Monday, April 26, 2010

Ryan Howard: the 2nd highest paid player in baseball?

Today the Philadelphia Phillies signed their All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard to a five year, 125 million dollar contract extension that makes him the second highest player in baseball. This move keeps Howard in a Phillies uniform through at least 2016 while allowing the Phillies the financial flexibility to sign their other key players to keep their best players.

This contract has me scratching my head because it seems like the Phillies overpaid to keep Ryan Howard in Philadelphia. First I view Howard as the second best player on the Phillies. Chase Utley is right now the best overall player on the roster and Jayson Werth is a very close third behind Howard. Howard has not made it clear that he really should be the second highest salary in baseball, especially when he isn’t that much better overall then Utley or Werth. Utley is a better overall hitter and Werth is a better all around player then Howard. So then when it comes time to re-sign Jayson Werth at the end of this season and Shortstop Jimmy Rollins (a top 5 talent at his position) at the end of next season, how much do you have to pay them to keep them in Philly? Will they be willing to take a “hometown discount” or will they during contract negotiations point to what Howard is making and say “Why cant I make close to what he is getting?” It’s a dicey situation the Phillies have put themselves in.

Secondly it should be considered the fact that Ryan Howard is considered by the so-called experts to be the fourth best 1st baseman in Major League Baseball (MLB). The top player at the 1st base position is Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hands down; Pujols is the best overall hitter in baseball and is a very good fielder too. Pujols could end his career as one of the top three players in baseball history. So why is Howard being paid right now 6 million more dollars then Pujols? I wonder what the Phillies logic is paying him this much money.

As for the other players who are labeled as better then Howard is more so debatable. “Experts” claim that Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees and Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres are better overall 1st basemen then Ryan Howard. Well let’s look at the numbers because they don’t have any bias. Look at the averages for Howard, Teixeira, and Gonzalez over the last three seasons:

*Ryan Howard – HR: 46, RBI: 141, Batting average: .266, fielding percentage: .989
*Mark Teixeira – HR: 34, RBI: 117, Batting average: .302, fielding percentage: .996
*Adrian Gonzalez – HR: 35, RBI: 106, Batting average: .282, fielding percentage: .995

In the home runs and runs batted in categories Howard dominates the other two players. But the other two players are much better then Ryan Howard in batting average and fielding. But this discussion is suppose to be about the best overall player. Yes Howard strikes out much more than most players of his skill level, his production is top notch. Also most of his fielding errors are on throws while he does a great job receiving the ball at 1st base so having his fielding percentage is a bit relative. Yet Teixeira is making now 2 million dollars less then Howard.

But the player who I think might be better than Ryan Howard but doesn’t get much recognition is Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Just take a look at the three year average of the same statistics:

*Prince Fielder – HR: 43, RBI: 120, Batting average: .287, fielding percentage: .990

As you can see Fielder’s home run numbers are closer to Howard while his batting average and fielding percentage statistics are better. Also Fielder has better RBI and batting average numbers then Adrian Gonzalez. But Fielder is making only 2 million dollars more than Gonzalez while making 15 million dollars less then Howard.

So while Howard is one of the best power hitters and a top 5 1st baseman in MLB one should question if he really worth 25 million dollars when better overall 1st basemen like Pujols and Fielder are making much less money than him. I think the Phillies hit the panic button and overpaid to keep Howard happy. A Phillies fan has to be concerned if the team will cry “poor” when going to re-sign their other great players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth. The Phillies said they couldn’t afford to resign Pitcher Cliff Lee then acquired Pitcher Roy Halladay and signed him to a 3 year, 60 million dollar contract extension. It seems like to me the Phillies are not being smart with their money. They can’t afford to be the New York Yankees, especially when they showed in last year’s World Series they don’t play better then them.

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