When Buster Olney's newest piece, entitled "Is Ryan Howard tradable?", popped up on twitter this morning, I groaned. Yet another Ryan Howard trade piece. Of course, not every Ryan Howard trade piece begins LIKE THIS:
Ryan Howard has had his last at-bat as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
THAT'S RIGHT. BOOM. You think you'e gonna get the same old bad contract/pointless rumors piece you've been reading for several millennia, but Buster Olney said NO.
Of course, he followed it up with this.
That's what the Phillies hope, anyway. That's their goal, according to rival executives.
Olney reported this morning that according to rival executives, the Phillies have a renewed commitment to trading Ryan Howard this offseason, after failing to trade him this past summer and at any point before or since. "Priced to move" is how Buster phrased it, which is hopefully different than how Howard was priced in July when he was most decidedly *not* traded to any teams. Howard's price tag now pretty much has to be lower than it was this summer - with the market so saturated with DH-type players (which is clearly where Howard is headed), the Phillies essentially have no choice but to stick him in the bargain bin if they want to trade him.
How clearly is Howard headed toward a new career as a DH? One player evaluator actually said this:
"He’s a DH. He really has to be peddled to the American League, to be a DH and an occasional first baseman. He’s Adam Dunn, although Adam Dunn is probably a better defender at this point than he is."
That's right. This guy, if he had to, would choose Adam Dunn to defend first base over Ryan Howard. Take a moment and really consider that. Think about it. Let it swirl around inside your brain like you'd aerate a fine glass of wine.
As much as the Phillies (reportedly) want to end the Ryan Howard era and move on, it's not going to be easy.
But it will cost the Phillies, undoubtedly, because Howard -- who turns 35 later this month -- is still owed $60 million, with $25 million salaries for each of the next two seasons, plus a $10 million buyout of a 2017 team option of $23 million. And Howard is not regarded by rival evaluators as anything close to a high-end player anymore, or even an average player.
Now twist the knife counterclockwise.
It's not like most of this is news, though. The Phillies have been trying to trade Ryan Howard since the Dark Ages. Or maybe it just feels that way. A Ryan Howard baseball season seems to last about 500 years these days. The same at-bat where he swings at terrible pitches, over and over and over, as the world rises and changes around you. You see the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the birth of our nation, electricity, wars, the internet, and when Howard misses yet another throw to second, you dissolve into dust and blow away, lost to the sands of time forever.
Don't you want him, other teams!? He's swell!
For me, the most interesting part of Olney's story is the trade he proposes at the end. He fully admits it's out of his own brain, but I don't hate it.
Here’s one idea (and this is only speculation, nothing more): The Phillies could call the Orioles, who have flexibility with their DH position... Amaro could float the idea of swapping Howard for Ubaldo Jimenez who is owed $37.5 million over the next three seasons, while eating Howard’s $10 million buyout.
With this arrangement, the Orioles would effectively owe Howard a total of $12.75 million for the next two seasons -- and given the enormous range of DH options, they could probably insist the Phillies eat even more dollars than that...
Actually, I kind of like it. I mean, think about it. How much damage could Ubaldo Jimenez really do on the Phillies? I mean real, actual, lasting damage? My guess is "not much". The Phillies are going to lose a metric crap ton of games next year, and they really need pitchers. This way, they get a pitcher to throw meaningless, draft-position-improving innings, AND they get to make Ryan Howard someone else's problem.
Maybe someone will print out Olney's article and slip it underneath Ruben Amaro's door. A girl can dream, can't she?