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?

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.