Why A Ryan Howard Trade Makes Sense

Ruben Amaro did all of his chores this off-season. Maybe he didn’t do them as satisfactorily as we would have preferred, but he did them, damn it. He signed a third baseman, acquired an ace starter he could sign to a multi-year extension, bolstered the bench, and added depth to the bullpen. He also avoided going to arbitration with Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and Chad Durbin.

The only chore left on the list is to determine the fate of right fielder — and cultivator of the beard that fried the Interwebs — Jayson Werth.

On Twitter, I briefly jawed with @Phylan of Fire Ruben Amaro and @Phrontiersman of Phillies Nation, discussing the possibility that Placido Polanco will only be the Phillies’ third baseman for the duration of the 2010 season, and then will move to second for 2011-12 following a trade of Ryan Howard and a shift to first base for Chase Utley. In my hypothetical, the trade of Howard would allow the Phillies to clear enough payroll space to re-sign Werth.

Phylan and Phrontiersman, rightly so, questioned if it was worth moving Utley’s bat and glove to a lesser position. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.

Placido Polanco

CHONE projects Polanco to be worth about 4 batting runs in 2010.

Additionally, CHONE projects Polanco to be worth about 6 fielding runs (obviously not from softball bats), but it’s based on his previous playing time at second base. As you know, Polanco will be manning the hot corner in Philadelphia, a position he hasn’t played full-time since 2002. Projecting him to be average (0 fielding runs) is optimistic, but let’s use it — again, for simplicity.

Polanco would get about 21.5 replacement-level runs if he were to accrue 650 PA. And then to adjust for position, we would give Polanco 2.5 runs (second and third base, as well as center field, add 2.5 runs).

All told, Polanco the third baseman is worth 4+ 0 + 21.5 + 2.5 = 28 runs above replacement, which roughly translates into 2.8 wins above replacement.

Polanco the second baseman is worth 4 + 6 + 21.5 + 2.5 = 34 runs above replacement, or about 3.4 WAR.

Going forward, the calculations will follow the same formula, so I won’t spell them out every step of the way. The positional adjustments are found here.

Chase Utley

Would Chase Utley be as good a defender at first base as he is at second? In a sample size roughly 36 times smaller, Chase has put up a 16.2 UZR/150 at first base (200 defensive innings) compared to a 15.5 at second (7200 defensive innings).

Most of his defensive value at second base stems from his range. On average, he’s good for about 14.5 range runs per 1,350 defensive innings, compared to 0.2 double play runs and 0.2 error runs. Utley’s performance in a very limited sample has shown that he has similar range at first base, but it needs to be regressed to the mean.

  • Double play runs: -0.2
  • Range runs: 1.8
  • Error runs: 0.5
  • Total: 2.1

CHONE projects him to provide about 4 fielding runs at second base.

Chase the second baseman: 33 + 4 + 21.5 + 2.5 = 61 RAR, 6.1 WAR

Chase the first baseman: 33 + 2 + 21.5 – 12.5 = 44 RAR, 4.4 WAR

We have to figure the value of Jayson Werth, Ryan Howard, and replacements at RF and 3B for 2011 and 1B for 2012. For the sake of argument, we’ll use CHONE’s WAR projection for 2010.

  • Werth: 4.7 WAR
  • Howard: 4.4 WAR

Again, for the sake of argument, we’ll assume the Phillies find an average player to fill in at right field, third base, and first base.

  • Average RF: 0 + 0 + 21.5 – 7.5 = 14 RAR, 1.4 WAR
  • Average 3B: 0 + 0 + 21.5 + 2.5 = 24 RAR, 2.4 WAR
  • Average 1B: 0 + 0 + 21.5 – 12.5 = 9 RAR, 0.9 WAR

Now we add it all up:

  • Utley, 1B: 4.4 WAR
  • Polanco, 2B: 3.4 WAR
  • Replacement 3B: 2.4 WAR
  • Werth: 4.7 WAR
  • Total: 14.9 WAR

The status quo:

  • Howard, 1B: 4.4 WAR
  • Utley, 2B: 6.1 WAR
  • Polanco, 3B: 2.8 WAR
  • Replacement RF: 1.4 WAR
  • Total: 14.7 WAR

Making the trade would cost the Phillies roughly one-fifth of a win above replacement. Of course, trading Howard with one year left on his contract would allow the Phillies the flexibility to sign Werth for several years (three + option most likely). In 2012, the Phillies would be getting about 15 WAR if they trade Howard, while getting only 11.2 WAR if Werth leaves after 2010 and let Howard leaves after 2011.

