The Phillies met briefly yesterday with Casey Close, who is the agent for Ryan Howard and Joe Blanton.
"It was just to touch base," Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "There won't be any negotiations going on here. But we have several of [the agent's] arbitration-eligible guys."
Howard made a record $10 million in salary arbitration this year, and he deserved every penny. There has been speculation he could make anywhere between $16 to $18 million next year. The fact that he led the majors in home runs and RBIs this season certainly hasn't hurt his leverage at the bargaining table. But will the Phillies lock up Howard to a multi-year contract extension before the 2009 season? I doubt it. First, Howard can't become a free agent until after the 2011 season, so there is no rush. Second, Howard is looking for A-Rod money. I don't think the Phillies want to allocate that much money into one position. But when we're talking about Howard and the immediate future, I don't think the Phillies feel pressured to sign him to an extension because they do have three more years to talk to him. And because they know Howard isn't going anywhere, they have other issues they feel they need to address first to make sure they can repeat as World Series champions, namely, resigning Jamie Moyer and Scott Eyre and figuring out what to do in left field.
"We're going to start to have more sensitive discussions with both Scott and Jamie in the next few days," Amaro said. "But once we have negotiations, I'll be frank with you, we're going to be pretty quiet."
The Phillies have 10 players eligible for salary arbitration. In the past, the Phillies don't address those players until after they've address other issues. So if you don't hear names like Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino and Howard in the upcoming weeks, don't worry. The Phillies typically handle those contract situations in January and February. Ryan Madson and Jayson Werth are two players in that arbitration eligible group who can become free agents after the season, so they could be handled differently. But remember that Madson's agent is Scott Boras, and he almost always has his players test the open market.