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April 27, 2010

Transaction Action

The Howard Extension

by Christina Kahrl

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PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to terms with 1B-L Ryan Howard on a five-year, $115 million contract extension, with a $23 million club option for 2017 ($10 million buyout). [4/26]

I'll admit, when it comes to first base, I'm big on the basics as opposed to the options. First base is about power, and scoring runs the way that always works: at the plate. And on that score, Howard's delivered, to the point at which I liked last year's arbitration-avoiding extension through 2011 well enough as a good move by Ruben Amaro, Jr. My initial reaction was that I liked this extension a lot less, but work with me through this, and let's see if we wind up in the same place.

In Howard's defense, he's got a lot of consistency going for him. Many of the changes in the shape of his production have involved the drop in the number of intentional walks he's been issued, and as those have changed, his overall walk rate's declined into the merely sound range, fewer than one in 10 PA, decent, but far from exceptional. If there's an interesting feature to his hitting, it's that, for a guy who strikes out as much as he does, when he does make contact his ability to avoid popping up is handy; it's especially handy in a hitter's park like Philly, but it's proven handy everywhere. In a player whose power numbers are sort of extreme, it's interesting to see that his all-or-nothing approach has its additional benefits. It's also worth noting his strikeout rate has come down over time. He's not striking out 30 percent of the time these days, which is another small trend that suggests aptitude.

To talk about aptitude, we can distract ourselves and talk about other stuff that Howard's capable of doing. Take first-base defense; it's nice, and nobody likes having to run a latter-day Dick Stuart out there, but really, it's a tie-breaking consideration, not a primary concern. Baserunning? You may as well be talking about cupholder placement in a subcompact: without power under the hood, you're getting hung up on a detail as opposed to the key element of first-base functionality. So yammering about such considerations of themselves is sort of silly, save where they indicate something that, in Howard's case, you can credit him with: a demonstrated aptitude for improvement, and what that suggests as far as his ability to retain value. Just as concerns about how players age are critical in evaluating the deal, at their core is the concern with change over time. In the broad strokes, we all know that Howard is going to get worse over time, but that's because there'll come a far-off day when Howard can no longer play. We can also take it for granted that it won't be a linear progression, as minor things like getting worked up over his defense or his baserunning reflect.

To go back to batting, the larger criticisms of his work have long involved his home park and his "problems" with lefties. However, he's not merely a park fiction: his career road ISO is .301, and at home it's .305. And it's a well-worn bit of obviousness that he doesn't need to be sat down against lefties, having hit .261/.348/.529 .225/.308/.442 against them on his career. Sure, maybe there's a virtue in playing matchups later on with a quality lefty reliever, but that's hardly remarkable, and it isn't like you want to go after him with Renyel Pinto.

So for all that, you can understand where comparisons to Fred McGriff come from, at least for some commentators. For me, the massive differences in dimension, plus McGriff's better patience and ability to make contact and fielding, balanced against Howard's advantages in power, make them considerably less comparable. Jim Thome also doesn't really work; Thome's always been a significantly more patient hitter over the course of career, so torch-passing contact high aside, it's a loose comp at best. However, because we're talking about people who are seen as clean during and after a time that was less so, and because they hit left-handed and hit for power and play first base, you can understand where the associations come from.

I guess I'd take it a bit further back, and say that I'm a bit more fond of a comparison to Willie Stargell, another big man, not to mention one who aged well as a hitter. Once Stargell got out from under the shadow of the high-mound era that sucked a ton of value out of the usual late-20s peak, he was someone who was cranking out TAv marks in the .300s all the way through the "We Are Family" club that won it all in 1979. Pops Stargell was 39 that season, and if it was the last one in which his body could handle anything close to everyday play, it was a great past-30 run.

With that in mind, I'd note that the Phillies just signed Howard through his age-36 season, and control him through his age-37 campaign. So that sounds pretty good, right? So is the hangup the money? Well, there is an awful lot of it, but admittedly I'm less excited about the volume of particular rivulets as cash trickles down from billionaires to millionaires. Howard's worth a lot, so he'll cost a lot, just as his three-year extension last spring cost a good chunk of change.

