As this is being written, Philadelphia Phillies fans are sitting and asking themselves 2 things, Why and How? How did Ryan Howard start becoming such a colossal failure? Why did the Phillies sign him to such an expensive and long term contract? Why are Philly Cheese Steaks so good? Actually, everyone knows the answer to that last question, they are simply awesome. However, long gone are the days of Ryan Howard being the most feared power hitter in the league. That leaves the question, what happened? Howard is only 34 years old, not a spring chicken by any stretch, but not a fossil either. With his futile play and albatross of a contract, his days in the city of brotherly love seem to be numbered
First reported by Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies have considered releasing Ryan Howard and ending his tenure with the club altogether. The problem with that is Howard’s $25 million dollar salary this season and the remaining $60 million dollars on his contract. Therefore, eating all of that salary and potentially paying him to do nothing or rejuvenate himself elsewhere while paying him doesn’t sound too appealing. Despite all of this, the Phillies seem to indicate the money isn’t the issue for them involving riding themselves of Howard.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com followed up Jim Salisbury’ s story by adding a new report of the Phillies looking for trade partners for a potential trade involving Howard. Heyman added that indications from the Phillies were that they would be willing to eat “much or most” of Howard’s remaining salary. Obviously, the Phillies won’t be able to move Howard and his eroded skills without essentially paying the other team to do so, so they are definitely doing their due diligence in attempting to move him. On the season, Howard is batting just .224/.305/.377 with 15 Home Runs and 60 Runs Batted In. A far cry from the .278/.379/.589 and 49.5 Home Runs he averaged from 2006-2010.
This decline for Howard can be directly attributed to one freak injury that changed the course of his career. It was the 2011 NLDS and on the last pitch and out of the series, Howard hit a groundball and as he began running to first base, he ruptured his Achilles tendon. The injury took Howard out of commission for a huge portion of the 2012 season as he only played in 71 games that season. Simply put, since that injury, Howard has went from elite slugger to struggling and overpaid occasional home run hitter as from 2012-2013, he averaged only 12.5 Home Runs and 48.5 Runs Batted In. However, even with his reduced stats, a change of scenery and a new challenge for a contending team might be just what the doctor ordered. That is where the New York Yankees come in.
Even with just 15 Home Runs and 60 Runs Batted In, Howard is outperforming the vast majority of the New York Yankees offense. And despite having lost 80% of their starting rotation, the pitching for the Yankees has not been the issue, that honor belongs to the offense. With their current “incremental” upgrade mindset, Ryan Howard represents that to a tee. Mark Teixeira, although productive this season and still proven that cannot be relied on long term. As we speak, he is nursing a mild lat strain that might warrant another DL stint. That would be Teixeira’s second of the season, to go along with the other litany of minor injuries hes suffered. Those injuries have forced the Yankees to use everyone from Carlos Beltran to Kelly Johnson and currently to Brian McCann to play first base. A position they are not familiar with and it has shown in the defensive quality of play.
With Teixeira constantly missing time and Carlos Beltran on track to soon being able to play in the outfield once again, Ryan Howard becomes a perfect fit for the team. Even when Teixeira is healthy, Howard can play at first for him and give Teixeira an occassional breather. Once Carlos Beltran resumes playing in the outfield, Ryan Howard can slot into the DH spot and get himself at-bats there. Additionally, the Yankees can just have a powerful lefty bench bat to call on to pinch hit in key situations and/or against certain pitchers. It’s been apparent for a longtime that Howard is not the best defender at first, far from it, but having someone who has actually played the position is much better than trotting out players who’ve either never or rarely ever played at the position. Simply put, Howard can serve many key roles for the Yankees all while not costing much.
Many fans might scoff at such a proposal, with very valid reasons to boot. Has he declined as a player? Yes Is he getting older? Yes Is he overpaid? YES! However, he would not be brought to New York to be the savior, just a contributor. And if Philly does indeed pick up a significant portion of his salary, there is no reason not to at least consider the trade. As we’ve seen in recent years with aging veterans coming to New York such as Lance Berkman, Ichiro and Alfonso Soriano, the thrill of a pennant race, the bright lights of New York and the glory of the pinstripes are more than enough to bring a player from brink of the end to the peak of the mountain.