First baseman Ryan Howard, 33 years old and still suffering lingering effects of an Achilles injury suffered in Game Five of the 2011 NLDS, should be on the trading block according to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. The lefty slugger entered tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks with a .262/.299/.476 line and is in the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract signed in April 2010.
As the Yankees’ acquisition of Vernon Wells shows, moving an albatross contract isn’t impossible. The Angels are paying $9.5 million this year and $18.6 million next year for Wells to play in the Bronx. The Phillies would similarly have to assume a very large portion of Howard’s remaining contract.
The Phillies are going to be paying Howard regardless, and with a free-agent market that features potential replacements like Mike Morse, Corey Hart, Mark Reynolds and a gaggle of bounce-back candidates, the Phillies could pay Howard the bulk of his salary to play for another team and use the remaining dollars to sign a capable replacement. This is about the talent the Phillies need at the premium positions that they are going to need to fill, and if trading Howard and eating a significant chunk of dollars can land them a potential second baseman or third baseman or shortstop of the future, they would be wise to move heaven and earth to make it happen.
The Phillies, if they continue dragging their feet, will head towards the deadline with the ability to trade free agents-to-be Chase Utley, Michael Young, Roy Halladay, along with Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon, both under long-term contracts, potentially. Howard could be among them as well.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.