But will it cost them more than "just" $125 million or $138 million for five or six seasons? Whether the draft picks notionally forgone survive the next CBA or not, their abstract value is not equal to all ballclubs on any level save the abstract. Certainly, you might say that their value means less for the Phillies in light of recent June results, considering that their draft record with top picks in recent seasons has been what we might politely refer to as checkered. Whether Kyle Drabek or Travis d'Arnaud succeed as best first- or first-round-supplemental selections by the Phillies since Cole Hamels in 2002, that'll be in Toronto. That said, the Phillies seem to take the lottery-ticket approach, favoring athleticism and upside risk, and not shelling out big bonuses of late. That approach is going to involve a lot of misses, and as examples like Domonic Brown (20th round, 2006), you don't need to get too worked up over how often you play lotto; you're already in that pool. All of which is a long way around to saying I don't the Phillies cost themselves all that much in concrete terms as far as draft-day opportunity costs.

Which leaves me where? The fripperies about the picks or Howard's leather-working skills don't add up to much as far as nag-worthy nagging concerns. If you take them as indicators, they point towards doing a deal. He's durable, and the Phillies deserve and receive considerable credit for their ability in keeping their players in full operating order. There's no underlying nagging concern about his ability to hit, hit in this league, hit in this park, or hit pitchers of every persuasion—give him a shot at Pat Venditte, I dare you.

But for all that, zillions of electrons later, the question really is whether you want to pay this kind of money for his age-32 through age-36 seasons, and that's where I have my doubts. PECOTA's savagery with players as they head into their 30s is founded on the general, obvious truth that players heading into their 30s are usually headed downslope. As much as some might note that the many minor indicators that are positive, and that Howard's proven to be adaptive, that's all true. It's also easy to then defer to an argument from authority to say that the Phillies are smart and competent and equipped with inside knowledge, because that's all swell and defensible.

Trumping all of that is that it's still $25 million per year for a first baseman, and that's for someone who isn't Albert Pujols or Adrian Gonzalez, the two leading free agents at first base after 2011, a pair Howard would handily rank behind if the Phillies had merely fulfilled their existing obligation. Per PECOTA, he's someone who might not even be Pops Stargell and cranking out True Averages in the .300s. Instead, Howard might resemble his own long-range forecasts, nose around in the .280s and .290s and thus be a thoroughly average hitter for a first baseman, and be the sort of nice complementary power source who has a nice career. For $25 million per season, to a player who may not be a top 10 player at his position by the time the contract becomes an active concern, off in 2012? That's not what anyone should consider a success.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Matt Kory

The aspect of the deal that I keep coming back to is the timing. Howard was signed for another year and a half and not at a meager salary either. I don't see the logic behind signing him to a five year extension now that kicks in two seasons from now.

Apr 27, 2010 12:55 PM
rating: 6
 
bflaff1

It sounds like the Phillies are trying to get a clearer picture of their long terms costs, so that they can better work around their tent pole contracts in putting together a long term strategy for constructing the rest of the team. The Phils have already demonstrated a fetish for cost certainty, and they seem to like being able to avoid spending their offseason wondering how to fill holes. They have a guy they think can fill the 1B slot for the next several years, so they locked it down. Now they can strategize around that. It's risky, but it makes FO people's jobs easier as well.

There are virtues to going year to year, or waiting until a deal is almost up before you talk extensions, but the alternative is not without its charms either.

Apr 27, 2010 14:51 PM
rating: 1
 
dpm

bflaff, i don't think cost certainty has any charms in this case, unless you or the Phils think they wouldn't have been able to sign him for $25M per year at the end of his current contract. With the general free agent market going down, it's difficult to see Howard's market value topping $25M at that time. Sure, it could, but the greater likelihood is that it goes down.

