Former NL MVP Ryan Howard has latched on with the Atlanta Braves on a minor-league deal.
After years of steady decline fueled by injuries and an inability to hit breaking balls, Ryan Howard finally came off the books for the Philadelphia Phillies following the 2016 season. His five-year, $125-million extension will go down as one of the worst contracts in MLB history, with the first baseman rupturing his Achilles before the long-term deal had even kicked in. Looking for one more shot, Howard has latched on with the Atlanta Braves with a minor-league deal.
Many believed 2016 would be Howard’s final year in professional baseball, and he did not find a job during Spring Training. He is coming off a season in which he batted just .196/.257/.453 with 25 home runs. Over the past three years, the 37-year-old first baseman batted an ugly .219/.286/.419 with 442 strikeouts in 394 games.
Atlanta is a peculiar landing spot for a bad-body first baseman on the wrong side of 35. Freddie Freeman is locked in at first base for the Braves, and is going nowhere. There is no DH, so at best Howard would be looking at a late-inning pinch-hitting role off the bench. He could be valuable in that role, as he hit .262/.324/.608 with 13 home runs in the second half last season when primarily used in a part-time role against right-handed pitching.
For his 13-year career, spent entirely with the Phillies, Howard is a .258/.343/.515 hitter with 382 home runs and 1,194 RBI. His peak from 2006 to 2009 yielded 198 home runs, three RBI titles, an MVP, and a World Series win. Now, one of the most prolific power hitters in baseball will look to keep his career alive by showing that he can still provide some value to an MLB bench.