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The Ryan Howard contract: winners and losers

Apr 26, 2010, 4:12 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for howard.jpgAnytime something big like the Ryan Howard extension goes down the repercussions can be felt all throughout the Greater Baseballosphere.  The extension was announced scarcely an hour ago, but it’s probably worth tallying up the winners and losers of the deal:

Winners

Ryan Howard: Now that he has his extension, he will no longer have to make the crucial “should I go to law school or not” decision in 2012.

Casey Close, Howard’s agent: Given that it’s highly, highly unlikely that the Phillies came to Howard first on this — why would they? — Close has now been shown to have some serious moxie. If he went on the lecture circuit with a seminar about how to ask for and get crazy things salesmen and dateless men the world over would empty their wallets to hear it.

Albert Pujols: His asking price just went up to, what, $30 million?

Prince Fielder: His asking price just went up to, what, $27 million? He’s a lot younger than Howard, by the way.

Adrian Gonzalez: Ditto.

Subway: Their spokesman just got more famous.

The Mets, Braves, Nationals and Marlins: It’s one thing when the Yankees overspend. They can absorb it. There are consequences for every other team, however. Ask yourself: When Ryan Howard is struggling to be an average first baseman for $25 million a year — and when that $10 million buyout is looming! — how are the Phillies going to be able to afford the stout left field bat they’ll need to replace Raul Ibanez and make up for Howard’s offense? Multiply that problem across every position except second base — and even Chase Utley is going to decline eventually — and it’s easy to imagine the Phillies having a serious cash crunch in the next few years.  

Losers

The Cardinals, Brewers and whoever trades for Adrian Gonzalez: What possible leverage do John Mozeliak, Doug Melvin and, I dunno, Theo Epstein have now when they sit down with Pujols, Fielder and Gonzalez?

Everyone owner in baseball not named Bill Giles: The A-Rod contract was a major problem for the owners when the Collective Bargaining Agreement was being negotiated in 2002. After all, if a team could afford to pay a player $25 million year less than eighteen months previously, how could the owners’ claims that baseball was broke and the union needed to make concessions hold any water?  This time around — after the 2011 season — the negotiations aren’t supposed to be nearly so contentious. But money is always an issue and the owners always have an incentive to cry at least a little poor.  It’s one thing to give giant money to a young face-of-the-franchise guy like Joe Mauer, but this kind of money to maybe the third or fourth best first baseman in baseball? Eeek.  No matter what you think of it, the contract certainly undercuts any claims by the Phillies, and maybe by baseball as a whole, that it has any financial problems.

Phillies fans after 2012:  Look, I know you love Ryan Howard and I know you’d cry big tears if he were to leave when his previous deal expired. But Howard’s contract is going to be an albatross before it’s halfway over. And no one will trade for him, even if he did waive the no-trade clause, because such a beast is superfluous at $25 million a year.  Much harder than watching your big slugger leave town? Watching your big slugger leave town three years too late.

Am I leaving anyone out?

  1. Joey B - Apr 26, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    “The Cardinals, Brewers and whoever trades for Adrian Gonzalez: What possible leverage do John Mozeliak, Doug Melvin and, I dunno, Theo Epstein have now when they sit down with Pujols, Fielder and Gonzalez?”
    You’re making the mistake of thinking that everyone has to follow the Phillies lead. You only have to pay, theoretically, one more dollar than your adversary. Pulling one rich team, and one premier 1B, off the market does not change the equilibrium.
    Those three 1Bs still need at least four rich teams interested in them. The NYY, NYM, LAA, LAD, probably DET and Atl, are all likely out of the bidding.

  2. Simon DelMonte - Apr 26, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Assuming that the last week is not a fluke and Ike Davis is plugged in as the Mets’ starting 1B:
    Winner: Ike Davis, because the Mets (of late not a big spender) will probably ignore going after any established first baseman and instead give the job to Ike longterm, with a Longoria-sized contract.

  3. Juba - Apr 26, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    I’m feeling sick over this. I’m living overseas in a highly dangerous country while getting over some wicked food poisoning and I can honestly say that this deal made me feel worse than any of that. This murders the phils for the next seven years. Awful.

  4. Brianovich IV - Apr 26, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    How can we call him the 3rd or 4th best player on the team when he’s finished highest in MVP voting of any Phillie? Chase Utley, surprisingly enough, didn’t garner that many MVP votes. Neither did Rollins. Or Werth. Halladay probably will if he keeps this up. I’d say it’s more accurate to say that Utley and Howard are an easy 1A and 1B as far as “best player” goes. Halladay might be 1C, we’ll see how his career here progresses.
    The length is a huge issue though, as Howard will be American League fodder by 2013 anyway. Unless the NL finds a magical way to institute the DH…or, preferably, the AL comes to its senses and abolishes it. Neither will happen.
    Let’s just hope Ryno’s renewed sense of conditioning and self-improvement compounds and he can round into a much better player.
    But don’t think this is in lieu of a Werth extension. Rube & Co. are crafty.

  5. Lashman - Apr 26, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    Craig, dude, you’re hyperventilating. Calm down.
    This type of deal was pretty much sealed two years ago when the arbitrator ruled in Howard’s favor. He wasn’t getting really good money, he was getting close to Pujols money, and that’s the way it played out since. Still, if you think Pujols wasn’t getting 30 mil a year anyway, you weren’t paying attention. He will get pretty much whatever he wants, forget about Howard. And if you think Fielder, even though he’s younger, is going to last as long as Howard, then you haven’t seen him lately, the guy looks like he ate Waukeegan. So what do we have here, a team overpaying a bit for a franchise player who has carried the team in huge spots heading into the playoffs for three years now. Gonzalez hasn’t done it and I don’t think he can. It’s not so easy to find big hitting first basemen, as the Braves are finding out this year, you can’t just plug any old name in there. And all our prospects are in the outfield, so Werth was probably going anyway.
    One other thing to consider. This isn’t just a guy picked off the free agent market, this is a statue. If he retires a Phillie, which now looks likely, with the numbers he’s putting up, he’s going to have a statue on Broad Street. That doesn’t happen so often (You’re hoping Heyward becomes that, we’ll see) and when you find someone like that, you maybe need to pay to keep him around.

  6. scatterbrian - Apr 26, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    Winners: Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena. Free agents after this season, will be a fallback options for a lot of teams.

  7. D - Apr 26, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    winner – Vernon Wells, and J.P. – both of them will get to stop hearing about how bad that contract is!
    the slender

  8. Mahoney - Apr 27, 2010 at 12:30 AM

    craig, what is your problem man? did ryan howard bang your sister or something? seriously, the phillies needed to resign him. since you are a reporter i’d assume you knew for years howard has insinuated that he would look for a-rod type money when he hit the free agent market. if the phillies didn’t pay him, another team would. why risk losing him? citizens bank park is selling out, and will for the next several years, largely because of howard. why can’t the phillies pay him, halladay, utley what they are worth? thats a pretty decent core to build around for several years. if they can pay moyer 8 million a year to suck, pay adam eaton and geoff jenkins to sit at home, why not pay the heart of their lineup? i have a lot of respect for the braves and have several friends that are fans, but you sir give the good fans of atlanta a bad name.
    on a side note, i am a fan of your site, and this is the first time i’ve had an issue with you. keep up the great work, put down the ax, and get back to doing what you do.

  9. enough already - Apr 27, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    You guys should have like buttons on this page. Here’s hoping that Ike Davis pans out and the Mets don’t have to trade for a 1st baseman.

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