Phillies fans may have seen the last of Ryan Howard. Well, at least for the balance of the 2015 season, that is.
Howard was injured during Monday’s series opener with the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park when a throw in the 7th inning from shortstop Freddy Galvis took a short-hop on him, slamming directly into the same left knee which he had operated on just two years ago.
Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, the team’s media relations department said that the veteran 1st baseman was not scheduled to have either an MRI or any x-rays in relation to the injury. However, Howard did have to make a trip to the emergency room on his own, which resulted in the knee having to be drained.
“The thing with Howie that’s admirable is this guy wants to play…So we’ll wait and see.” ~ Mackanin
In the penultimate season of his 5-year, $115 million contract that began with the 2012 campaign, Howard has again been extremely inconsistent. However, he has also been the Phillies leading power threat, as he has been for most of the last decade.
Howard homered in each of his last two games, in Sunday’s series finale vs the Cubs, and again on Monday vs the Nats. That lifted him to 23 long balls on the 2015 season, equaling the mark that he put up a year ago. Howard also has 29 doubles, and was on pace to put up his best total in that category since 2009 before this injury.
There is still an outside chance that he could return this year, but that would seem to be pointless. Why risk further injury to him when the team has nothing to play for now, and there are less than three weeks remaining on the schedule? Still, Mackanin left open that possibility.
“The thing with Howie that’s admirable is this guy wants to play,” said Mackanin per Zolecki. “You’ve seem him over the years, he posts up every day, he’s ready to play every day. That’s a nice trait to have. So we’ll wait and see.“
Next year will be the final guaranteed season of that big contract. Howard will earn $25 million, and for that reason alone there is no way that any team is going to want him in a trade.
The Phillies could release him this winter, which would allow them to completely free up playing time at the 1st base position in 2016, which would give opportunities to a number of players to make an impression for the future. The team would then be paying Howard $25 million for nothing. Still, it is a possibility.
No later than the end of next year, Howard’s days in red pinstripes will be over. The team will buy out his contract for $10 million, as stipulated, rather than commit to another 2017 season. If it hasn’t happened sooner, that will probably be the end of the road in the career of the man who was once “The Big Piece” of a championship team.