Ryan Howard’s extravagant seven year contract is excessive, to put it kindly.
The money is too high, but more poignantly, the length is absurd, which has even caused the media — normally very pro Howard — to question the Phillies’ sanity.
ESPN baseball writer Keith Law opened with this salvo Monday night (subscription only):
“The contract extension the Phillies gave Ryan Howard made me laugh when I first heard about it. If you sign a player two years before he hits free agency, you’re supposed to get a discount. Instead, the Phillies paid a premium, giving Howard more money to cover years when he won’t produce nearly enough value to justify the salary.”
“The next time Keith Law says something positive about the Phillies will be the 1st.”
Others in the City of Brotherly Love have written the same about Gregg Doyel, among other writers they believe have bias against their teams. Look, many writers are annoying and partisan, but few, if any, have agendas against entire cities/fan bases.
Howard, seven for his last 40 with no homers since April 10 and no RBI the past week, will be 31 years old at season’s end. He has undoubtedly already hit his peak, and it will be a slow downhill grind from here — “faster than the norm” as Law notes.
Recent history reminds us that power hitters of large physical stature similar to Howard – Mo Vaughn and David Ortiz, to name a couple – tend to age far less gracefully (minus steroids, of course) than players of smaller stature with more all-around athletic ability.
The guys from Tauntr.com came up with the perfect visual reminder of this time-honored trend of behemoth power hitters seing their skill level basically fall off a cliff (below). Their analysis of the Howard contract is also spot-on.
Image credit: Tauntr.com
Ryan Howard also is a severe liability when facing left-handed pitching, against whom he’s barely hit .200 the past few seasons.
Despite a slow power start this season (on pace for 24 HRs, instead of his customary 45-50), he’ll probably still hit his 35-40 homers this year and close to that number for the next one or two afterwards, but look for 25-30 HRs to be more the norm during the latter portion of this contract; and I am being generous. (In my truthful mind, I don’t think he’ll reach 500 career homeruns, while many think 600 is a lock. Ryan has 225 currently. He’d need to average roughly 40 per year for the next seven seasons.)
Howard is also a mediocre fielder at best, he’s slow, and plays a corner infield position, with no opportunity to move anywhere else, or obviously to DH while in the National League.
Philly fans are historically hyper-sensitive to any criticism of their stars (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Ibanez), and I understand management’s desire to keep this core group together even as they age, but seven years at such astronomical rates is a force and simply unwise.
“The Phillies just handed him the second-highest average annual salary in the game, but he’s not the second-best position player in the game, or the fifth best, or even in the top 20. He’s not even the best player on his own team — that would be second baseman Chase Utley, who’ll barely make half of what Howard earns in 2013, the last year of Utley’s current deal.”
He later concluded:
“If Howard is worth $25 million, Pujols is worth $50 million a year.”
I’d say Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder are also worth more than Howard. Both are significantly younger, and while Prince is also corpulent, he has better numbers than Ryan overall. Gonzalez is a much better defender with similar stats in a pitchers’ park. Needless to include, neither strikes out as frequently as Howard, who whiffs around 200 times per season (though he’s only on pace for around 125 in 2010)
All this information is so transparent, which makes this contract all the more expected unfortunately.
*Note: Philly fans also become incredibly apoplectic when any comparison between Howard and Adam Dunn is made, but people often react with ad hominem attacks when they know someone is making a valid point they cannot accept (on any topic). Here, any sane or objective person with no Philadelphia allegiance (like myself), would concur that they are the ones being unreasonable presuming they refuse a Howard/Dunn analogy.*
I will save these findings for Part 2 of this series later in the week.
* – Ryan Howard photo credit: FreshMilc.com