Apr 28, 2010 11:03 AM
rating: 1
 
bflaff1

Well, I can't imagine the Phillies talking to Howard's agent, reaching a concensus that 5 years, $125 would do it, and then saying, "OK, when we get to that point, we'll offer you that deal." It's only cost certainty if the deal is signed, and until it was signed, the Phillies didn't have cost certainty.

I know people are hung up on the numbers, but it's probably not the dollar figures that the Phillies were sweating. They apparently didn't see a need to be dollar efficient with Howard, but they did see a need to know that 1B was locked down for the next several years, at a known price. For the Phillies, knowing the price in advance seems to take a clear precedent over haggling over the price.

Apr 28, 2010 11:39 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

Sure they didn't have cost certainty until the deal was signed, but the benefit of cost certainty usually comes when you're afraid the player will make more during the time you've signed him for. Think Jon Lester. Think Evan Longoria, though that was outright theft. The point is that $25 million a year may be cost certainty, but what is the upside? Was Howard really going to make lots more than that? Is there some alternate universe where the Phils would have said, "Well, alright, $35 mill a year, but not a penny more." I doubt it. What if they had waited a year to sign him. Would they have been on the hook for lots more money than they are now? I really doubt it.

Apr 28, 2010 13:26 PM
rating: 1
 
bflaff1

Cost certainty also lets the Phillies plan what the team will look like in 2012 and beyond, which can affect draft strategies, trades, and other facets of team construction. Again, I think it's a mistake to think the Phillies were hung up on exactly how much Howard would cost, or that they were trying to secure a bargain. His agent gave them a price they could live with, and that was it.

Apr 28, 2010 15:12 PM
rating: -2
 
Matt Kory

For the Phillies sake I hope that's not how it happened.

Apr 28, 2010 21:53 PM
rating: 0
 
pctec100

another aspect of the timing that I don't like for the Phil's is that it looks like there are going to be a lot of very good options at 1st on the free agent market after 2011, that's even assuming Pujols will not be among that group.

With a deep market at the position I think you really have to question whether any other team would be coming anywhere close to offering a 32 year old Howard $25M/per.

Apr 28, 2010 11:15 AM
rating: 0
 
kmbart

The one firm conclusion I've drawn from this signing is that Ruben Amaro Junior (time for a new "RAJ-AH" in the ranks of front office nicknames) is definitely a subscriber to BP.

Checking out Ryan's Player Card, the one consistency across the board in his projections is that he bottoms out in the 2016 timeframe. Stars-n-scrubs, Career Path, Ten-Year Performance/Attrition all show the Big Piece as a blue frowny face at the end of this contract.

RAJ-AH looked at the path, discounted for inflation (anybody think the economy is going to improve a little bit over the next four-five years?), noted the player's commitment to off-season and in-season improvement, and pulled the trigger.

Mo Vaughn or Jim Thome? That's what it'll come down to.

Apr 27, 2010 13:02 PM
rating: 0
 
Bill N

I agree with the one thought that wringing our hands over precisely how much money Ryan Howard makes isn't that important, but is that what anyone actually is wondering?

The issue just comes back to the money spent here that didn't go to Cliff Lee, and can't be tabbed for Jayson Werth, two men who could offer a hell of a lot more than Howard will.

Apr 27, 2010 13:27 PM
rating: 2
 
psalveso

Jayson Stark said there are rumors they are moving on to Werth next.

Apr 27, 2010 13:34 PM
rating: 1
 
bflaff1

Except that the Phillies now know with certainty (because they just did it) what Ryan Howard will cost through 2016. They don't know anything like that with Werth or Lee or [fill in the blank with big name]. In a free agent market, which Cliff Lee, at least, will probably test, the Phils have no way of knowing if they'll succeed in being the highest bidder. From that perspective, the money spent for certainty on Howard is not equivalent to the money they *might* be able to spend on Werth, Lee, or some other big name big dollar contract.

