The Ryan Howard contract: winners and losers

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Thumbnail image for howard.jpgAnytime something big like the Ryan Howard extension goes down the repercussions can be felt all throughout the Greater Baseballosphere.  The extension was announced scarcely an hour ago, but it’s probably worth tallying up the winners and losers of the deal:

Winners

Ryan Howard: Now that he has his extension, he will no longer have to make the crucial “should I go to law school or not” decision in 2012.

Casey Close, Howard’s agent: Given that it’s highly, highly unlikely that the Phillies came to Howard first on this — why would they? — Close has now been shown to have some serious moxie. If he went on the lecture circuit with a seminar about how to ask for and get crazy things salesmen and dateless men the world over would empty their wallets to hear it.

Albert Pujols: His asking price just went up to, what, $30 million?

Prince Fielder: His asking price just went up to, what, $27 million? He’s a lot younger than Howard, by the way.

Adrian Gonzalez: Ditto.

Subway: Their spokesman just got more famous.

The Mets, Braves, Nationals and Marlins: It’s one thing when the Yankees overspend. They can absorb it. There are consequences for every other team, however. Ask yourself: When Ryan Howard is struggling to be an average first baseman for $25 million a year — and when that $10 million buyout is looming! — how are the Phillies going to be able to afford the stout left field bat they’ll need to replace Raul Ibanez and make up for Howard’s offense? Multiply that problem across every position except second base — and even Chase Utley is going to decline eventually — and it’s easy to imagine the Phillies having a serious cash crunch in the next few years.  

Losers

The Cardinals, Brewers and whoever trades for Adrian Gonzalez: What possible leverage do John Mozeliak, Doug Melvin and, I dunno, Theo Epstein have now when they sit down with Pujols, Fielder and Gonzalez?

Everyone owner in baseball not named Bill Giles: The A-Rod contract was a major problem for the owners when the Collective Bargaining Agreement was being negotiated in 2002. After all, if a team could afford to pay a player $25 million year less than eighteen months previously, how could the owners’ claims that baseball was broke and the union needed to make concessions hold any water?  This time around — after the 2011 season — the negotiations aren’t supposed to be nearly so contentious. But money is always an issue and the owners always have an incentive to cry at least a little poor.  It’s one thing to give giant money to a young face-of-the-franchise guy like Joe Mauer, but this kind of money to maybe the third or fourth best first baseman in baseball? Eeek.  No matter what you think of it, the contract certainly undercuts any claims by the Phillies, and maybe by baseball as a whole, that it has any financial problems.

Phillies fans after 2012:  Look, I know you love Ryan Howard and I know you’d cry big tears if he were to leave when his previous deal expired. But Howard’s contract is going to be an albatross before it’s halfway over. And no one will trade for him, even if he did waive the no-trade clause, because such a beast is superfluous at $25 million a year.  Much harder than watching your big slugger leave town? Watching your big slugger leave town three years too late.

Am I leaving anyone out?

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.