Monday, April 26, 2010

The Big Man Gets Paid

Ryan Howard just got paid, big time. According to the Phillies and Howard have agreed to a five-year $125 million extension through 2016. He'll receive $20M in 2012-13 and $25M in 2014-16. There is also a club option for 2017 at $23M, with a $10M buyout. All told, Howard could make up to $138M through the life of this contract. That is some coin for sure.

At first glance for Phillies fans, this is good news. Signing a fan favorite, home grown player to a long term deal is something that most MLB teams just aren't able to do anymore. Knowing that Howard will have a chance to hit his 500th HR as a Phillie is a great thought as is the prospect of him leading the team to another World Series win. There is a lot of good about this deal.
However, there is quite a bit of bad, too, with a deal of this size.
Ryan Howard is older than some people realize, as he'll turn 31 this November. That means he'll age like this for the remainder of his current contract and this extension:

Age 30 - 2010 - $19M
Age 31 - 2011 - $20M
Age 32 - 2012 - $20M
Age 33 - 2013 - $20M
Age 34 - 2014 - $25M
Age 35 - 2015 - $25M
Age 36 - 2016 - $25M
Age 37 - 2017 - $23M (Club Option, $10M buyout)

That is a TON of money for someone in their 30's. The Phillies are going to have a large chunk of money tied up in Ryan Howard for the next eight years and won't have any wiggle room if his skills go south at all. The team already has $87M tied up for 2012 to just eight players (Howard, Halladay, Utley, Blanton, Victorino, Ruiz, Lidge and Polanco. That doesn't include the numerous arbitration eligible players that year, which include Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ. No matter how you slice it, the Phillies future payroll became a whole lot less flexible today.

No matter who the player is, a $125M contract will carry risk. With Howard, however, the risk seems magnified. While he's done a much better job of keeping himself in shape over the past few years and continues to work on his defense, there is little in MLB history that suggests a 6'4'' 250lb slugger will age gracefully. Consider that his walk rate and ability to hit lefties has continued to decline each year in the league and you begin to see how this could turn out bad for the Phillies down the road. How far down the road remains to be seen.

Listen, I commend Ruben Amaro Jr. for doing everything in his power to keep Ryan Howard a Phillie for a very long time. We all love Howard and we're lucky to be able to watch [most of] the rest of his career play out. Hopefully, that career includes many more home runs and a few championships to boot. It's a very nice thought. But I think I speak for more than a few people when I say I'm a little worried at what this contract will look like in 2013 and beyond. While it's hard to look that far into the future, in sports you sometimes have to. While the Eagles seem to jetison players once they hit their 30's, the Phillies seem perfectly ok with locking players of that age into long-term deals. I'm not sure which is right answer (probably right in the middle), but we're probably going to find out.

Either way, today was a big day for Phillies fans. We found out one of our favorite players will be in red pinstripes for a very long time. That is good news, so don't take this post as negative. I only caution fans that in a few years, if/when Howard's production falls off, this contract might become something of an albatross for your Fightin's. Until then, though, enjoy the HR's. There will be plenty of those.

1 comment:

  1. $125M = phillies definitely not signing Werth or Rollins when their contracts are up...