Apr 27, 2010 14:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Karl Barth

I look at Howard and wonder if he is David Ortiz or Mo Vaughn. It is spooky to put $100M on the line with the assumption that the answer is No.

Apr 27, 2010 13:37 PM
rating: 1
 
clete6
(577)

"There's no underlying nagging concern about his ability to ... hit pitchers of every persuasion"

I admit I sometimes have trouble parsing your sentences, but are you really suggesting that Howard hits lefthanders well?

Apr 27, 2010 13:49 PM
rating: 0
 
mglick0718

Howard really has a .261/.348/.529 against lefty starters? Is that really possible given his total .225/.308/.442 against all lefty pitching, with I assume many fewer PA's against relievers than starters? If so, he's basically hitless against southpaw relievers.

As a Mets fan, I like this move by the Phillies, especially given the concurrent aging of the rest of the team's tremendous core talent into their mid-30's.

Apr 27, 2010 14:10 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

The .261/.348/.529 is (I think) in games that were started by LHP, since Baseball-Reference.com has 3232 PA combined in "vs. LH starter" and "vs. RH starter", which is Howard's total PA. So that line appears to include him mashing RHRP after the LHSP had departed. I guess the implication is that you should play him in those games anyway, because you'll have used up a bench player in the 6th or 7th inning when you replace the RHB who started against the LHSP.

Apr 27, 2010 14:19 PM
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Nope, my mistake, B-Ref's qualification of that piece of data makes it clear he's worse than what I originally; I've inserted the all-lefty data. So, E-me, but here's hoping I'm as adaptive as Mr. Howard's faithful believe him to be. ;-)

Apr 27, 2010 14:20 PM
 
bflaff1

The club kids are all hating on this deal, and congratulating themselves on coming up with the cleverest putdowns, but I'm glad CK and BP resisted the temptation. It's nice to be able to come here and read a reasoned analysis of this deal that doesn't rely on the need to seem oh so superior to some hapless GM.

Apr 27, 2010 14:36 PM
rating: 1
 
Chad Moriyama

Sounds like you think this is reasoned analysis only because you agree.

I highly doubt the guys at FanGraphs or Keith Law or others just decided to bash on it to make them feel better about themselves. They expressed all the same concerns as CK, and they were well reasoned.

Apr 27, 2010 19:19 PM
rating: 1
 
bflaff1

Maybe we have different tastes. I'll take BP's approach over the 'LOLZ!!! Am I right?' analysis over at fangraphs:

"When the news first broke and the details started to emerge, I was tempted to fill this entire article with just me laughing. My co-writers convinced me that while an appropriate response, that was not quite informative enough so I have relented and will actually map out the value of Ryan Howard’s new extension. I’m laughing pretty hard, though, in case you wanted to picture it."

Or Keith Law: "The contract extension the Phillies gave Ryan Howard made me laugh when I first heard about it."

It should be noted that this is how each guy started his article, so it set the tone for whatever followed. CK seems to have similar doubts about whether the extension was wise, but she expressed it in a much different way.

Apr 27, 2010 20:21 PM
rating: 5
 
SC

There is the non-trivial marketing value he brings, particularly to a team in a predominantly African American city. Sure, you wouldn't sign a guy who is charming but hitless, but I'd imagine (and wonder if it's been studied) that they'll sell a few million worth of shirts with 'Howard' on the back. The question becomes whether those shirts would have been sold anyway, albeit bearing a different name.

If you were going to look at this, I'd think the Reds' signing of Ken Griffey Jr. would be a place to start.

Apr 27, 2010 14:46 PM
rating: 3
 
Sam Mauser

While certainly think that there is a marketing factor to be had in this deal, it's less related to a few million in shirt sales(which isn't all profit to the Phillies, but in the attitude of people in the future. SAy the Phillies miss the playoffs in '11 and '12, are people liable to be saying "If only we had held on the Howard instead of bringing in Billy Butler, or whoever.

Is Howard better than Butler? Obviously.
Will he be better in 2015? Hard to say(especially since I took such a young player), but...Likely, yeah.

