By Sam Bush
I have often made the case that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. cannot judge talent adequately, does not know how to manage a payroll and in general is in way over his head when it comes to knowing how to trade.
His latest comments about Ryan Howard are a prime example of his inability to tee up a trade.
He was quoted everywhere as saying the Phillies would be better off without Howard, the 35-year-old, over-the-hill, massively overpaid first baseman.
Amaro’s candor is refreshing, but his comments send a strong message to other GMs that they should hold out for something — in this case make the Phils eat all of the $60 million owed Howard — before even considering signing him.
Howard has hit 23 home runs this year (his most since 2011) while playing in 153 games (his most since 2009).
In fact, only 16 other major leaguers hit at least 23 home runs this year while appearing in 153 or more games. So, on average, only about half of all big-league teams had a power hitter as productive and durable – yes, durable – as Ryan Howard in 2014.
Most of those stats are as empty as the calories one derives from cotton candy.
He left a ton of men on base, he can’t hit a lefty. In fact, he has gotten worse, and his lower body is all but shot.
Which should make him a natural for a DH in the American League.
If only Amaro would learn how to play the game, which he hasn’t since 2009, when he took over a World Series team and has run it into the ground for the past two 73-win seasons.
Several AL teams – the Orioles, Rangers and Rays come to mind – don’t have a full-time designated hitter and would have use for someone who can deliver 20-plus homers in a power-starved sport.
Six AL teams – the Rangers, Yankees, Rays, A’s, Mariners and Royals – produced fewer than Howard’s 23 home runs from their DH spot in 2014.
Amaro probably is right when he says the Phillies are better off without Howard. They aren’t going to compete for a playoff berth in 2015, and they need to find out if Darin Ruf is an everyday first baseman.
But a few AL clubs should give Howard a second look before dismissing him.
And Amaro needs to shut up and let the AL teams come to him.