Plus, a Howard trade could net them prospects and some players who can help out at the big league level, perhaps someone who could contribute at an above-average level at third base. The Phillies’ Minor League system at present has only two prospects whom Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranks as four-star or better: Domonic Brown and Phillippe Aumont.

Like the trade of Cliff Lee, the short-term benefits of a Ryan Howard trade are marginal at best, but down the road such a maneuver would have benefits. In fact, the Lee trade is a perfect analogy: trading a star player with just one year remaining before free agency to acquire/retain someone else (Roy Halladay/Jayson Werth) who is locked up for a longer period of time.

I think that, based on the data, the domino effect of trading Ryan Howard is worth starting, but only if it was a lock that Werth would re-sign at a reasonable price. The Phillies could trade Howard and escape from his entire $20 million salary in 2011 (the more money they want to clear, the less they get back in terms of talent. Then they would re-sign Jayson Werth to a three-year, $50 million deal that is backloaded, paying him $13 million in ’11 and $18.5 million each in ’12 and ’13.

That would save the Phillies $7 million in 2011, with $125 million committed to 17 players. The top 17 Phillies this year are making a combined $136 million, so the team would actually be in better financial shape next year to round out the roster.

In short, trading Ryan Howard after the 2010 season allows the Phillies to:

  • Clear payroll space
  • Retain Jayson Werth
  • Replenish the farm system and/or acquire a productive third baseman
  • Stay competitive in 2012 and beyond, when the Phillies can lose as many as eight other players to free agency

As for caveats, there are a few. My methods for deriving the players’ level of production is somewhat arbitrary. For specificity, you would want to account for aging for all parties involved. Also excluded was base running which adds even more to the case to trade Howard, who is not a productive runner. I used CHONE projections; others may prefer another system such as PECOTA. There is also scarcity to account for, as it’s easier to find average first basemen than third basemen. Lastly, there are other scenarios in which Ryan Howard is traded that don’t involve moving Utley to first base.

Overall, though, I think I touched the most important bases. Feel free to comment and add to my case or to present a counter-argument.

Leave a Reply

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99 comments

  1. Phil Cherry

    February 26, 2010 02:48 PM

    The amount of INTANGIBLES being thrown around here are baffling. Howard is not the Phillies top position player (no, that would be Chase Utley) and is set for a major regression as time passes. The math bears out quite a simple argument, that trading Ryan Howard and then mixing and matching could be exactly what the Phillies need to continue being competitive.

    For all the people hollering about the 2009 Playoffs and Ryan Howard’s worth, let’s remember this guy also holds the record for World Series strikeouts.

  2. Davis

    February 26, 2010 03:08 PM

    Trading Howard isn’t a horrible idea if it means your keeping Werth. Simply replacing Werth with Dom Brown and keeping Howard makes this line-up even more vulnerable to left-handed pitching. This line-up has to have at least one big right-handed bat.

    As far as position changes, you won’t lose defense by moving Utley to first and sliding Polanco to second. Polanco is a gold glove fielder at second. This trade makes sense if you get a solid third baseman and two high level prospects (including a pitcher).

    Right or wrong, the Phillies seem determined not to let their payroll go much higher. As a result, some decisions the fans aren’t going to like will be made.

  3. MplsPhilliesFan

    February 26, 2010 03:50 PM

    I realize I may be opening myself up to quite a bit of hate, but I just do not see the argument that Howard is an irreplaceable, once in a lifetime player. Is he good, yes, absolutely. He is also, y all accounts, an excellent teammate and a very nice, intelligent young man. However, he is not the best position player on this team and his accomplishments have been overstated. According to baseball-reference, Howard has never lead the NL in Slugging or OPS, although he has done well when looking at Total Bases and Extra Base hits.

    No one is saying he is a bad player, but he is someone for whom there are not a lot of comparable values in history but whose body type suggests he may not age gracefully.