Is the marginal value that Howard provides over Butler worth the difference in what they'll be paid at that time? By your MORPS or your "Value"? I doubt it.

Now, if you're trying to be a competitive team, that marginal value that Howard provides over a player like Butler is important, and throwing "too much" money at a solidly above average player is what teams with money are "supposed" to do.

If the Phillies cry poverty on future deals and don't sign players(Werth is the obvious one coming up, but this runs through 2016, so there will be a number of free agents or extensions for the Phillies to consider), then I would say this deal was a mistake.

If it doesn't cause them to become more frugal over the course of the Howard deal, then...they spent too much on a very good player, but they still come away with a very good player(probably, have to say, if we're looking six years ahead)

That was way too many words, so in one sentence: If the Phillies are still willing to spend money on other players, this is a decent enough deal.

Apr 28, 2010 01:51 AM
rating: 1
 
krissbeth

Given how Philly fans react to teams that they even suspect are not fulfilling their potential (see: McNabb and the Eagles' close-but-not-quite teams), the "attitude of people" is an important but hard to quantify factor.

Apr 28, 2010 08:27 AM
rating: 0
 
nationalcoholic

Baseball clubs all over the country are penny wise and pound foolish. This is no exception.

Apr 27, 2010 15:45 PM
rating: 0
 
dbiester

Well, there's a whole lot of inflation hedge here. First, there's the national debt inflation, which will hit player's salaries just like any others. But there's also self-inflicting inflation -- the Phils have just set the floor for the Pujols and Gonzalez negotiations. Some team is going to have to pay a lot more for those guys. That will then impact the cost of other rising stars, from now through 2016. So yeah, the contract looks bad in nominal dollars for 2016, but assuming the contract doesn't have COLA built in, it may or may not look so bad by then.
Do we really know how much First Baseman $25 million will buy in 2016? How does it compare to what the Cards will be paying Holliday that year?

Apr 28, 2010 07:19 AM
rating: 0
 
nschaef

I would argue the "Phillies are competent" argument is no longer a given. Much of the team's current success can be attributed to people who are no longer with the team. Amaro's moves may be described as "peculiar" to be polite, and "Abner Doon-ish" to be melodramatic.

I'm not saying we should assume everything he does is foolish, but I think he's made far more poor moves than good ones.

Apr 28, 2010 09:02 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

I'm as skeptical as the next phan, but this statement is just ridiculously unfounded. His major moves include not offering Burrell arbitration which led to a massive attack by a million analysts, myself among the loudest, after which Burrell got WAY less than he would have in arbitration and played replacement level after words. He signed Ibanez to replace him, a move that was lampooned, right before Ibanez's defense appears to have improved by like 15 runs and during which Ibanez produced about 2/3 of his contract value during the first year of the deal. A disasterous 2nd and 3rd year would make the contract still look justifiable ex post. He signed Moyer, which seems bad but not disasterous considering he's only really paying him to provide 1-1.5 wins. He brought in Chan Ho Park when no one else would and squeezed a ridiculously good year of relief out of him (albeit after a failing attempt to use him as a starter). He also signed a large number of players to multi-year deals during the 2008-09 offseason, well below what similar players were getting paid, likely taking advantage of the good will towards the team that winning a WS will do. Then he cut ties with sunk costs like Geoff Jenkins. In the middle of the year, he leveraged the Jays and Indians until one of them gave him their ace at far below the typical trade value for players of that stature. This past offseason, he signed Polanco (an average player) to a contract that you would typically pay a below average player, signed Blanton to a three-year below his market value, and made a contraversial trade of Lee and prospects for Halladay and prospects that looks questionable, but keep in mind that we haven't actually seen what happens with those prospects yet. Then he signed Halladay to a below market extension.

Does he do everything right? No way. But to call his moves incompetent or idiotic, or to say he's made far more poor moves than good ones, is just untrue. The jury is still out, and he's proven me wrong in a couple times already in my skepticism. I have an open mind for sure.

