Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Are the Phillies Nuts?

You've probably heard the story today that Ryan Howard signed a five year extension that guarantees him A-Rod kind of money starting in 2012. If you haven't, the story is here. Simply put, the Phillies vastly overpaid a very skilled and accomplished slugger. Now that sounds sort of oxymoronic. Maybe. But more likely, the move was simply moronic.

Perhaps Ruben Amaro Jr., and his cohorts don't do their homework. Perhaps they don't value the valuation people out there. Perhaps they don't understand history, or perhaps they think they can beat history. The odds are that they will lose money on this deal. Or maybe they know something we don't and figure the National League will have the designated hitter by the time Howard gets too old to play the field effectively.

Just about every valuation site around puts Howard's value at about $20 million last year. He was terrific last year. And so if he is worth $20 million in the prime of his career, how is he going to be worth $25 million when he is 37 years old? He won't. It's not like he's at a skill position on the field and can move to first when he is older. He's already there. And though he has improved, he isn't a great first baseman and he won't be when he's 34, 35, 36 and 37.

Plus his size and body structure will work against him. It's happened to every player of his type before. There is about an eight year window of peak performance and then that body starts to get too slow to get itself around on a fastball or around the bases. It happened to Cecil Fielder. It happened to Richie Sexton. It's happening to David Ortiz. It will happen to Ryan Howard too.

Here are the dirty projections. According to Baseball Prospectus, Howard should be worth in total over the extension period (2012 - 2017) about $54.5 million. That means that the Phillies overpaid Howard by a staggering $200 million over the life of the extension. Wow. And they will pay Howard no less than $10 million in 2018 even if they buy him out.

The Fan understands that the Phillies are drawing really well and are making a lot of money. The Fan also understands the need for the Phillies to keep a good thing going and keep their core players. But they already had Howard tied up through the end of next year. By then he'll be 32 and you could get a gauge on what kind of player he was going to continue to be. Or you let him walk and sign another big slugger to take his place, preferably a younger one.

This move flies in the face of all logic. Howard's agent said it really well in the linked article from Yahoo Sports: "This is a very good contract for him..." Well yeah, more power to him. If they offered him that much money, good for him for signing. But geez Louise, this is a bad deal for the Phillies, if not for the next three years, for sure in the years after that.

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