Ryan Howard grows richer

No more arbitration for Big Ryan:

Ryan Howard just wanted to concentrate on baseball this spring. No squabbles over his contract. No daily questions about his future.

The big slugger got his wish — and a hefty raise, too.

Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a $54 million, three-year contract on Sunday, avoiding a potentially contentious arbitration hearing.

The 2006 NL MVP will earn $15 million this season, $19 million next year and $20 million in 2011. He can increase the base salary by $1 million in each of the last two years if he wins the MVP award during the previous year. He can boost it by $500,000 if he finishes second.

There are two ways to look at this. The first way is to break out your best stat-fu and calculate just how much less valuable a player Howard truly is compared to say, Teixeira or Pujols, and conclude that the Phillies are overpaying him.

The second way to look at this is to conclude that, whatever the annual salary, Howard’s performance can’t be replicated by anything available on the open market, the arbitrators were going to bone you anyway, and hey, Howard is a popular player on the World Series Champs, so why not go a little large?

I suppose a compromise can be reached on the grounds of length — specifically, that it’s a darn good thing that this contract expires before Howard is too far into his 30s — thus mitigating much of the risk of decline he brings. Overpaid? Sure, but it’s better to overpay for three years rather than six.

If Howard declines like many suspect, the Phillies don’t get burned too badly, and Howard is still set for life. If he unexpectedly begins to age like fine wine, the Phillies would have gotten a good return on their investment and Howard sets himself up for another big payday.

So, as much as I hate the phrase, it’s pretty much win-win here.

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  1. VanderBirch said...

    I sort of agree with you Craig. Howard is being massively overpaid. Working with the 40/60/80 scale, the deal suggests Howard would be worth just over $25 million in the last year of his deal, which is ridiculous. He’s a good player, but worth more like $15-18 million in free agency.

    It’s far from a major thing for the Phils. It’s a few extra million, it keeps Howard happy and they likely would have been crushed in arbitration and forced to pay pretty much that amount anyway.

    Nevertheless, the Howard deal continues to highlight the ridiculously inequitable nature of the current baseball salary structure. Some players get screwed (especially young pitchers who start strong then suffer injuries) and others thrive.

    The following are the neutralised stat lines of Ryan Howard (top) and Jack Cust (bottom). Both are 3 year vets, Howard is going to be paid $15 million, Cust $2.8 million.


    Given that disparity, I find it a real joke that the arbitration process is so divorced from actual on-field value (as are the Elias free agent rankings). I also find it a little sickening that exceptional young players, like Hanley Ramirez, have no means of additional reward in their pre-arb years, and make $400k or so while mediocre vets cash big checks for little production. I know many of the MSM talking heads love to prattle on about how free agency salaries are ridiculous, but these salaries are so inflated because teams have huge chunks of spare cash lying around basically extorted from young players.

    Sorry bout that, just needed to get that rant off my chest.

  2. Jamie said...

    I don’t think Howard’s performance can’t be replicated by anything available on the open market, I think it can be pretty much exactly replicated by Adam Dunn. Am I wrong? Anyway, if I’m Dunn’s agent I’m not settling for less than 3 yrs and $54 million now.

  3. Ryan said...

    The other thing that has to be remembered is that Howard was not a free agent until after 2011.  Which meant three arbitration hearings have been avoided that probably would have ended up paying him $18 MM a year on average anyway.  This contract basically avoids the hassle.

  4. Aaron Moreno said...

    I think it’s a win-win. While it’s not the best deal from a pure efficiency standpoint, a comparative analysis will probably show that there’s no similar option. And cost-certainty is nice.

    joe, I know you’re an unbiased and unapologetic Howard fan, so my best suggestion if that you don’t accuse a future Hall of Famer like Pujols of using steroids, because you’ll probable open up your favorite hulking slugger to the same.

  5. joepro said...

    LOL’ing at the comments, no love for the big man!  First of all, this is all in good fun, but I think Howard deserves more credit.  VanderBirch says that Howard is worth $15-18 mil in free agency, and he is getting $18 mil/per in this contract.  Also, you complain that the young players are underpaid, and there is no better example than Howard.  I’m not arguing that point, but it’s a little off the subject.  I know most guys on this site are unapologetic stat-heads and saber metrics gurus, but please don’t tell me rbi’s don’t mean anything anymore.  What does Adam Dunn do better than Ryan Howard?  Walk?  You pay a guy that much to walk?  Ryan Howard wins games.  This is a team sport.  I watched Bobby Abreu take walks for years and the phillies lost as a result.  The guy never had a big hit in his life.  And I will put up Howard vs. Pujols in the “lost 103” records any day.  I’m not saying it’s impossible Howard juiced, but I would put Pujols in the “very suspicious” category.  I do love debate, but I will take Ryan “the windmill” any day over any hitter in the national league except pujols.

