It looks as if the Philadelphia Phillies will be bringing back the last two remaining players from their 2008 World Series championship team, 1st baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz, for one last go-around in the 2016 season.
“They definitely fit into our plans for ’16,” GM Matt Klentak said, per Stephen Gross of The Morning Call. “At some point, frankly it could be next week, I’m going to sit down with their agents and talk to them…I want to understand sort of what their motivations are. But the question about can they exist on our roster next year? Absolutely.”
Both players have contracts for the 2016 season already. For Howard, it will be the final guaranteed year of the infamous 5-year, $125 million deal signed during the 2011 season. That season ended for both he and the team with his debilitating injury as he made the final out of the NLDS loss to Saint Louis.
Largely thanks to that injury, Howard missed a great deal of time and was mostly ineffective for the next two seasons. Once he seemed to regain full health by the 2014 season, Howard had aged further and become a shell of his once-dominating self.
Howard is owed $25 million next year in the final season of that deal. There is a club option for $23 million in 2017 that will never be picked up. Instead, the Phillies will settle for the $10 million buyout.
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There are a number of possible playing time options for the man known as ‘The Big Piece’ in 2016. He could simply be the full-time starter once again. Or the team could opt to platoon him against right-handed pitchers, using Darin Ruf against lefties. Finally, they could give Ruf a full-time shot, and keep Howard around as a part-timer.
As for Ruiz, the man known lovingly as “Chooch” is guaranteed $8.5 million in the last of a 3-year, $26 million deal to which he was signed following the 2013 season. Like Howard, he has a club option for 2017 for $4.5 million, but that will also never be picked up. Instead, the Phillies will opt for the half-million dollar buyout.
Ruiz is likely to serve in the 2016 season as the backup to Cameron Rupp, who certainly earned a shot at the full-time job based on his own play this past season. There is a chance that at some point during the 2016 season, Andrew Knapp could make a push for the big leagues, which could make ‘Chooch’ a trade deadline candidate. By that point any acquiring team would get his experience down the stretch for next-to-nothing contractually.
If Howard is healthy and swinging a decent bat, you could also see him moved at the trade deadline. Such a deal would almost certainly be based on the Phillies paying off his contract, including the 2017 buyout money. But to land a prospect who might help them one day, it would certainly be worth it to the Phils.
No matter how it plays out, 2016 will be the last season in red pinstripes for these two final heroes of the great 2007-11 teams that won five consecutive NL East crowns, two National League pennants, and that unforgettable 2008 World Series title.