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Howard selects Close to be new agent

Howard selects new agent

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PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard has selected longtime baseball agent Casey Close, who also represents Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, as his new agent.

Close replaces Larry Reynolds, who was fired last month. Close works for Beverly Hills-based Creative Artists Agency, which recently began representing athletes, and also handles football stars Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

This won't change much in terms of a possible long-term deal for the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player. The Phillies first must tend to their five arbitration-eligible players: Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Aaron Rowand, Geoff Geary and Ryan Madson. Of those five, Utley could receive a multiyear deal.

Howard won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2007 season and can't become a free agent until after the 2011 season. The Phillies are in no rush to discuss a long-term deal with the slugger, though assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated that Howard should receive a significant raise from the $355,000 he earned in 2006.

Howard's salary could reach the $1 million range, which would set a record for a player not eligible for arbitration.

In the meantime, the arbitration guys and the Phillies will exchange figures Tuesday, unless they agree to contracts before then. Hearings take place from Feb. 1-15. The Phillies haven't gone to arbitration since Travis Lee lost his case in 2001.

Howard batted .313 with 58 home runs and 149 RBIs in 2006, including 30 homers, 78 RBIs and 77 walks in the second half of the season.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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