    Combine those facts with what we expect to be very high salary demands and it becomes logical to at least explore trading him after the 2010 season to maximize his value

  4. chris

    February 26, 2010 06:59 PM

    so how does your stupid rating system analyze a down year or an injury. Why would you wanna keep jayson werth over ryan howard? lets see you could have a player putting up historic numbers, numbers that only babe ruth and sammy sosa put up, or you could have a player who had one good season, has a shitty work ethic, but shows promise. Ill take the garuntee for an extra 8-10 mil. Look at the numbers that worked for a 150 years, not the numbers some nerd made to adjust for bs. how about this stat geeks, why dont you actually watch the game instead of trying to be gm’s. go play mlb the show

  5. chris

    February 26, 2010 07:03 PM

    who caees about strikeouts, if hes doesnt have the highest slugging or ops who cares, as i recall he has been in the top 2 in hr’s and rbi’s in all of major league baseball. so you can have the guy who gets a walk with a man on second. ill take the guy who strikes out trying to drive the run in. idiots

  6. Phrontiersman

    February 26, 2010 07:06 PM

    Yo, Chris, calm down. It’s baseball. You obviously don’t take the modern approach to evaluating talent, but that doesn’t entitle you to spout off in a derogatory fashion.

  7. PaapFly.com

    February 26, 2010 07:30 PM

    James, Matt, Austin, Vollmer, Brad C – if you don’t like the content, go read the garbage the beat writers and mainstream media write. You scream and rant about how Howard is basically the greatest player ever, but provide no evidence. Utley is a far greater player, but you probably don’t understand that. His (Howards) accomplishments are inflated by ballpark, but most importantly, because he has a guy like Utley constantly on in front of him.

    You sound precisely like the Yankees fans on the fangraphs, tigers thread yesterday. If you want to pretend it’s 1941, go ahead. Just don’t try and drag your ignorant beliefs into an intelligent baseball discussion.

  8. PaapFly.com

    February 26, 2010 07:33 PM

    Hey Chris, pssst, RBI are meaningless. Don’t faint.

  9. AirBed Guy

    February 26, 2010 07:42 PM

    Trading Howard makes sense if you can move Ibanez to first. He is the biggest defensive liability on the team, so the further you can get him away from the outfield, the better.

    Trading Howard also makes sense if you can get a strong SS, C or 3B prospect in return, areas where the Phillies are sorely lacking.

    This summer will truly establish his value and whether or not a deal is actually possible. The Padres are almost certain to move Gonzalez and Howard will have more value than Gonzalez. That said, what teams have the money to spend $20 mm a season on a 1B? Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Mets, Dodgers, Giants, and White Sox. Yankees are set a 1b, and my guess is that the Phillies would prefer to trade Howard to an AL team so that eliminates the Dodgers, Mets and Giants, which leaves you the Red Sox, Angels and White Sox. Red Sox have already talked to the Padres about a trade. If that deal goes down, there will be a slim market for Howard.

  10. PaapFly.com

    February 26, 2010 07:49 PM

    Howard has LESS value. He is way more expensive, and quite frankly, not nearly as good.

  11. MG

    February 26, 2010 09:34 PM

    You are putting together one of the best Phils’ blogs out there. This was well-thought out with plenty of rationale justifications.

    Only question is this – besides the huge public relations hit the Phils would take from trading Howard (likely most popular fan favorite after Utley) – What teams are going to be able to take on a $20M salary for a 1B and what effects will the impending FA of both Fielder and A. Gonzalez the following offseason have on Howard’s trade value?

    Howard is a very good player and his power is very hard to replace but I just don’t know how much he brings in return with only a year left on his contract, limited places he could be traded to, and the impending FA of Fielder and A. Gonzalez the following season.

  12. John

    February 26, 2010 10:46 PM

    Just keep them both and put the best team on the field… Stupid idea to trade Howard

  13. deebo

    February 26, 2010 11:05 PM

    1B is infinitely easier to replace than RF. if howard can be traded to the BoSox for a SP and SS candidate the phils could sign dan uggla to play either 2B or 1B with utley manning the other. howard’s .270 BA and 200 k’s are the important stats. if you can surpass his OBP the HRs and RBI become less important because they get picked up by #5 and #6. the strikeouts don’t move any available runers along. get some prospects and let him go and be a freakshow in the AL. werth can slide into the cleanup spot, take hs 7 pitches each at bat and go 290/35/120 every year provided the leadoff guy has an OBP of .350 plus.

  14. Mike P

    February 27, 2010 01:05 AM

    Bill,

    I don’t necessarily agree with your analysis, but I can appreciate the detail and care that you employed to assemble it. As always, well done.

