Ryan Howard was once the next big thing. A fifth round pick in the 2001 amateur draft, Howard burst on the scene in 2004 in limited at-bats. The Philadelphia Phillies were an up and coming team at the time, with their eyes on the future. They felt so strongly and had so much confidence in The Big Piece that they let future Hall of Famer, Jim Thome go, as they traded him to the Chicago White Sox to make room for their first baseman of the future.
Howard went on to win the Rookie of the Year in 2005, the National League MVP in 06′, and he helped the Phillies win the World Series in 08′, and another NL pennant in 09′.
I would say that they made the right decision.
Fast forward six years since the team’s last WS appearance.
Ryan Howard is still a key piece to the team, but the team has gotten progressively worse around him. That’s not to get him off of the hook either, he has not gotten any better himself.
He spent two seasons (12′ and 13′) trying to recover from the Achilles tendon injury that he suffered during the team’s last postseason run in 2011, and even bench coach Larry Bowa said during the off-season that Howard would be better equipped serving as an American League‘s team designated hitter.
After the Phils traded Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers stion was “who’s next?”. Cliff Lee was a valuable chip, but his elbow injuries has his career in jeopardy.
Cole Hamels? ..Yea, I’m still waiting for that trade to happen myself.
Chase Utley? He has a full no-trade clause that he probably would never waive and his .179 batting average turns teams down anyway.
Recently, we have heard talks that the Los Angeles Angels are interested in Ben Revere. Who would have thought?
That leaves us with one big piece (no pun intended) left. Ryan Howard.
A few years ago, he would have gotten back some great return. Now? Not so much. Through May 5th (24 games), his average sat at .195 and he did not hit his first homer until April 21st, twelve games into the season.
No way they could trade him then, especially when you have a guy that is due about $73 million on the rest of his contract, up after 2017.
He also had 27 K’s through those 24 games, which we expect from him now.
Lately though, Howard has seemed to look MUCH better at the plate. Over the last 15 games, he’s batted .358 and has five of his nine HR’s on the season. He’s also driven in nine runs and has three doubles.
He still struggles against lefties (hitting only.226 with 8 K’s in 21 AB) but his season .828 OPS is not that far off from his career average (.880).
His line drive percentage right now sits at 31%, which would be a career high, so that shows that he is at least making contact, and his strikeout percentage is 2 points lower than it was last season, when he drove in 95 runs on a team with no offense.
Surprisingly, he finished fourth in the NL in RBI’s but he also left A TON of runs on the field, as he left an astonishing 290 men on base, which was a career-high.
Just to put in perspective how inflated his RBI stat was, consider that he drove in those 95 runs in 569 AB’s.
During his 06′ MVP season, it took him 529 AB’s to drive in a season and career high 149 RBI’s.
He doesn’t walk as much. He has only eight walks on the season, and his 5.3 walk percentage is the lowest since the 04′ season, when he had only 42 plate appearances.
Now, what does this mean? It means that he could still contribute to a team, but he cannot be the MAIN contributor anymore. He is what he is at the first base position, which is not awful, but not great. Maybe shipping him off to an AL team to serve as a DH would be the best move for him.
Where could he end up?
As I looked through the AL teams, a few clubs came to mind as teams that could use help at the DH position:
The Tampa Bay Rays, Angels, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians.
I’m not saying they should ship him off for a bag of baseballs and a catcher’s mitt, but his stock might never be as high as it is now.
He finally played a full season last year and we know what he is at this stage of his career. One of those AL “contenders” could take a chance on him and get some great power. The best part is you would not have to pay the whole contract, because the Phils would absolutely have to eat some of that money.
Either that, or the Phillies can hold their breath and hope that the 06′-10′ Howard shows up again.
Yeah…which team wants to take him off their hands??
– Khristian Peel