By Ben Sullivan
Haven’t we heard this before?
Like last February!
Ryan Howard looks sleek (Michael Barkann’s description, so take it with a grain of salt), and now the Phillies general manager who spent all winter dissing his overpaid first baseman, is joining the chorus.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. spent a portion of the off-season taking heat and eventually apologizing for criticizing first baseman Howard during a radio appearance. Now, he may be going in the opposite direction.
As CSN Philly’s John Clark reports, Amaro said that Howard is in the best shape “since I’ve known him”.
Former major leaguer Dan Plesac, in Phillies camp as a guest instructor, echoed the sentiment, telling Howard, “this is the best you’ve looked in 4-5 years.” Howard told Plesac this was the first offseason in which he’s been able to strengthen his leg since tearing his Achilles tendon in his left foot at the conclusion of the 2011 NLDS. Howard returned in July 2012 but was a shadow of his former self. In 2013, Howard had a bit of a bounce-back, but tore the meniscus in his right knee. 2014 was his first full, healthy season since 2011, but he posted a career-low .690 OPS.
Howard is entering the fourth year of a five-year, $125 million contract. The Phillies, currently attempting to rebuild, have made it no secret that they would prefer to trade Howard. However, he is owed a total of $50 million for the 2015-16 seasons plus a $10 million buyout for the ’17 season (assuming no team would pick up his $23 million club option). As a result, it’s effectively $60 million for two years. The Phillies would have to eat a very large portion of it to entice a team to make a deal.