    @Paapfly

    I can understand that Howard benefits from having Utley in front of him, but let’s keep in mind that Werth also benefits from having Howard (and Utley) in front of him. How would he respond to losing this kind of protection? It’s hard to say.

    My biggest problem with moving Howard is that the current Phillies lineup is centered around Howard in the 4th position. Moving Howard changes the pitches that Utley sees (with Howard behind him) and that Werth sees (with Howard in front of him). All things considered, I think that Howard is a more important piece of the lineup, and that the Phils could cope with losing Werth, while losing Howard would be crippling to the lineup. But, Bill, I certainly understand your logic.

    Of course, I’m talking more about current stats and less about projected stats. That’s what makes this question so difficult. Nobody likes trying to predict the future.

    In all, I think it’s an impossibly difficult decision, and I’m glad that I’m not the one who has to make it.

  15. Phrontiersman

    February 27, 2010 01:55 AM

    Mike,

    Can you point me in the direction of research that confirms how protection affects pitches seen and, as a result, batter performance?

  16. Michael N

    February 27, 2010 07:27 AM

    Are we so use to Howard’s production that we think it can be easily be made up. No offense to Werth but keeping him at around 15mil a season while trading away Howard is just not the right move. I think we should be looking at somebody that would be willing to take on Ibanez contract then allocating that money to Howard and Werth to keep them here long term. Then we could move up Dom Brown to take over left or right and would then put up the best outfield defense in baseball. Boy how I wish we had sign Burrell for a year or 2 then we would be able to keep both of these players.

  17. chris

    February 27, 2010 11:15 AM

    rbi’s are meaningless??? you just proved my point about how dumb stat geeks really are.

    to your modern point dont make me laugh. you dont watch baseball, i was in the first row of everygme in the 2009 season and saw everypitch everyone faced. ryan howards value > than jayson werths.

    why would the red sox do that trade for a sp and a ss and why the hell do you want dan uggla. you guys are idiots go to a game watch it and enjoy the season when yuo have both. but i know none of you will do that, instead of watching the game youll have your calculator out trying to figure out numbers that mean nothing.

    “i could hit .400 too if i didnt swing for the fences.” _ruth

    yea i know another player that thinks like that, and is the only player in the major to put up similar stats. Ryan howard

  18. chris

    February 27, 2010 11:23 AM

    and why would chase utley go to first base when if he keeps playing he’ll be right there with jeff kent and rogers hornsby as the best 2bs of all time

  19. Mike P

    February 27, 2010 12:59 PM

    @Phrontiersman

    It’s true. I don’t have any stats to suggest that “protection” in a lineup or that hitting in a stronger lineup makes a significant difference in a hitter’s stats. In my response, I was trying to counter Paapfly’s point about Howard benefiting from hitting behind Utley by suggesting that Utley could also benefit from hitting in front of Howard or that Werth could benefit from hitting behind Howard. In doing so, I accepted his terms of the debate. I suppose one could have responded by questioning those terms and saying “What proof do you have that Howard’s stats are better because he hits behind Utley?”, but I didn’t feel like that would get us anywhere.

    I guess the most scientific way to deal with this would be to examine Howard’s stats when Utley’s out of the lineup, but that would take far more time than I can afford to invest in baseball stats on a Saturday afternoon. Plus, given the relatively small sample size, I’m not sure how much it would tell us.

  20. derekcarstairs

    February 27, 2010 07:42 PM

    Bill – What you are saying essentially is that the Phillies would have just as good a team by getting rid of Howard, shifting a couple of defensive positions and replacing Howard’s bat with an average 3B (maybe a Jhonny Peralta). When looked at this way, your suggestion is ludicrous.

    I think the real problem here is misapplication of WAR. I think WAR is good at certain player comparisons, but such player comparisons are inadequate for lineup construction, identification of the synergistic effects of various player combinations, evaluation of complex player transactions or prediction of the results of baseball games (After all, the bottom line is winning baseball games, and the question before us is this: would the Phils win more games with Howard at 1B or Peralta at 3B?).

    Just considering offense, I think it would be easy to put together a winning lineup in WAR terms by just selecting nine sluggers who strike out a lot. In real baseball, however, an ideal lineup could be formed with a split of guys with high OBP, low strikeouts and little power and other guys with high OPS. The first team would win a WAR contest on paper. The second team would win more actual games.

