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Your contract starts… now!

Charlie Manuel hopped on WIP yesterday and was asked about the progress of the now not-so-overpaid Ryan Howard. This is what Charlie told Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis: [Charlieisms in ( )]

Seen him for the last two days. (He uh) I talked to him yesterday for about 45 minutes. I talked to him about his hitting, I talked to him about his injury, of course. Actually, he’s ahead of where we think he should be (you know like we), he’s ahead of that. But at the same time, too (you know like we), I was talking with Scott Sheridan, our trainer, today, (and you know like he he) he still thinks that Ryan, by the first two weeks of spring training and everything, it’s gonna be a light workout deal (you know like) to get him where we want him to be, (and and) and there’s still that chance he might not start the season, (you know like) when it starts, on it’s regular time. 


Right. You know, like, good news about The Big Piece (I capitalize that T in The, by the way… some might just go Big Piece, but I think it’s a like a movie title– he’s The Big Piece.. thoughts?)

There are few players in baseball less controversial (in a geeky way) than Howard. SABR nerds and stat heads think he is drastically overvalued, while average fans and, apparently, Ruben Amaro think he’s worth nearly every penny of that yet-to-begin $125 million contract (gulp). So, with Prince Fielder signing a nine-year, $602 billion contract with the Detroit Tigers yesterday, it was, of course, Howard who came up in discussion… because, you know, that whole chubby black first baseman thing.

Here’s what Amaro told the Daily News’ Rich Hoffman: []

“I’m kind of happy,” he said. “Really happy. Because if I would have had to put an 8- or 9-year deal on Howard’s deal right now, that would be a little disconcerting. Right now, we have Howard for the next 5 years. I kind of like that idea rather than having to do an 8- or 9- or 10-year deal.

“You can say what you want about Ryan Howard and how he stacks up against those guys, but there’s not too many people who, over the last several years, have had this kind of production – and he’s right there in the mix with those guys.”


He’s not exactly comparing apples to apples, since Howard is 32 and a nine-year deal at this point would be out of the question, but we see where Rube going with this.

I agree with him. 

Yes, Howard is probably the first athlete ever to usher in a five-year, $125 million contract with a blown-the-fuck-apart Achilles. But, assuming he can eventually return to form (or close to it), the Phillies have a player who finished in the top five in home runs and RBIs, and top ten in doubles, slugging percentage and OPS at his position. Oh, and he’s been doing that consistently for more than half a decade. 

The going rate for a player of that caliber is seemingly well above both the length and years on Howard’s contract, and the recent deals handed out to Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder – which are more than double the size of Howard’s even though they are not 2X better than him – make The Big Piece’s deal seem not that bad. If there’s one thing you can extrapolate from the fact that the Angels, Tigers and Marlins are throwing around silly money this offseason, it’s that baseball team finances are quite healthy, and teams like the Phillies will in no way have their hands tied by a pair of $120-$125 million contracts (Lee and Howard). 

Is Howard overpaid? Yes, if you’re Brad Pitt’s Oakland A’s or the Tampa Bay Rays. But the Phillies are a big-market team now, and they don’t need to penny-pinch the way other teams do. Howard’s injury notwithstanding (because, obviously, the Phillies didn’t expect that two years ago), the Phillies likely would have had to pay even more for Howard or a comparable player this offseason had they not locked up The Big Piece two years ago. 

Hoffman makes a good point on the matter: []

The contracts rank in this order: Pujols, Fielder, Howard. This makes sense, because that is how the players rank in most people’s minds. What was an eyebrow-raising, market-setting contract extension when Howard signed it a couple of years ago looks a little bit different now that the market has played out.


It’s all relative in the world of baseball contracts. SABR nerds will shudder at the thought of paying a glory-numbers player like Howard $125 million, but if not Howard, then it would be someone else… someone who may get on base more but who would probably cost a lot more, too.

Of course, this whole argument is assuming Howard’s Achilles was put back together properly…

Audio of Manuel interview courtesy WIP

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