Apr 28, 2010 09:15 AM
 
Matt Kory

Matt, many of the moves Amaro made that you mention above in your comment are moves that turned out well, yes, but I'm not sure that is such a good barometer to use. Was it reasonable to expect that a 37 year old outfielder's defense would suddenly improve by 15 runs? Could you logically expect Pat Burrell would get hurt and then be replacement level? Was a good thought process behind giving a 45(?) year old pitcher a two year contract? Sure all those moves have been positive ones for the Phils so far, but I'm not so sure that, knowing what we knew at the time, we could have or even should have expected these outcomes as likely.

Apr 28, 2010 10:19 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Agreed. I'm not saying that they were actually good moves given the information he had. I said it's certainly plausible. Ibanez isn't as slow as other plays who are 15 runs below average at defense, and the Phillies seem to be very good at positioning their defense well. I suspect that it was a reach that he would improve 15 runs, and we'll probably see a regression, but it's possible that they thought he had coachable flaws given how poor his routes or positioning was or something like that. However, I do think they knew Burrell was going to tank. He had injury problems that he played through for the last several years. I think that they sheer wrongness of my blasting the decision to offer Burrell arbitration was rather humbling for me. However, I agree with you the jury is still out and there are major question marks surrounding many of the moves.

Apr 28, 2010 10:32 AM
 
bflaff1

To this point, no one's made money shorting Ruben or the Phillies, but the perception that he's a clueless moron persists. It hurts my pride as a fan, but as long as he's pulling off coups like Cliff Lee, or bringing in valuable upgrades like Ibanez and Polanco, then his rep among the chattering classes is a side issue.

Apr 28, 2010 11:50 AM
rating: 0
 
nschaef

Whoa! I never said "incompetent" or "idiotic." My point was that his reasoning has been flawed, and that his moves have been questionable - at least to the extent where we cannot say, "Well this doesn't seem to make sense, but Amaro's really great so we'll assume he's right."

I notice you decided to portray the Lee trade as A Three Way Trade, which I have been lead to believe is false. It was a separate deal made because they were trying to "play for the future" (which is odd, seeing as they have no interest in leveraging their leaving free agents into draft picks, and are signing guys who will contribute now but not much later to long deals) and got marginal prospects. Lee was cheap for this year, and that deal was NOT necessary to acquire Halladay. For him to turn around and give the money he couldn't afford to give to Lee to Danys Baez and Placido Polanco seems pretty foolish to me.

Additionally, authors on this very site savaged the Ibanez deal. Even if it worked out - and worked out so well in one year it justifies the whole deal - that doesn't mean it should make us think he knows what he's doing. The odds were against it working out. And a single season of fielding defense in left field doesn't seem to me to outweigh the fact that he had been terrible for years before, and I'd bet he's going to be poor instead of average going forward.

I think Amaro inherited an extremely enviable stockpile of resources at the major and minor league levels, and that he is not leveraging them as nearly as well as he could be.

I liked your article on the Howard extension, and it mollified my dislike of it, but only slightly.

Apr 28, 2010 10:06 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

You said that "the Phillies are competent" was not a given. That's almost calling him incompetent, at least. I guess you're probably right that it wasn't exactly the same comment, but it's how I read. I also didn't know who Abner Doon was, to be honest, but a quick google search seems to imply he's not a bright guy, right?

Regardless, I think we agree that Amaro can't be given the benefit of the doubt automatically, but perhaps we also could agree that it's worth considering he is smarter than his moves make him seem at first blush.

You are correct that trading Lee was not part of trading Halladay. They just happened concurrently. Polanco was already signed at that point, so really I meant that they could have just non-tendered Joe Blanton and Chad Durbin, and not signed Baez and Contreras. Those guys cost about $14MM this year. My point was just that was totally okay.

I am also skeptical that he necessarily knew what he was doing with Ibanez, but it certainly seems plausible that he did.