    Let me drive my point home further with this snippet. We know that three consecutive solo homers is no better than two walks followed by a HR. Yet, in WAR terms, the former suggests a much better result than the latter.

    Has anyone ever attempted to go over the performances of players in actual MLB games to compare the actual scores with what WAR would have produced? Or any other existing sabermetric measure? Has anyone ever attempted to incorporate the randomness of hitting events in measuring performance?

    I am a believer in sabermetrics, Bill James and his descendants, but the science has many remaining unsolved problems. Sabermetrics is much more sophisticated than fantasy baseball, but much less so than the game itself.

  21. Bradley

    February 27, 2010 08:43 PM

    why in the world would we trade a younger guy who produces 40+ hrs and 120+ rbis evry year over an older guy who produces 30+ hrs and 100+ rbis every year? i certainly don’t want to lose Werth, he’s a fantastic player, but cmon trade howard and we lose that big power lefty in our lineup that we need. plus this whole WAR thing is absolutely pathetic…. move polanco back to 2nd and utley to 1st???? cmon now

  22. derekcarstairs

    February 27, 2010 10:45 PM

    Bill – I re-read your post and realize that your suggestion is not ludicrous since you assume either Werth or Howard will go. Sorry about my characterization. I do not agree, however, that it is inevitable that either will go. My first post here discusses that.

    I also do not agree with your use of WAR to shape the Phils’ lineup for the reasons I set forth in my second post.

  23. PaapFly.com

    February 28, 2010 07:06 AM

    Chris – I can’t speak for others, but I do watch baseball, as often as I can, in fact. RBI counts aren’t particularly useful for understanding a hitters utility, but that’s fine if you disagree. I’m sure you believe the good old W is the end all for pitchers too, good luck with that. Oh, and we use Excel, not a calculator.

  24. PaapFly.com

    February 28, 2010 07:16 AM

    I was speaking mostly to Howards inflated numbers regarding RBI. Utley is on constantly and runs so well. He’s clearly the superior player to Howard. He’s prob the best 2B in the NL 5 straight years defensively. Also, his wOBA generally higher because he gets on more… What’s more, way better runner and mucher better contact percentage. Howards a good, borderline great hitter. Not taking away from him. It’s just people always highlight the RBI which is a mistake. His oppo power and overall power is legendary though. I’d need to see Werth at another home yard and for a year or 2 longer to really be sold on him… He’s a good player. I’m Just not sure he’s very very good overall just yet. Late bloomer for sure though… Like Utley.

  25. Bojangles

    February 28, 2010 11:27 AM

    THIS JUST IN: HOWARD to METS for fernando martinez, oliver perez, pat misch, luis castillo, and daniel murphy.

    Great move by the phils. Not only do they free up cap room for werth but they also get a .300 hitter in castillo. fernando martinez best prospect for the mets enough said. If perez is really in the best shape of his life he could give you a respectable 15-6 record. All in all great move by the phils just dnt know why they traded him to a division rival

  26. Bradley

    February 28, 2010 12:40 PM

    nobody listen to bojangles…he is my stupid Mets fan cousin he’s just tryin to rouse up a rumor (nice goin bryson)

  27. Bojangles

    February 28, 2010 03:00 PM

    why would i try to start a rumor about howard coming to the mets because he strikes out every year at least 200 times think about that

  28. bill

    February 28, 2010 06:14 PM

    One word can sum up this article….Ridiculous!!! Because we essentially trade for Polanco who hasn’t played the position since 2002, so we can trade Howard to keep Werth, definitely worth keeping I might add, he WILL continue to improve I think, is NOT, I repeat NOT a valid enough reason to trade Howard. Regardless of his paycheck, Howard impresses me in a single way. Despite the massive home run barrage he displays year after year, he is not content on just doing enough, he wants the game on his shoulder, he is constantly trying to make strides to improve his overall game and he is a competitor; which I think by nature, is the most important. Competitors want to win every game not just the important ones, and that’s passion, that’s the stuff that gets teams going, you need that in the dugout and simply replacing that to free cap room I’m sorry is not enough to warrant those remarks. SORRY!!! You hope to have people like that in your dugout and with Ryan Howard you do.

  29. Phylan

    February 28, 2010 06:42 PM

    So it’s ridiculous because you’ve certified Howard as a “competitor” by your own personal definition, which is relevant to actual production how exactly?

