Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Ryan Howard's Contract Absurdity Lingers

The Washington Nationals are certainly getting skewered on their seven year contract given Jayson Werth. Several general managers around baseball were said to be angered and shouting. The Mets' new GM, Sandy Alderson, tongue-and-cheeked about the deficit not coming down in Washington. The deal brought out the litany of other crazy contracts over the years. The A-Rod, Zito, Wells and Park contracts were brought up like they always are. Joe Posnanski coined a new word called, "Texpensive," named in honor of the Mark Teixeira contract. But this writer still finds it absurd that Ryan Howard's contract with Philadelphia is never mentioned. Can someone tell this Fan why that is?

Howard's contract, which keeps him on the Phillies payroll until 2016 (or when he will be 36) pays Howard $18 million in 2011 and $25 million a year from 2012 to 2016. The contract includes an option for 2017 which will cost the Phillies another $10 even if they decide to buy him out. How come this contract is never mentioned? This contract alone will affect future negotiations with anyone who wants Prince Fielder and it certainly will impact any Albert Pujols negotiation. It is among the top five in overly excessive contracts among all active players.

Ryan Howard has been a wonderful slugger for the Phillies. This Fan is not quibbling about that. His four year run from 2006 through 2009 was amazing. But even they did not come near being worth the kind of money that Howard will be making. His numbers fell off a bit in 2010. He hit less homers (31). His RBIs came down to All Star quality (108). His walk rate was down. And according to Fangraphs, his year was worth roughly $8 million. Thats a full $10 million below what he was paid. His high leverage stats were still very good, but not nearly as good as in previous seasons. If 2010 is his new norm, then this contract looks even worse.

Ryan Howard will be paid $143 million from 2011 through 2016. Baseball Prospectus estimates that Howard will be worth $65.14 million during that period. And keep in mind that BP over estimated his 2010 season by nearly 200%. All that money will be tied up with an aging, strikeout-prone, poor fielding first baseman that the Phillies will not be able to move anywhere else.

So, yeah, Jayson Werth's contract may be a bit of a stretch. And a lot of those other deals casually mentioned as a result are costly. But Howard's deal probably cost the Phillies their right fielder and almost certainly will not live up to the performance of the great slugger over the next six years. Pretty soon Cliff Lee will join Howard in the top five of excessive and regrettable contracts. Fans of the Rangers and Yankees should each be hoping the other team wins the sweepstakes. And when Lee gets his deal, this Fan would like to see Howard's contract named among the foolish. Howard will hit a lot of homers for the next six years, but not nearly enough to pay his freight.

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