Ryan Howard Rumors

Phillies 2012: A Look Ahead

With the signing of Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125MM deal, the scope of what the Phillies can do heading into the 2012 season has come into greater focus. And at the risk of hyperbole, the key takeaway may be: when the Mayans said the world would end in 2012, were they specifically talking about the Phils?

Let's take a look at what Philadelphia will be spending money on as the 2012 season dawns. Roy Halladay is signed for $20MM. Howard, too, is signed for $20MM.  Chase Utley is signed for $15.3MM. Joe Blanton is signed for $10.5MM, Shane Victorino for $9.5MM, Placido Polanco for $6.4MM, Carlos Ruiz for $3.7MM, and almost certainly, Brad Lidge will be given a $1.5MM buyout.

That's $87MM going to seven players to play and one player to not play. And for their money, the Phillies will receive:

  • The age-32 season of a first baseman whose numbers overall have been in decline through age 30, and whose difficulties against lefties make him a good deal less valuable against situational relievers late in games (Howard).
  • The age-35 season of a pitcher who is dominant now, but will be 35 years old (Halladay).
  • The age-33 season of a second baseman, a position that is notoriously tough on aging players (Utley).
  • The age-31 season of a pitcher with a career 4.21 ERA (Blanton).
  • The age-31 season of a center fielder whose value is largely tied to his legs (Victorino).
  • The age-36 season of a third baseman whose value is largely tied to his defense (Polanco).
  • The age-33 season of a catcher whose career OPS is .720 (Ruiz).

Now obviously, the above list merely points out the red flags of the players under contract. Perhaps all seven of them will perform in 2012 as they did in 2009.

The problem is that even if they do, the Phillies will need to make a relatively small amount of money go a long way.

Consider that the team traded Cliff Lee this past offseason, passing up a chance to have a 1-2 punch in the rotation of Halladay and Lee over concerns that Lee would cost C.C. Sabathia-type money ($23MM annually). It seems fair to assume that the money that would have gone to Lee went to Howard instead. In other words, the $140MM threshold the Phillies find themselves at right now isn't far from where they expect to be in 2012. Certainly, they had no intention of being at $160MM, which is where Lee plus Howard would have landed them.

But we want to be fair to the Phillies, so let's split the difference, and plan for a $150MM 2012 payroll. With $87MM gone, Philadelphia has $63MM left over for: three starting pitchers, six or seven relievers, a shortstop, a left fielder, a right fielder, and four or five bench players.

In other words, even without any decline from any of the seven players under contract that year, the Phillies are going to need a lot of their prospects step up. And if they decide to sign current right fielder Jayson Werth and shortstop Jimmy Rollins- both likely to cost $10MM or more annually and both entering their age-33 seasons in 2012- the entire remaining team will have to be low-cost options fresh from the farm system to make the numbers work.

And we haven't even discussed what Cole Hamels, signed for $9.5MM in 2011, is likely to get in 2012 in what will be his final year of arbitration.

With so many holes to fill, it is hard to believe that Philadelphia decided to put so much of its 2012 payroll into Ryan Howard. This analysis doesn't even get into the problems for the team when Howard pulls down a cool $25MM annually from 2014-2016 for his age 34-36 seasons.

For a team that has managed to position itself as the clear favorite in the 2010 National League, such success may be fleeting.


Ryan Howard Extension Reactions

The Phillies signed slugger Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125MM extension today.  The contract begins with the 2012 season and includes a 2017 option and a limited no-trade clause.  At $25MM per year, Howard's deal ranks third in baseball history for average annual value.  Unsurprisingly, the megadeal has not been well-received by analysts…


Ryan Howard Signs Five-Year Extension

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard signed a five-year, $125MM extension, according to CSN's Jim Salisbury.  The deal includes a $23MM option for 2017 with a $10MM buyout.  Howard is currently under contract through 2011, so the extension runs from 2012 through 2016.  AOL FanHouse's Ed Price tweets the yearly salaries, noting that there is a limited no-trade clause.  Hot stove junkies won't be seeing Howard join Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Gonzalez in the 2012 free agent class.

Howard is in his age 30 season, so the contract begins with his age 32 season.  The length makes this an unnecessary risk, and at $25MM a year the Phillies didn't get a discount for taking the gamble and locking him up two years before free agency.  Tip of the cap to agent Casey Close, who negotiated the deal. 

Back in '08 Howard set a first-time arbitration record with a $10MM salary.  A year later he signed a three-year, $54MM extension to buy out his remaining arbitration years.  The Phillies clearly like to lock up their guys.



Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Jays, Bell, Davis, Dunn

On this date in 2002, the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network launched. Although the regional network barely broke even that year, YES has gone on to generate millions in revenue, much of which goes right into the Yankees' pockets. As recently as 2008, there was talk that the network was worth more than the team itself.

After you wrap your head around that, here are some links to check out from around the baseball blogosphere…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.


The 2012 Free Agent Class

Jeff Euston of Cot's Baseball Contracts recently posted an unofficial list of players who will become free agents after the 2011 season. That free agent class will be highlighted by a trio of first basemen: Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, and Ryan Howard, though there's a chance Albert Pujols will join them if he and the Cardinals can't work out an extension. 