  30. Danny

    February 28, 2010 06:52 PM

    First, stop noting Ryan Howard’s RBI averages. Just stop it. RBI production has a lot to do with the entire lineup, and anyone in the cleanup spot in the Phillies’ current lineup would put up monster RBI totals.

    For anybody that notes how Howard is “feared” or “ultra-competitive” or any of that garbage, just quit it. People who say that just don’t have a sound argument, so that serves as a fallback option.

    “He wants the game on his shoulder?” Give me a break. So does Greg Dobbs.

    “He is making strides to improve his overall game, and he is a competitor.” So is Ben Francisco.

    Numbers are what tells the story, not these awful intangibles arguments. And what I see in numbers is a below-average defensive first baseman with massive power and average ability to get on base. All in all, he’s a slightly above average player. Definitely not worth $20MM/yr, and definitely not worth that down the road once he hits 32 or 33 years old.

    If the Phillies are able to find equal value as far as prospects/MLB-ready players from another team, you have to strongly consider moving him.

    Personally, I think Utley should stay at second since he plays the best defense at that position in the majors. Just go to fieldingbible.com to see those statistics.

    Utley is by far the best player on this team, not Howard…regardless of what you may think. That’s just a fact of life.

  31. Danny

    February 28, 2010 06:58 PM

    I realize you all want Ryan Howard to play for the Phillies through 2078 for $3MM/yr, but a) he wants a lot of money, and b) he eventually will die.

    I think the city is just so attached to the guy….people can’t comprehend his leaving.

    And to think, good ol’ Ed Wade almost traded Howard to LA for Andy LaRoche. That would have gone over well…right?

  32. Phillies

    February 28, 2010 07:45 PM

    Trading howard to la for larache would have been disaterous even tho i never heard that rumor although laroche would have less k’s than howard.

  33. derekcarstairs

    February 28, 2010 10:13 PM

    The issue of what to do about Howard is a real issue that requires a real solution to be implemented sometime between the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2012. To speak in theoretical terms like “finding equal value” is not a solution.

    So, all of you in favor of letting Howard go, step up to the plate and propose a specific solution and name some names. Answer these questions:
    1. Will you trade Howard after 2010 or let him become a free agent after 2011?
    2. If you trade Howard, which teams are potential trade partners and what potential packages are available in return? It’s a much tougher problem to speak about specific players than it is to talk about players of X value or equal to Y WAR. Once you start naming names in specific transactions then we can evaluate more clearly the merits of your solutions.
    3. If you let Howard become a free agent after 2011, how will you replace him and how much money will you spend? If you will sign other free agents, which ones; who will you be bidding against; and how much will you offer to each free agent. Take a look at the potential free agent list, and identify your targets.
    4. Once you have completed your series of transactions after 2010 or 2011, what is resulting your new lineup and/or your resulting five-man rotation in 2011 or 2012?

    Finally, after you have competed your transactions, will the Phils remain an elite team (i.e., a top three team)? If the answer is “no, but they will remain competitive”, then your solution falls short.

  34. Tommy Bunz

    March 01, 2010 08:13 AM

    My thoughts and what I believe will happen in the future:

    1. Chase Utley is staying at second.
    2. Phillies are going to resign Werth, 3 years, $45 million, with an option for a 4th year. I don’t think he’ll get more than that on the open market, although he probably should. Amaro is under strict “win now orders” and will keep Jayson who is quite clearly our best outfielder. Amaro will try very hard to move Ibanez on his final year of his contract in 2011. This will most likely be a giveaway like Abreu was to the Yankees in 2006. If he can’t move Raul then Dom Brown will just have to wait til 2012 for his debut. The Phillies have a history of being slow to progress top prospects to the majors (Utley & Howard, etc.).
    3. Phillies try to negotiate with Howard on an extension but let him walk when his agents/family keep pushing for a landmark deal (his family thinks he’s in line for ARod money). Howard gets a bit of shock when he gets less attention in free agency than either Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder and ends up signing a long-term deal for less annually than he is making right now ($20 mil). Either with us or the San Francisco Giants.

