Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
We all expected Ruben Amaro to make some big moves this offseason. So far, there have been a few (Rollins, Bastardo, and Byrd are all gone). But the two big names that everyone expected to be dealt — Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels — are still here. Hamels can bring back a lot in a deal, but keeping him around wouldn’t be the worst thing. Howard, however…
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies should be able to find a new home for Ryan Howard. Whether they do or not is a different issue. Rosenthal’s point is basically that “teams doing their homework would find reasons to believe Howard actually might improve next season.” But here’s a short snipped of a conversation Rosenthal had with “an American League executive” which likely sums up the outlook of multiple such execs:
“What does he do well?” I replied, “Hit home runs” – Howard had 23 in 569 at-bats last season. To which the exec replied, “Still had a .380 SLG.”
A .380 slugging percentage is six points below the Major League average. Still, Rosenthal thinks the Phillies can find a deal if they’re willing to pay the difference on Howard’s salary vs. his “fair market value,” which Rosenthal puts at around $7-10 million per season.
And Amaro has already publicly stated, as pointed out by Ryan Lawrence, that he and Howard have discussed the Phillies being better off without the slugger. Lawrence thinks Howard could land in Tampa — close to his Florida mansion which will be finished one day, probably — still with the Phillies eating most of his paycheck. After all, Ryan Howard isn’t a great baseball player, but for the right price you could sure do a lot worse. Laying it out simply: Why is he still here?
The above chart, via Crashburn Alley, shows Howard’s “isolated power” numbers — slugging percentage minus batting average — over the past nine seasons. There’s a trend there. That trend is down, down, down. Last year, at least via this one statistic, Howard officially became a below average hitter at his position. If you’re looking for power and don’t care about batting average, Ryan Howard isn’t your best option for the money. Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley continues:
If you’re the GM of a team considering acquiring Howard, what is the upside? A .308 wOBA isn’t hard to find in the bargain bin. For example, free agent utilityman Kelly Johnson is projected at .306. Padres outfielder Will Venable — pushed out given the team’s new-look outfield — would cost very little and is projected at .306. Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier wouldn’t cost much more and is pegged at .324. White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo is without a position; his projected .322 wOBA could be had on the cheap as well.
But Howard doesn’t even really need to be traded now, Baer argues, because he won’t really make the team worse or hold up their rebuild (as long as he doesn’t start at first base and take up playing time), and his value may increase as injuries occur for other teams or players don’t pan out.
“While trading Howard now would have symbolic value,” Baer says, “it doesn’t seem like a realistic option right now.”
That may be true, but that symbolism sure would be nice… or at least a sign that Amaro is capable of doing something useful with his time.