Ruben Amaro, Jr.: Ryan Howard is in the best shape “since I’ve known him”

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Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. spent a portion of the off-season taking heat and eventually apologizing for criticizing first baseman Ryan Howard during a radio appearance. Now, he may be going in the opposite direction. As CSN Philly’s John Clark reports, Amaro said that Howard is in the best shape “since I’ve known him”.

Former major leaguer Dan Plesac, in Phillies camp as a guest instructor, echoed the sentiment, telling Howard, “this is the best you’ve looked in 4-5 years.” Howard told Plesac this was the first offseason in which he’s been able to strengthen his leg since tearing his Achilles tendon in his left foot at the conclusion of the 2011 NLDS. Howard returned in July 2012 but was a shadow of his former self. In 2013, Howard had a bit of a bounce-back, but tore the meniscus in his right knee. 2014 was his first full, healthy season since 2011, but he posted a career-low .690 OPS.

Howard is entering the fourth year of a five-year, $125 million contract. The Phillies, currently attempting to rebuild, have made it no secret that they would prefer to trade Howard. However, he is owed a total of $50 million for the 2015-16 seasons plus a $10 million buyout for the ’17 season (assuming no team would pick up his $23 million club option). As a result, it’s effectively $60 million for two years. The Phillies would have to eat a very large portion of it to entice a team to make a deal.

Giants sign Darin Ruf to minor league contract

Darin Ruf
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The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that the Giants have signed 1B/OF Darin Ruf to a minor league contract.

Ruf, 33, played parts of five seasons in the majors with the Phillies from 2012-16, enjoying occasional offensive success. He spent the last three seasons in the KBO League in South Korea with the Samsung Lions, reigniting his career. Ruf hit an aggregate .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs and 350 RBI over 1,756 plate appearances.

Ruf joins an ever-increasing list of players whose major league careers fizzled out, then found new life overseas — Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas are a couple of examples. Ruf will hope to prove himself as a big leaguer once more in spring training with the Giants.