  35. Jack F

    March 01, 2010 09:31 AM

    Dang, a lot of comments, but I didn’t see one about this idea: The problem is that you want to move Utley off 2nd. He’s too valuable to risk there and Polanco is a MUCH better player at 2nd. So switch them. Don’t worry about Howard. If anyone can handle a move to 3rd, it’s Utley. And he has the bat to justify. I think this configuration will give max WAR but it’s up to you to run the numbers. Check it out.

  36. Cutter

    March 01, 2010 01:31 PM

    This is ridiculous on so many levels. I realize that part of this scenario looks to the future, but you don’t trade away the best power hitter in baseball when you’ve got a core capable of winning the World Series.

    And can we see Werth play more than one season as a full time regular before dismantling the team for him?

  37. tcbphd

    March 01, 2010 01:51 PM

    It’s nice to know that your team would be willing to consider bold actions–like trading Howard. What I think makes this such a golden era for the Phillies is the combination of reasonable, evidence-based decision-making AND the ability to put a team together that has good chemistry.

    There’s a lot of debate about “clutch” and a general discounting of “chemistry” in SABResque discussions. But I think that intangibles make a difference. You can’t assign a WAR for “able to shake off a bad loss” or “feels good coming to the park early.” Or maybe you can . . . take the mean number of players per cab after a road loss . . .

  38. phatti

    March 01, 2010 02:30 PM

    @Danny
    If you want to make the argument that Howard is overrated, or RBI totals don’t matter that much, fine, I might support you on that. But you’re way overshooting your mark calling him “slightly above average.”

    Howard has the #6 OPS of all active players, and most of the people in the top ten are a lot older than he.

    His WAR was #27 last year. By WAR, Howard was worth 21 million last year, and has been worth an average of $20 mil per full season throughout his career.

    Howard is a very good player. Overrated maybe, but still very good, and he has been a big part of the Phillies’ success.

  39. Jon

    March 01, 2010 04:32 PM

    I just wanted to write that I got a big chuckle out of an article that estimates positive “Wins Above Replacement” for a replacement 3B and replacement RF. Maybe it’s realistic as a projection, but semantically it’s a disaster.

    I think it’s likely these personnel decisions will be made by the market for Ryan Howard and his demands, who remains productive and wants to stay in Philadelphia, what players the Phillies developed, etc. If there’s one thing that’s made clear by this article and the comments, it’s that the benefits to the Phillies are not clear-cut either way, so their decision point should remain sensitive to contingencies as they arise.

  40. Mike Savino

    March 02, 2010 07:55 AM

    @ Phatti

    Doesn’t that make Ryan Howard very likely to be overpaid within the next few years? Since he’s pretty much getting paid what he’s worth now and he’ll either get a raise or decline? Lets be honest here, Phillies fans…you can’t expect Howard to get much better.

    Just curious, people. I’m a Padres fan living in Philly. Just for the record. But as the Phillies are rapidly becoming my second team…don’t you want to build for future success? Nobody liked the Cliff Lee trade, huh. I think it makes sense for the Phillies to let some other team take the enormous risk of Ryan Howard aging badly. And the risk of the $20+ mm its going to cost. And the risk of the prospects blossoming for the Phillies.

    Doesn’t that make sense? Howards value will likely NEVER be higher than it is now and if you’re Ruben Amaro…who the hell wants to be the guy releasing Ryan Howard five years into a 7 year contract? Or explaining in your next interview how “Howard had intangibles” and that’s why you signed him to an albatross contract that screwed your organization? And that’s why your doing an interview because the Phillies fired you for allowing this collection of all-stars to turn into a terrible, last place team because they all got old and injured and looked like the 2009 Mets.

    And Domonic Brown is a prospect. Jayson Werth had an amazing season last year and will most likely be harder to replace than a power-hitting first baseman. Really, though, you cannot, simply cannot, expect a guy with a career .430 slugging in the minors to produce on the same level as a 36 home run stud. Not saying you should expect 36 homers from Werth himself ever again. But you get the point–Domonic Brown “replacing” Jayson Werth is far from a sure thing. Domonic Brown becoming an every day major league hitter is far from a sure thing–ignoring Werth’s 128 OPS+ last season ignoring defense. See?

    No, yelling guy, Jayson Werth is not as good as RyHo (what a clever nickname! it took me a second but I just figured out that its the first two letters of his first and last name). Jayson Werth was a top five outfielder last year, though, and has some track record to back it up. Ryan Howard is a top five first baseman–but he’s getting paid a lot of money, is due for another raise and if you’re looking for a slugging first baseman type…well, Jermaine Dye’s out of a job. Carlos Delgado (yes, he’s hurt, I know) was pretty solid for the past few years. Frank Thomas had to retire despite averaging 32 homers for the previous two seasons. You can find power at first base and it certainly doesn’t have to cost $20 mm.

