Follow-Up: Howard Deal Shakes Phillies’ Foundation

Jim Salisbury writes today about how Ryan Howard’s arbitration “could translate into a huge season.” Well, anything can translate into a huge season, and from what we’ve seen from Howard, he’s only capable of huge seasons.

Let’s be honest here — Howard’s win strikes very imminently for the Phillies.

The Phillies were 7-0 in arbitration deals before yesterday, and were the only team left undefeated in that category. The Phils have taken pride in their ability to stay out of arbitration cases, showing they can settle with players and keep their team well grounded in a upper-middle level payroll year after year.

Ryan Howard changed all that — if there was one player who could change it, he was the one. Howard’s 129 homers in 410 games illustrate his power. He has quickly ascended to the top of the slugging food chain in the Majors, surpassing larger-than-life players such as David Ortiz in the threat category. His blasts are more music than sports. His personality is booming; moreover, as a black superstar speaking fluent English, he’s easily one of baseball’s most marketable and liked men.

Howard won $10MM for 2008 because his resume was too strong. It was too strong to succumb under the past; it was too strong not to set a precedent. Now it’s too strong for the Phillies. Talk of a deal that could amount to $200MM has been thrown out there. A long-term deal with Howard earning $20MM per year isn’t a stretch.

The Phillies have never faced this problem before. Never. When they inked Jim Thome and Billy Wagner, they doled out big deals, but the franchise also had a slew of cheap players to balance the payroll. Now Howard is worthy of league-best money while the team has to deal with other big-time players: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels. And with these players and more in their primes, it’ll be extremely difficult — hell, impossible — for the Phillies to keep everyone and happy.

Unless they become big-market.

To me, the Howard arbitration win throws a hammer onto the Phillies traditional missive. Suddenly the Phils are faced with a query — sink into a mid-level, small-market system and let Howard walk off, or give Ryan his big deal when the time comes and become a solid big-market empire. To me, it’s a no-brainer: In a top-5 sports market, as the market’s most popular team, as a now annual playoff and World Series contender, with its major competition and closest franchises being the top-three payrolls, the Phils have to step up and become big-market. Run to $150MM. Hell, go farther.

But make no mistake, the Howard deal has shaken the very foundation of the Philadelphia Phillies. And the foundation’s strength will be tested until the Phillies make their final move on No. 6.

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  1. Sean P.

    February 22, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I think the Phillies should stop thinking about signing Howard until 2010, and just go to arbitration each year. At least he’ll be getting paid what he’s worth year to year. A long term deal is already elevated to a point where the Phils aren’t willing to pay. If he is still a great player thats commanding enormous amounts of money at the end of 2010 and he only cares about making the money and isn’t willing to work with the Phils, then trade him. There would probably be lots of teams willing to give up their farm system for a spectacular player like Ryne Howard, even at 32.

  2. GregLuzinskiIsCrying

    February 22, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Great News Sports fans!!!!!!!!!

    Tim you make an excellent point about the phillies being at the crossroads. They need to think very hard about what they will do next, compete with payroll ala kansas city, or bump it up to NY,Boston, LA spending?

    Im betting they stay the same and start trading the players 1 year before they start to decrease in value. I feel for you fans, as sports fans sitting in a big market with small market owners. You have the core of a very good team, and could go to 140M or so and get outstanding pitching, and dominate, but the ownership will never do that. You know that and thats sad.

    As a mets fan, I’m ecstatic. Ryan Howard is a monster, you know it and I know it, and all of your bloggers have put forth scenarios where they trade Howard for prospects, and players, acknowledging they will lose him. How can u be fans of a team when you know your team will trade your best players rather than pay them what they are worth and give the team a fair chance at competing year after year. Say what you want about the Wilpons, but they will spend for a good team, and they want to win, not just make money.

    How can these teams have a meaningful rivalry whjen you wont spend any money to keep the teams competitive. Howard will be tradedbefore 2011, same with Utley and Rollins.

    That is just sad

  3. PHILLIES #1 Fan

    February 22, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Heard Howard uses HGH

  4. Sebastian

    February 23, 2008 at 12:21 am

    As much as I hate to say it, our best hope for future sustainability is that Howard whiffs as much this year as last and has a down year before he becomes a free-agent so that we can lock him up for the long haul. But I think the problem is going to be that Howard, Rollins, Utley and King Cole can’t all get the long-term payouts that they will eventually command: not in Philly, at least. And who knows what will happen if Burrell continues streaking from the second half of last year. I fear that we will always be locked into the underdog role. Maybe Gillick’s replacement will have something else to say on the matter, and maybe management has found a roster that they’re willing to go all the way with consistently, but I doubt it.

  5. MDefl

    February 23, 2008 at 10:16 am

    The fact is that ownership is making a ton of $ on the Phils. They CAN afford to sign everyone. In addition, the Comcast deal is expiring in the next year or 2 (I think) and the Phils will see a significant revenue increase in revenue with the next contract.

    Chase Utley is signed through 2013 or 14. He is locked in but he signed for less than market value. Rollins is locked through 2011. If the Phillies management and the invisible owners had any brains, they would sign Howard to a 7 year 150 to 160m deal and be done with it. If they wait until 2011, he will command, even at 32, 200m over 7 years.

    The Phils are making too much money to not lock him up. If they do not, then I think they would not resign Rollins in 2011. By 2013 The Bank will be a ghost town. Sign him now! Also, please stop using Amaro as the front man. He is the most annoying person in baseball.

  6. MDefl

    February 23, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Also, imagine what Howard will get in arbitration next year if he has a year that is in between 06 and 07. Let’s say 54 hr’s and 145 RBI’s with a 280 to 290 ba. He would probably get $20m in arbitration. It makes no sense to let him continue to kick the Phils butts in arbitration.

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