Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to Handle Howard

Ryan Howard is out of the line-up today: Maikel Franco gets his first career start at 1B, batting 2nd, with Byrd in the clean-up spot and Ruf protecting him in the 5-hole. Right now, in 147 team games, Howard appeared in all but seven (7), and has 21 HRs & 92 RBIs, putting him on-pace for 23 HRs & 101 RBIs. We all know that Howard stinks: He has the most opportunities to drive in runs, but only does so in about 16% of his PAs, one of the lowest rates in the majors. Why? He strikes out in 26.7% of his plate appearances in those situations. It's clear the Phillies need to go in a new direction, but he's owed a minimum of $60MM over the next two-plus years ($25MM per year for 2015 & 2016 plus $10MM buyout for 2017): Very tough to move. So, what can the Phillies do? There are three options: trade him, buy him out, or keep him. The latter looks the most likely with a trade a distant possibility. Let's break each one down:

  1. Trade him: Ok, his contract is immovable, even if he drives in 100 batters or more this year. what does he have going for him: he's healthy for the first time since the end of the 2011 season and he has a .371 BABIP w/ RISP. Against him: high K-rate, low RBI/OPP rate, no speed on bases, and terrible fielding. So, the only option is to send him to the AL so he can DH. The only way this happens is if the Phillies eat at least 50 of the 60 million dollars left on his contract.
  2. Buy Him Out: This will cost the Phillies more than the $60MM he's owed due to luxury tax considerations despite the Phillies' new long-term broadcasting deal. Need I say more? It's not happening. Maybe in 2016 when he's owed $35MM and a LOT more contracts expire, but that doesn't help them this year.
  3. Play him: This is what they'll have to do if Howard's here on 4/6/2015. I don't see a trade and he's not being released, so do play him, but a lot less and at least have him bat 6th or 7th in the order (hitting streak the only exception). We have the players to spell him: Ruf; Utley possibly; and from the 2nd trimester/ half onward, Maikel Franco. Maybe he'll take extra BP and improve. Heck, he's a much better pinch-hitter anyway. One thing's for certain: he's no longer an everyday player, particularly in the games before the All-Star Break.

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