In his 10 Degrees column published yesterday on Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan discusses Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard‘s contract and his continued struggles this season. Howard inked a five-year, $125 million extension with the Phillies back in 2010. Due to injuries, age, and the league figuring him out, Howard has been worth -3.9 Wins Above Replacement since the contract began in 2012.
Passan wonders if it’s time for the Phillies to release Howard, who has struggled all year to the tune of a .161/.233/.381 triple-slash line in 133 plate appearances. Howard, who can also neither run nor field adequately, is the second-least valuable first baseman in baseball (-0.7 WAR) behind the Mariners’ Adam Lind (-0.8), according to FanGraphs.
The Phillies recently promoted Tommy Joseph, a former catching prospect whose career progress had been paused due to concussion issues. He has hit well enough in 17 plate appearances since his promotion, racking up three singles and a homer. The 24-year-old offers more upside than Howard does for the surprisingly-contending Phillies.
Owed $25 million for this season plus a $10 million buyout for 2017, no team is going to want to acquire an ineffective Howard even if the Phillies cover all of his salary. Even if he were to get hot ahead of the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline or the August 31 waiver deadline, the Phillies won’t get anything of significance in return — maybe a mop-up type of reliever or a Quad-A type of hitter.
It would certainly behoove the Phillies to simply release Howard just to clear up the roster space. Howard is still a fan favorite but no one buys tickets anymore to watch him play nor are his jerseys flying off of the shelves at the store at Citizens Bank Park. Meanwhile, the Phillies are expecting utilityman Cody Asche to return possibly by the end of the month, and outfielder Aaron Altherr could be activated in July. Outfield prospect Nick Williams could earn a promotion to the majors at some point in the next two months as well. There just aren’t enough spots on the 25-man roster for the Phillies to carry an ineffective veteran who provides zero present value and zero future value.
The Phillies announced the acquisition of outfielder Alfredo Marte from the Orioles in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. This comes shortly after the club optioned Cedric Hunter to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and recalled David Lough.
Marte, 27, has a career OPS of just .532, but the Phillies continue to search for outfield help after losing Aaron Altherr for the season due to a torn tendon sheath, and Cody Asche for at least another two weeks due to an oblique strain. So far in left field, the Phillies have used Hunter, Rule-5 selection Tyler Goeddel, Darin Ruf, and Emmanuel Burriss but the foursome has combined for an abominable .248 OPS, by far the worst in the league.
Marte began the season with Triple-A Norfolk and will report to Lehigh Valley for the Phillies, but there’s a chance he could get called up to the majors at some point in the near future.
On April 5, 2011, outfielder Cedric Hunter — then a Padre — pinch-hit for Aaron Harang and rapped a single to center field off of Giants reliever Guillermo Mota. Hunter didn’t know it at the time, but he would have to wait more than five years for his next hit in the majors. He spent the four years in between rattling around in the Cardinals’, Indians’, and Braves’ minor league systems.
The Phillies inked Hunter to a minor league contract in January. It didn’t seem like much of anything at the time, but the Phillies suffered some blows to their outfield depth. Aaron Altherr suffered a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist and Cody Asche suffered a strained right oblique. That left them with Odubel Herrera in center field, veteran Peter Bourjos, and Rule-5 pick Tyler Goeddel.
During spring training, Hunter didn’t hit much — only .262 — but he belted three home runs along with five doubles, making an impression on Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. He won a spot on the Phillies’ 25-man roster to open the season. On Thursday, at long last, Hunter got another hit in the major leagues: a home run, the first of his big league career. It wasn’t a cheapie, either; it was a well-struck line drive to right field off of Robert Stephenson. Hunter reflected on the moment, via Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“I was just kind of just in the moment, kind of in awe,” Hunter said. “Running around the bases and once you reach home plate realizing what you just did.”
Kudos to Hunter for making it back to the majors in a big way.