Howard, Phillies lay their cards on the table

Howard, Phillies lay their cards on the table

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ryan Howard's future with the Phillies has been questioned for some time, and those questions have increased since Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak replaced Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro Jr. as president and general manager, respectively.

It could be beneficial for both parties to part ways, but the Phils have had no success moving Howard because of his contract. He is owed $25 million next season, plus $10 million on a 2017 club option.

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But Klentak knows that if Howard remains with the organization, they need to make it work. That's why Klentak, Howard and Howard's agent had a meeting at Citizens Bank Park just before Thanksgiving.

"We talked for an hour," Klentak said on Monday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. "It was really positive."

So will Howard be engaged if he returns next season, knowing the team would like to trade him?

"I will tell you that based on the hour or so I spent with him two weeks ago, I think so," Klentak said. "I think he was genuine. Everybody was very honest with each other, and he seemed genuinely excited and energized looking forward to next year. I don't know the guy, that's the first time I met him, but boy, I sure believed it. I think so. And I am, too. That energized me. We talk about an environment and energy and makeup and culture. It certainly came across that way."

Of course, a cynic might ask, What does Howard have to be energized and excited about? He certainly knows that his time with the Phillies is nearing an end, one way or another, and he knows that if he returns, he will be playing on a rebuilding team that does not consider him part of its future.

"I think honesty helps a lot," Klentak said. "Just laying the cards on the table and talking about the realities of our team and him and everything about him -- what he's been through with the Phillies, both good and bad. I think just sort of talking that through on a personal level is refreshing. Again, it was very positive. I'm sure there will be more dialogue as we go, and as we get through the season people talk to him a lot. I'm encouraged."

Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin said that nothing has been decided about Howard's playing time next season, although a platoon at first base with Darin Ruf is a possibility.

"If Ryan Howard is performing, Ryan Howard is going to play," Klentak said. "If he's not, he'll play less. And that's not specific to Ryan, that's true to everyone on our club and probably just about everyone in baseball."

Rodriguez outrighted: The Phillies outrighted left-hander Joely Rodriguez to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, leaving 37 players on the 40-man roster.

"The timing of that was designed to make sure that if things did pop up here and happen quickly, we had enough roster spots to cover it," Klentak said. "But we didn't do it for any particular imminent trade or free-agent signing."

The Phils acquired Rodriguez last December for left-hander Antonio Bastardo. Rodriguez went 7-10 with a 6.12 ERA in 32 appearances last season with Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.