Aug 31, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) hits an RBI double against the New York Mets during the fourth inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
This year the Tampa Bay Rays disappointed, and it was primarily because of their offense. The Rays ranked 27th in all of baseball in runs scored, and their .367 SLG was 25th in the league. Thus, it makes sense that the Rays could try to add a power bat this offseason. However, they have already stated an intent to lower payroll, so to bring in a power bat they are going to need to get creative. Could they do this by trading for Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies?
Not too long ago, Howard was one of the premier hitters in all of baseball. From 2005 to 2011, the lefty first baseman slashed ..275/.368/.550 with 284 home runs, good for an average of 42 home runs per year. Since then, however, Howard has been disappointing. He played just 151 games combined in 2012 and 2013 thanks to injury issues, and he hit a relatively disappointing .244/.307/.455. The Phillies hoped that with Howard finally healthy in 2014, he might regain some of his previous form. But in 153 games this year, Howard hit just .223/.310/.380 with 190 strikeouts.
Because of that, Howard is someone that the Phillies could look to trade this offseason. The problem for them is that Howard is owed $60 million over the next two seasons, which makes him almost completely undesirable via trade. Yet reports say that the Phillies might be willing to eat most or all of that money to simply get Howard off of the roster.
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That is where the Rays come in. Howard has certainly been disappointing the last three seasons, and he is getting less and less desirable as a player. But, he represents an intriguing way to add a potential power bat to a lineup at a cheap cost given the Phillies potential willingness to eat a significant portion of his contract.
Even though Howard had a rough season in 2014, he really wasn’t that bad in 2012 and 2013. Relative to his standards those two seasons were disappointing, but he still slugged .455 over that time, a mark that no Rays hitters surpassed in 2014. If he could rebound even to hit the same way he hit in 2012 and 2013, Howard would be a nice piece to add a bit of pop as the Rays’ designated hitter.
The amount it would take to get Howard all depends on how much of his contract the Phillies would be paying. In the Rays case, they would need almost all of the contract paid, so they would need to give up a piece with at least some value. The Rays have a host of close to the big leagues relievers, and if they were willing to deal someone young and controllable like Jake Thompson, it might be enough to entice the Phillies to pay all but say $5 million of Howard’s remaining salary. Or they could deal away a higher-upside guy like Nolan Gannon who is a ways off from the big leagues. It would take something of value to get the Phillies to eat his contract, but it would not cost the Rays one of their top prospects.
The Rays are going to need to get creative to add a power bat, and trading for Howard is a way they could do just that. There would be little risk in acquiring him if the Phillies were willing to all but a small portion of his contract, and it would come with the upside of adding a much-needed power hitter in the designated hitter spot. This is just one way the Rays could explore an offensive upgrade, but it is certainly one that could come to fruition.