By Peter Gleason
The 2014 Phillies season ended officially three and a half months ago.
But for all intents and purposes it ended last June when it became obvious to anyone with eyes that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had seriously screwed up when he tried to squeeze one last season of seashells and balloons out of the Phils’ aging and inform vets.
So, on Dec. 19 they traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. And then they got rid of Marlon Byrd.
But Ryan Howard, who has not been a meaningful contributor to the Phils since the NLDS series in 2011, is still with the club.
And he probably will be when spring training opens next month.
The Phillies have been trying to move Howard for months. But they have yet to find a deal for the first baseman.
Amaro told FOX Sports last weekend that the club will not release Howard, and a trade remains the best option for both sides.
“The fact that we’ve been so public makes people think we’ll release him,” Amaro said. “That won’t happen. He’ll play for the Phillies if we don’t trade him … but there is a point of diminishing returns. At some point, we’re going to keep him, let him produce. Someone will have a need for him. He may be worth more later in the year or next year.”
The Phillies have been clear in their desire to deal Howard to further the rebuilding effort, but it’s not entirely surprising that a trade has not happened to this point. There are a number of factors that make the process difficult.
Howard is set to earn $60 million over the next three seasons. The Phils are willing to eat a portion of that salary, but just how much remains unknown.
Coming off a down year, Howard’s value is virtually non-existent. He played a full season for the first time since 2011, producing a .223/.310/.380 slash line with 23 home runs, 18 doubles and 95 RBIs. The 35-year-old led the majors with 190 strikeouts. Howard is also not a great defender, with many believing his future is as a designated hitter.
The Phillies understand they won’t get a great return for Howard. Their trade partners are also limited.
Howard could be traded to nine clubs without his approval, according to ESPN: the Angels, Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers and Yankees. Of course, he could still approve a trade to one of the other 20 teams.