Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has followed up a career-worst 2014 season with a terrible start this year, going 4-for-24 (.167) with zero walks and eight strikeouts through six games.
Howard has hit a combined .232 with a .306 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage in 1,281 plate appearances dating back to 2012 and now at age 35 teams have given up all pretense of treating him like a former MVP.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the Mets “made it no secret … they don’t think Howard can hit a good fastball” by rarely even throwing him an off-speed pitch.
Admittedly the Phillies’ other lineup options are lacking, but manager Ryne Sandberg has kept Howard in the cleanup spot. He did bench Howard in the one game the Phillies have had so far against a left-handed pitcher, which is a no-brainer move at this point.
It’s no secret that the Phillies would love to part ways with Howard, as reports all offseason stressed their willingness to eat a big chunk of the $55 million left on his contract. Their inability to find a taker for a 35-year-old first baseman who’s below average offensively and defensively is predictable, but if Howard doesn’t turn things around fairly soon the possibility of simply releasing him becomes more and more realistic.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will try to get Fernando Tatís Jr. locked up in a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 season.
It’d be a wise move from the team’s perspective, of course. Tatís showed in 2019 that he’s the future of the franchise, hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases through 84 games while playing spectacular defense at short. He was a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year Award before going down to injury and still finished third despite playing just a tad over half a season.
That talent and promise means that, in all likelihood, Tatís stands to make massive money in arbitration and free agency once he gets there. If he gets there, that is. Because as we’ve seen so often in recent years, teams have been aggressive in their efforts to lock up young stars like Tatís, buying out their arbitration and at least a couple of their free agency years. These deals tend to be team-friendly, with multiple team options aimed at getting maximal value out of such players before they hit the open market. Of course, the players get much more up front money than they would in the three seasons in which teams can and do set their salaries unilaterally, usually at less than $1 million per year. It’s a standard now vs. later tradeoff, even if the value of the “now” is far less than the value of “later” and even if it pays these guys far less than they’re worth overall.
But that’s the system. And it’s one which will force Tatís to make a tough choice: either take a deal at a time when the team has most of the leverage or else turn down millions in hand now in order take a shot at many more millions later. In his case, he’ll have a rookie season with multiple injuries to think about too. Does that portend future injury issues? Could he, like some players who have been in his shoes before, end up damaged goods by the time he expected to get paid?
We’ll see how both he and the Padres calculate all of that between now and February, it seems.