    That’s not so hard, right? Why is this even an angry discussion? The first handful of comments were right in line–yeah, trading Howard kind of makes sense but moving Utley really doesn’t. Then what? He’s clutch? You want him up in the bottom of the ninth? I thought we were done with all that…does that even make sense? If a guy really behaved differently in different game situations, would he be a good enough hitter to make it in the majors? If a guy was really clutch, like he could get a game winning hit more often than just a regular hit, wouldn’t he do that every time? I mean, that’s not even the mathematical point that has been proven over and over and over again. Clutch hitting doesn’t exist or else its so minuscule that hitters can’t demonstrate the ability to repeat clutch hitting year to year.

    But you know what? I’m still a Padres fan. So by all means, scream at Ruben Amaro to keep Ryan Howard for the next ten years. That means the market for AdGo has one less supplier in it…(get it? AdGo? Adrian Gonzalez? No? Meh, eff it.)

  41. schmenkman

    March 03, 2010 05:50 AM

    Mike, I hate to admit it, but you’re right on. And I’m with you on clutch hitting, but since we are already starting to talk about the possible departure of RyHo, I will throw out this tidbit as a reminder of how good he has been: Howard gets a lot of opportunities to drive in runs and some people discount his stats somewhat for that, but over the past 3 years, no one in baseball has driven a higher PERCENTAGE of the runners they are presented than Ryan Howard:

    % of runners on base driven in, 2007-2009 (out of 188 with 750+ PAs):
    1. Ryan Howard 19.1%
    2. Victor Martinez 19.0%
    3. Aramis Ramirez 18.9%
    4. Matt Holliday 18.8%
    5. Joe Mauer 18.4%

    And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Howard has not been helped by CBP. CBP is one of the more fair parks in MLB, consistently boosting scoring by only 3% for the past 3 years (ranking 14th, 15th, and 13th), and while Howard has a slightly higher OPS at home, he has more HRs and RBIs on the road.

  42. Mike Savino

    March 05, 2010 08:28 AM

    Fair enough schmenkman…

    And while there probably is some value to that table…examine it again. Its populated by the best hitters in baseball (although, where’s Pujols?). I’m not saying Ryan Howard is a bad hitter. But wouldn’t you expect any good hitter to have a high %of runners on base driven in? Especially a guy like Howard. Because he’s got a lot of power.

    I’m not discounting Howard’s value as a player. I’m saying that production is being matched by what he is being paid and very likely will be exceeded by his pay. I’m also saying it will be much easier for the Phillies to acquire a decent first baseman than a decent right fielder. And I’m saying Jayson Werth has had what looks to me like an underrated, underappreciated career.

    Don’t get me wrong, Howard is an MVP candidate every year. You also have to consider his aging. And, as I said before, I’m a Padres fan so I always have one eye towards losing the player in free agency. And, no, I don’t think the park has inflated his value. Obviously, its not that different from average, as you pointed out.

    And one other thing–I don’t see the fascination with the draft picks the teams pick up after a free agent leaves. How many of those supplemental picks turn into future stars? Really, I think its a whole lot better for the franchise to get one or two players with a minor league track record. At least they know what they’re getting then. So, yeah, it makes more sense for the Phillies to move Howard and get prospects instead of letting him walk and getting draft picks. I think.

  43. Ej

    March 14, 2010 08:33 PM

    All I have to say about trading Howard is one word…Retarded. To even think of such a thing to trade a guys that gives you 45 hrs and 140 rbis is just a flat out idiotic thing to do especially when this team is made to run for the next 2 to 3 years. Werth has had 1 good year so far..thats it. Corner infielders that hit 270 and give you 100 rbis grow on trees..especially when you put them in this lineup. NO WAY!!!!

  44. Tom

    March 22, 2010 03:35 PM

    I don’t agree with this at all. I like Jayson Werth, but he is no where near as good a hitter as Ryan Howard. I would just let Werth walk and have Brown playing RF. Ryan is an icon and needs to be in Philly for life. Another idea, just pony up the money and resign Werth without giving up anything but money.

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