Some other notable players scheduled to become free agents after 2011 include Jason Bartlett, Carlos Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Heath Bell, and Jonathan Papelbon. Robinson Cano, Yadier Molina, Grady Sizemore, and Matt Cain may also become free agents if their club options for 2012 are declined. 

Obviously a lot will change between now and then, but it's never too early to look ahead!


Olney On Howard, Pujols, Adrian, Chris Young

The latest from ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider required)…

  • Olney explains why the Phillies' internal discussions about offering Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols were accurate and newsworthy: "When you have confirmed information that the Phillies have discussed internally an avenue through which how they might pursue the best player in baseball — and you know exactly who said what to whom, and how sturdy the intent was — that is news."  Olney's information should be trusted despite the Phillies' denials, but keep in mind that this was simply one club's internal discussion.
  • Certain talent evaluators believe Adrian Gonzalez is so valuable given his contract that the Padres may not find a comparable return.  Some of Olney's sources believe the Padres should keep Gonzalez into 2011.
  • Olney's hearing Chris Young's velocity is back in its customary 87-88 mph range.  As the best-paid Padre and an impending free agent, Young has to be considered a midseason trade candidate.  He is earning $6.25MM this year with an $8.5MM club option for '11.

Discussion: Is A Howard-Pujols Swap Realistic?

The Phillies organization has internally discussed proposing a swap of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols, sources tell Buster Olney of ESPN.  Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro shot the notion down, saying, "That's a lie.  I don't know who you're talking to, but that's a lie."  Olney stresses that it is not fully clear whether the Phillies have actually approached the Cardinals with the idea.

Both sluggers are 30 years-of-age and both are eligible for free agency following the 2011 season.  Pujols is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons.  Howard, meanwhile, is set to make $19MM in 2010 and $20MM the following year.  While Pujols comes at a slightly cheaper rate in the next couple of years he (in all likelihood) would cost more to retain than Howard.

Olney points out that Howard is a St. Louis native, meaning that the Cards may be able to sell their fans on such a deal.  However, the Cardinals faithful have more or less adopted their three-time NL MVP, who is entering his 10th big league season with the club.

While owner Bill DeWitt wants to keep Pujols in red and white for life, an A-Rodesque $275MM deal might not be financially prudent for the organization.  One has to wonder if the Cardinals will have to consider trading their megastar.  If so, could a deal centered around Ryan Howard make sense?


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Adrian, Howard, Jeter

A year ago today, the Giants renewed reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum's contract for $650K. One year and a second Cy Young later, San Francisco bought out Lincecum's first two years of arbitration eligibility for $23MM. I'm sure they enjoyed paying him just six figures while it lasted. 

Let's take a look at what's being written around the baseball blogosphere…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.


Amaro Jr. On Payroll, Lee, Howard

The Phillies have already committed $132MM to next year’s payroll, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that there are limits to how much the NL Champs can spend.

“The payroll can’t continue to go north,” Amaro said. “When you get to a point where you’re basically at 100 percent capacity in your ballpark and 100 percent capacity almost in your revenues, somewhere it’s got to stop.”

Payroll was a consideration in the Cliff Lee deal, but Amaro said potential compensation picks figured into the club’s decision to trade the left-hander. The Phillies expect Lee to sign with a high-payroll club and worried that the compensation picks would be late first rounders at best.

“You get after the 10th or 15th pick in baseball, you’re kind of rolling the dice,” Amaro said. 

Amaro knows he’s going to have to filter young players onto his team’s roster at some point, but he wants to keep Ryan Howard around “forever.” The first baseman is under team control through 2011, so the Phillies have more time to determine their course of action with Howard than they have for Jayson Werth, who hits free agency after this coming season.

Lincecum’s Arbitration Number: $23 Million Plus?

Yahoo's Tim Brown penned a column today about Tim Lincecum's likely record-setting arbitration case that included this tidbit from an unnamed baseball executive.  Lincecum's agents and the MLB Players' Union had discussed the possibility of submitting an arbitration figure of $23MM plus one dollar for the back-to-back Cy Young Award winner.  Why the extra dollar?  So Lincecum would be making 100 cents more than the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, C.C. Sabathia.  The symbolic number would reflect Lincecum's unprecedented success this early in his career.

As Brown notes, Lincecum and his team would almost certainly lose their case by posting such a high number.  Since the Giants' bid, however, is almost obligated to be in the eight-figure range, it seems guaranteed that Lincecum's final 2010 salary will exceed the record $10MM arbitration award given to Ryan Howard following his MVP season in 2007.

This could be all moot, of course, if the Giants don't let Lincecum get to arbitration in the first place.  It was previously reported that Lincecum was open to a contract extension in San Francisco, for an amount that would likely top Zach Greinke's four-year/$38MM deal with the Royals.  Brown speculates that a Lincecum extension could be closer to the three-year/$54 million contract that Howard signed with Philadelphia last February.

One almost hopes that Lincecum and the Giants don't come to terms so we can see, in the words of MLBTR's Mike Axisa, "the most awesome first year arbitration case in history."