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.