The Phillies will regret the Ryan Howard extension

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howardryan.jpgRyan Howard is making $19 million this year and will get $20M in 2011.  Now, courtesy of the extension he just signed, he’ll make $20 million in 2012 and 2013 as well, and $25M per year for 2014, 2015 and 2016. There’s a team option for 2017 at $23M with $10M buyout. He also gets a limited no-trade guarantee, the parameters of which are not yet known.

This is madness.

Don’t get me wrong: I like Ryan Howard. You like Ryan Howard. We all like Ryan Howard. He’s a great player. He’s already been an integral part of one World Series championship team and another pennant winning team. He hits the ball a long way. He’s worked hard to improve both his conditioning and his defense. He’s, by all accounts, everything you want in a player when it comes to demeanor, leadership, maturity, etc.

But he’s also — at best — the third most valuable player on the Phillies, and reasonable arguments can be made that he’s not even that high. He’s big and he’s slow and despite that extra work he’s put in, it’s more likely than not that he’s going to age poorly.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of Ryan Howard’s most comparable players through age 29 — his age for the 2009 season — according to Baseball-Reference.com: Richie Sexson, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Willie McCovey, David Ortiz, Tony Clark, Mark McGwire, Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff and Norm Cash.  The only two guys on that list who didn’t fall off a cliff before age 36 are McCovey and McGriff, and they were a heck of lot skinnier than even Ryan Howard v.2.0 is. The rest of those names should constitute nightmare fuel for Phillies fans.

But the thing is, Howard doesn’t even have to fall off a cliff in the next five years for this deal to be bad. It’s bad on day one. Why? Because while we all like Ryan Howard, he’s not as good as many like to think he is.  Lefties are kryptonite to him.  He doesn’t walk nearly as much as a slugger like him should. While he’s better than he was on defense, he’s still bad and, before this contract was signed, seems like a guy who was on the DH-express.

As of now, Ryan Howard is going to paid more than anyone in the game not named Alex Rodriguez. Unless you can tell me that you can’t think of anyone else in baseball not named Alex Rodriguez who is better than Ryan Howard, this contract makes no sense. And if you tell me that, you make no sense.

In other news: Albert Pujols: call your agent. Your asking price just went up by $10 million.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.