I also agree that Amaro inherited a stockpile of resources, but keep in mind that he was seemingly a very involved Assistant GM who may be responsible for such good fortune during the Gillick years.

Again, just asking for some hesitation at blasting Amaro. I've gotten burned on doing so a few times.

Apr 28, 2010 10:41 AM
 
nschaef

Abner Doon was technically a genius, but it was certainly meant as a pejorative, correct.

Perhaps I'm overly pessimistic, but I think Arbuckle is generally given the credit as the savvy baseball guy, and Amaro was considered a nice guy who wasn't very bright - whether that's true is yet to be seen.

I guess I used a lot of words and wasted a lot of people's time to say: "Assuming the Phillies know what they're doing when the evidence on a specific move suggests otherwise may not be a valid way of analyzing as much as it is for others."

Apr 28, 2010 10:57 AM
rating: 0
 
iorg34

As a Twins fan, I'm glad this occurred after the Joe Mauer extension. My cross border cheesehead brothers cannot be thrilled with this development, though, as Fielder's princely retainer just went into fighter-jet territory. Will this set the bar for good first bases? Can Morneau, Youkilis, or Pena look forward to $20M AAV?

Apr 28, 2010 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Michael Dennis

The part where I think this gets even sketchier is that alternatives exist. Signing Howard means they will not be able to sign Pujols, Gonzalez, or Fielder. All 3 of which are better. The latter 2 are almost guaranteed to hit the market, are younger and better, and will command around the same average annual salary, though for more years. That's the problem I have with this deal, it's not just that he's not better than these guys, it's that at least 2 of these guys are going to be available on the market for around the same annual price.

Apr 28, 2010 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

A big part of the question is whether those guys would be available at the same price. I don't think they will, but I'm guessing that the price difference would be worth the difference in production. I could be underestimating salary growth, like many of us did during the last economic expansion.

Apr 28, 2010 11:39 AM
 
bflaff1

To the Phillies, knowing right now that they have a top tier first baseman in place for the next seven years is better than *hoping* that they can get a marginal upgrade in a few years' time, for an unknown number of dollars. And I think most teams would agree.

Apr 28, 2010 11:56 AM
rating: 0
 
nschaef

One can argue that Howard is roughly the 5th-7th best at the position now, and there's nowhere to go but down.

Apr 28, 2010 13:52 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

This is one of just many problems: they have no such thing. Howard, from 2012-2016, won't be a top-tier first baseman. He may not even be close. He has a better chance of falling out of the league than he does of being a top-tier 1B.

Apr 28, 2010 14:19 PM
 
bflaff1

Well, it's simply untrue that we *know* what Howard will be in 2012-2016, but the Phillies (or whoever they trade Howard to) do know that they have locked down a mid-career player who currently has a track record of being a top tier first baseman. Maybe it's better to say that there's no other name the Phillies can realistically pencil into to that spot for the next seven years who will give them the cleanup hitter production they expect to receive. Tossing out names like Fielder or Pujols, as others have, is an unrealistic parlor game, and I don't think it's practical to toss off Howard and count on some as yet unknown name to emerge either. No team not in a rebuilding mode wants to start the year with Daniel Murphy as Plan A, and the Phils clearly don't want to risk getting stuck in a similar predicament.

Apr 28, 2010 15:06 PM
rating: -1
 
cggarb

But where does that particular bit of reasoning ("knowing" is better than "hoping") end?

Should they also extend Rollins at $15M, because there's no guarantee they can sign Reyes next winter?

Should they extend Werth, at $25M because they can't be sure they'll get Carl Crawford for less?

Every dollar spent on Ryan Howard is a dollar that can't be spend on a different player. And I believe they set the market here - that Fielder or Gonzalez could have been signed for the same annual salary, if they'd signed first, or after only Pujols.

Ironically, by signing a lesser player at too high a price, Amaro has given himself cover for not getting the best guy ("How could I have afforded Fielder?")

Apr 28, 2010 20:15 PM
rating: 2
 
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