Tuesday, April 27, 2010

About this Ryan Howard contract

I was planning on saving this for something that sucks for my Monday review, but the more I think about it the more I want to write about it.  Plus, it's better than watching the Biggest Loser.

In case you haven't heard, Howard was just given a $5 year, $125 million contract extention by the Phillies, which kicks in AFTER next season.  The contract also includes a team option for $23 million in the sixth year, and if they choose not to exercise it they have to pay out a $10 million buyout.  Plus, there is a limited no-trade clause involved.  In short, this thing is monster that pays more per annum than what the Twins dished out to Mauer, and ranks behind just A-Rod on a $/Season basis.

This, in short, is a bit of a problem.  You see, both Howard's body type and statistical profile don't hold up well into the mid-thirties, and this contract will run until he's 37, not even including the option year.  Think Mo Vaughn, Cecil Fielder, or even our very own David Ortiz.  Howard is a good hitter, maybe even a great one now, but six years from now?  There is essentially zero chance he will be worth that money.  Big, overweight, slow, mediocre-to-poor fielders who can't hit lefties and strike out a lot don't generally produce until they're forty.

The two counter-examples I have heard are Jim Thome and Frank Thomas, who have hit well into their late thirties.  But there are some differences.  Neither Thome or Thomas was paid as if they were the second-best hitter in the league at that point in their career; Howard is.  Secondly, both of those guys lost about 10% of their ability in their late years.  That made them into the equivalent of Ryan Howard.  If Howard loses 10% of his ability, he'll be Michael Cuddyer.  Do you want to pay $25 million a year for Michael Cuddyer?  Hell, I don't even want to pay him the $9 million he's making this year. 

And that's not even counting what it might do to the Phillies long-term.  Jayson Werth, an underrated 20/20 guy with 30/30 upside, is almost certainly gone now.  The following year they are going to have to answer some tough questions about Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels as well.  And all this from the team that declined to pay Cliff Lee $8 million to have a rotation of Halladady, Lee, and Hamels.

I like the Phillies, and I like Ryan Howard, I really do.  But for what he is now, and what he will almost certainly be at the end of this contract, this is going to hamstring the Phils for at least the last two years of the deal, if not more.  There is something to be said for holding on to "the guys who got you there", but damn.  What is Pujols going to make?  $40 a year?

Oh, and also I'm willing to say that Francisco Liriano is back now.


fromthebarn said...

Thomas and Thome also had the option of being a designated hitter. Unless the NL changes their rules, that won't happen for Howard.

Anonymous said...

your comparison to MO Vaughn and Fielder is laughable. if either was in the shape of Howard physically they would have had longer carreers with more productivity. 25 million is too much for howard but .279, 49 and 141 per year over 7 seasons damn good and he is entering his prime.