Ryan Howard is 30. He can’t hit lefties at all. He’s not an asset on defense. He has old player skills. And he just signed an extension that doesn’t even kick in for two years, and pays him obscene amounts of money.
This will not end well.
Fangraphs’ Matthew Carruth had this to say:
In other words, Howard will need six seasons that were better than his 2009 season, except over his 32-37 years. I’m not sure I would lay even money on him achieving even half of that. This contract is both incredibly risky and unnecessary since Howard was already signed through 2011. Say hello to baseball’s newest worst contract.
"This is one of the worst extension of its kind -- it's an overpay in both years and dollars. Howard is one of the last guys in the middle of the lineup I'd give that kind of money, too. He's 30, has a bad body, is not a good defender, and has struggled to make contact to versus lefties -- he's gone backwards in that area over the past couple of years. If you were locking him up through age 31, it's not so bad. How happy are if you're Albert Pujols? If Howard is worth $25 million, Pujols is worth $50 million a year."
Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory runs Howard through ZiPS and comes to this conclusion:
This deal appears risky for the Phils. The home runs numbers look pretty good, as do the RBIs. But the latter is mostly a function of Howard's hitting in the middle of a great lineup. And those on-base percentage and slugging numbers begin declining steadily in 2013. Paying more than $20 million per season for a first baseman with a sub-.350 OBP just isn't good business. Large, hulking sluggers aren't known for aging particularly well, and Howard will be 32 before the new contract even goes into effect. And let's say Howard hadn't signed this deal and hit the market after the 2011 season. It's hard to imagine he would get a contract worth $125 million.
Ryan Howard's new contract is a testament the enduring power of the Are-Bee-Eye. It's also a testament to old-school ignorance: ignorance of aging patterns, ignorance of position scarcity, ignorance of opportunity costs ... hey, take your pick. The Phillies have done a lot of things right over the last few years. But this is a big bowl of wrong.
Moreover, this may make Prince Fielder unsignable as it may set the baseline for hefty first baseman too high for a small market. What were the Phillies thinking?
Maybe he'll decline very fast and actually tank the market, but probably not.
The Philadelphia Enquirer's Rich Hoffman loves the contract:
What I see now is a guy who is physically in better shape than he was 3 years ago. That is about work ethic, and trying to get better.
What I see now is a guy who is three times the defensive player he was when he first arrived in the big leagues. That is about high-level instruction on the Phillies' part and it is about a willingness on Howard's part to identify a deficiency and deal with it professionally.
Howard has already made a ton a cash. His response to every bump in salary has been to work at his game even more.
Again, there are no guarantees. But in baseball's big casino, this one really does make sense.
Rich Hoffman, I would like to play poker with you sometime.
5 minutes ago