  6. GBS said...

    At least joepro did warn us right off the bat that he’s “an unapologetic Ryan Howard fanboi,” so should have known what to expect.

    I do wonder why Pujols is in the “very suspicious” category and Howard isn’t.

  7. joepro said...

    I do wonder why Pujols is in the “very suspicious” category and Howard isn’t.

    Same reason I don’t suspect Cecil Fielder, Curt Schilling, and Jim Thome, to name a few.  Totally unscientific, but summed up in one word: “fat.”  Then again, I do suspect “pudge” Rodriguez.  Hey, nothing would surprise me these days.

  8. joepro said...

    As an unapologetic Ryan Howard fanboi, I can say *without bias* that he is worth the $54 million they are paying him.  But seriously, I’ll give you Pujols, maybe, ok, but Mark Texiera?  How many playoff games has he won?  Not too many.  You can have your OBP plus slugging, batting average, fielding percentage, and strikeouts.  I’ll take Howard’s HR’s and RBI’s, call me old fashioned.  I say this because I personally watch ~ 90% of all Phillies games, and have suffered through some really bad teams for a number of years, and when Howard and Utley came to town, it was obvious things were going to change.  These two guys do so many things that do not show up in a box score, and Phillies’ management is finally realizing this by paying the big man instead of fighting him in arbitration every year and losing.

  9. joepro said...

    As an unbiased Ryan Howard fanboi, I can say *without bias* that he is worth the $54 million they are paying him.  But seriously, I will give you the roid-head Pujols, but Mark Texiera?  How many playoff games has he won?  Not too many.  You can show me his OBP plus slugging, batting average, fielding percentage, and strikeouts, I will take Ryan Howard and his HR’s and RBI’s.  Call me old fashioned. 

    I have watched the phillies for a number of years, and sat through many bad teams.  When Howard and Utley came to town, it became obvious we were going to win something.  Those two guys do so many things that do not show up in a box score.  The Phillies’ management is now realizing this, and have decided it is better to pay howard than fight him in arbitration and lose every year.

  10. joepro said...

    VanderBirch, clearly, we do have different views on baseball.  You sound British, which would lead me to believe you would be more of an authority on cricket.  But regardless, I think everyone is entitled to his opinion.  That said, if math were the only thing involved to win baseball games, then the Yankees would probably win every year.  Which brings me to your point on Bobby Abreu.  You say he didn’t win with the Phillies because he did not have quality players on that team.  But why didn’t he win with the Yankees?

  11. VanderBirch said...

    Why would the math say the Yanks would win every year? Going by the math, one would recognise that no team that makes the playoffs is much stronger than any other team. Therefore, its pretty tough to win consistently in the playoffs. You may believe that the Yanks haven’t won because they are filled with selfish prima donnas like Abreu. I’d say its because the playoffs are tough and something of a crapshoot.

  12. VanderBirch said...

    Please joepro. You and I obviously have very different views on baseball. RBI’s are fairly worthless as a measure of ability, but because Howard cranks out a ton of them, he is overrated by the media and the arbitration system.

    You say Howard ‘wins games’. That is rubbish, and shows a lack of understanding of how baseball actually works. Howard helps the Phils win, and is probably about a 4WAR player at the moment (which is very good), but he was probably the fourth or fifth most valuable Phils position player last year, behind Utley, Rollins, Werth and maybe Victorino. Abreu didn’t win with the Phils because he didn’t have players of that quality on his team.

    I wouldn’t take Dunn over Howard, and I’m not saying he sucks or anything, but the guy is not the unstoppable force people think. Pujols is far, far better, and Howard’s 2nd place MVP finish was a bit of a joke, as there were many far more valuable guys in the NL last year. Considering he is in arb, he is well overpaid.

  13. joepro said...

    Bill B. said…

    I think joepro is a troll. Better not to feed the troll.

    Bill B, I can assure you, I don’t post on here to fire people up, but I feel passionately about my opinion.  Fortunately, I am not alone in the opinion that Ryan Howard is a great player, that Abreu is lazy and self-centered, and that RBIs are a meaningful statistic to evaluate a baseball player.  The problem I have with sabermetrics is that its followers believe it is the be-all-end-all, and indisputable.  I think a lot of it is valid, but I think a baseball game involves a lot more than how many pitches a guy takes per at bat.  I watch the games as a true fan of team sports, and often the individual stats do not add up to a winning formula.  I know that won’t get me a lot of fans on this site, but I truly believe this, and I think it is a valid opinion.  Another blasphemous opinion is that Billy Beane’s A’s were competitive because a lot of his young talented players were on roids, and Bill James’ Red Sox were successful because they paid talented guys a lot of money to play for them.  Ok, I’m done.

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