity to play and be our first baseman, and I think that he’s going to be productive. Will he be productive enough to be part of what we want to do moving forward? We’ll see.”

Howard amassed 23 home runs and 95 RBI over 153 games last season, but he hit just .223 with a .310 on-base percentage and a .390 slugging percentage. The 35-year-old is owed $60 million over the next two seasons. Trade interest has naturally been hard to come by, even though it’s assumed the Phillies would be willing to eat a substantial portion of his contract in a deal. While it looks like Howard will be in camp this spring, the Phillies could potentially release him if they can’t find a taker between now and Opening Day.

If the Phillies finally decide to turn the page, they could rely on a combination of top prospect Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf at first base.

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.