Phillies Nation: Is Ryan Howard untradeable?
John Mayberry (middle) is entering his first year of arbitration. Kyle Kendrick (right) is entering his last. (USA Today Images)
A few post-holiday Phillies thoughts:
There’s been much talk this offseason about the age of the Phillies' roster, and justifiably so. It’s a major concern. Older players are susceptible to breakdowns and when you start playing too many reserves, well, you finish in fourth place. Teammate Corey Seidman has dealt with the age topic extensively in recent days.
Another topic that’s gotten a lot of play: Ryan Howard. Some say the Phillies should trade him. Some say they should buy him out. Some say they should platoon him in 2014.
We’ve heard all the angles.
Let’s quickly weigh in on those ideas:
Buy him out
Howard is owed $85 million over the next three seasons. Write the check and let him go, right?
There are a lot of reasons this shouldn’t happen.
First, even a diminished Howard is an offensive power threat that the Phillies don’t have. Who takes his place?
Second, Howard averaged 44 homers and 133 RBIs the six seasons before he tore his Achilles tendon on the final swing of 2011 season. Sure, he’s older now, and the recovery from that injury and a subsequent knee injury adversely affected the next two seasons. But Howard appears healthy now. Physically, he looked good -- stronger and leaner -- when he visited with and worked out with teammates during the final weekend of the regular season in Atlanta. It’s crazy to even consider buying out Howard before he might play his first healthy season since 2011. Still, we hear it a lot.
This isn’t happening. Howard hasn’t played a full, healthy season since 2011. No team is going to give up talent and take on all or a significant portion of his salary until they have on-the-field proof that he is a healthy, dependable player again. If Howard is healthy, dependable and productive in 2014, the Phils might be able to deal him next offseason. Then again, if he’s HDP in 2014, the Phils might not want to deal him.
This is another talking point, and for good reason. Howard hit .173 against left-handed pitching the last two seasons and racked up a slew of strikeouts. At times, he looked lost against lefties, but that can happen when you don’t have your legs.
Platooning Howard is easy to consider, but difficult to implement. The Phillies need to get him hot early in the season. He needs to see lefties to improve against them. That’s not going to happen sitting.
Also, Howard is making $25 million. That dictates that he plays, that he gets time to work out his problems. Howard will get his days off -- at 34, he will need them -- and Ryne Sandberg would be smart to give them to him on days when the opposing team is pitching a tough lefty. But he can’t be platooned. With healthy legs and a strong base, he has to be given ample opportunity to get himself going. If his problems against lefties persist deep into the season, then maybe the topic gets revisited. But for now, the plan for Howard has to be play, play, play.
• Monday will be an interesting day on the Phillies’ offseason calendar. Arbitration-eligible players must be tendered contracts by the club or they become free agents.
The Phillies have five of these players, pitchers Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo, infielder Kevin Frandsen, and outfielders Ben Revere and John Mayberry Jr.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is on record as saying he will tender a contract to Kendrick. Frankly, the Phillies have to. Who’s going to pitch behind Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and rotation hopeful Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez? Tendering Kendrick a contract does not preclude the team from trading him, but, for now, we see him remaining with the club, at least after Monday.
Ditto for Bastardo and Revere.
It’s not clear what will happen with Frandsen. The Phils could opt to tender him, or they could move forward with a cast of utility infielders that includes Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf (for first base duty) and maybe non-roster candidate Reid Brignac.
Mayberry is another interesting call. Amaro indicated a few weeks ago that he would tender Mayberry a contract, but, frankly, that sounded like the GM Speak of a man who saw no value in tipping his hand. From this view, Mayberry is an uncertainty.
• The winter meetings begin in 10 days and the Phillies still have needs. In this era of instant communication between teams, executives hardly need the common site of the winter meetings to make deals. But the meetings still stand as a symbolic checkpoint of a team’s offseason progress.
So far, the Phillies have tapped the mid-level of the free agent market to sign rightfielder Marlon Byrd, and re-signed catcher Carlos Ruiz. They still need starting pitching depth and a reliever who can help in the seventh and eighth innings. The Phils had interest in Joe Smith, but he went off the board and signed with the Angels.
Amaro would still like to add another outfielder. He has mentioned that he would like to get more athletic in that area. It is no secret around baseball that Domonic Brown could be had -- in the right deal. The Phillies are not necessarily looking to move him, but they realize he might be their best chip.
Baseball sources say the Phillies have been very active in proposing trades. Hamels is an untouchable. So is Lee, but check back in July.
We’ll see if the Phils can get something done as the meetings approach.