The Philadelphia Phillies already know that 2016 will be the final season with the team for their longtime first baseman.
The situation involving former NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, and NLCS MVP Ryan Howard has already been discussed previously here at TBOH this off-season from a number of angles.
So far we have spoken about the fact that both he and Carlos Ruiz, the last two remnants of the 2008 world champions, are entering their final guaranteed contract seasons together. We have presented the argument that, despite no longer up to MVP caliber, Howard has remained relatively productive. And we have spoken about the fact that it would be difficult to trade away the slugger.
Both the player and the team are apparently resigned to the fact that Howard will indeed be part of the 2016 Phillies plans at the age of 36 years, and having not reached the 30-homer mark since the 2011 campaign.
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Yesterday, manager Pete Mackanin addressed the Howard situation with reporters at Citizens Bank Park, calling it “a hairy situation“, and per Philly.com’s Matt Gelb, characterized the situation entering spring training as: “I’m going to have a discussion with Ryan. I’m going to tell him, ‘If you want to face lefties, you have to hit them better. If you don’t hit them better, I’m going to platoon.’ That’s basically what we’re looking at. It’s gotten to that point.”
Mackanin also mentioned wanting to see Darin Ruf play more. However, as we have highlighted here previously at TBOH, Ruf has done nothing to earn anything more than Howard is being presented with – a platoon.
Ruf will turn 30 years old during this coming summer, so he is certainly not a part of any Phillies grand rebuilding plan. Against righthanders, Ruf has a career .212/.281/.380 slash line. Howard’s career slash line against lefties is .219/.296/.419, and there is not reason to believe he is ever going to “hit them better“, so a platoon would seem to be the obvious solution for short-term productivity from the position.
In a strict platoon, the 2016 Phillies would likely benefit from both players’ career performance against pitchers of the opposite hand. Ruf has a career .300./.390/.556 slash line against lefties, while Howard hits righties to the tune of a .283/.373/.567 mark. This isn’t rocket science, folks.
The manager has put his big first baseman squarely on the hot seat, but this isn’t really news. A best-case scenario for Howard is that he stays healthy and shows that he is indeed still a productive power bat, at least against righthanders. Then at the trade deadline, some team, likely an AL contender who could use him as a DH, will take him in trade, giving him another shot at the postseason.
The Phillies are still likely to have to eat all his remaining contract at that point, which will include the balance of the $25 million owed to him as salary for 2016, and the $10 million buyout due him for 2017. Even picking up all of that will not likely yield any significant prospects in return. It will simply allow a former hero to get one more shot at a title before hanging his uniform up for good.