Phillies willing to eat almost all of Ryan Howard’s contract

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Phillies reportedly willing to pay $50 million of Ryan Howard’s contract if they trade him

In terms of player transactions, the talk of MLB spring training is whether or not the Philadelphia Phillies will trade ace pitcher Cole Hamels, especially in the wake of the possibly career-ending injury suffered by Cliff Lee.

But from the sound of it, the Phillies are more interested in trading another of their longtime players: first baseman Ryan Howard. And they will pay serious money to make that happen.

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For reference: Ryan Howard has $60 million left on his contract, which runs through next season. (Howard also has a $23 million option for 2017, but there has not yet been a number invented that would accurately explain how unlikely that option is to get picked up). The Phillies are willing to pay $50 million of that to make him go away.

The crazy thing: that might not even be enough.

Here’s the thing: Howard might not even be worth $10 million over two seasons at this point. He’s atrocious on defense and on the basepaths, which has always been true, but now he can’t hit either. He may have hit 23 home runs last year, but that’s a bit misleading; he slugged .380, and his on-base percentage was .310. You know who else slugged .380? Noted slugger Erick Aybar, the Angels shortstop.

It’s a long way to fall for Howard, who was once the game’s best power hitter. He won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2005, hitting 22 homers in just 88 games. The next year he set the league ablaze, hitting 58 home runs and slugging .659 en route to the NL MVP. He finished in at least the top ten of the MVP voting each year through 2011.

Since then it’s been all downhill. He’s hit just 47 home runs in the past three years, has missed significant time, and according to WAR, has been basically a replacement level player-albeit one the Phillies are paying $30 million a year.

The Phillies wouldn’t be in this position with Howard had GM Ruben Amaro Jr. not signed him to a 5-year, $125 million extension back in 2009, despite the fact that he was more than two years away from free agency.

To his credit, Amaro seems to have realized his mistake, telling Howard to his face this offseason that the team would be better off without Howard. To Amaro’s discredit, that’s not a very nice thing to say to someone. (He later apologized).

It’s possible that the Phillies will find a taker for Howard at this price; it’s also possible that they end up releasing him and eating the money anyway. Either way, it’s an ignonimous end for a former star.

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