Prior to the beginning of this season I made a prediction that both Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz would be dealt by the July 31st trade deadline. I took a path of high optimism, thinking Howard would have a renaissance while ‘Chooch’ would be coveted for his veteran presence and ability to handle a pitching staff.
We will start by taking each of these aging veterans back to school and give them their mid-year report cards.
I will admit I was very off-target when I predicted Howard would have a resurgence in 2016.
Very off the mark. Almost in another area code.
The 6’4” first baseman has taken a nose-dive into the pine. He started the year with some questions after hitting .202 in April with five home runs. Some assumed it was just rust he had to shake off.
The following month, when he hit .101 in 23 games, would prove otherwise. Howard has reached a personal “Great Depression” with his stock, batting average and playing time at an all-time low.
The only thing keeping ‘The Big Piece’ from receiving an F in this summer course is the fact that he has a sliver of value coming off the bench and providing the waning ounces of power he still has in his bat.
Overall grade: D –
Chooch has found himself in a mentoring role this season, as he has given way to Cameron Rupp. Many were on the fence about whether or not Rupp could contribute at the major league level, especially with the bat. His arm strength and ability to catch were there, but I was curious to see if his bat speed was sufficient.
Most doubts I had about Rupp have been wiped away given his power (.505 slugging percentage) and ability to come up in clutch situations (.840 OPS with runners on base).
In 118 at bats Ruiz has hit at a .229 clip with three long balls and 11 RBIs, which is nothing spectacular, but his production is not what is keeping him from playing. Ruiz is understanding that his time is up as the Phillies backstop, giving way to a new era. What is nice is that we all know Ruiz is not keeping mum in the dugout. Rather he is teaching and giving guidance to Rupp as well as the pitching staff and anyone else smart enough to listen. Oh, the irony that the student in this article is the teacher for his successor.
Overall grade: B +
At this point it looks to be borderline impossible to convince any team to bite on Howard in regards to a trade, despite it being inevitable that the Phillies would eat a massive amount of his remaining heft contract.
It would also be a waste to trade Ruiz at this point. He has provided excellent leadership for the rebuilding club while serving as a dependable back-up to Rupp. Howard, too, has not created an issue when it comes to playing time which is also a major reason why he is still active on the 25-man roster.
This is not the year for the Phillies to either buy or sell at the deadline. The best move is to do nothing at all.
That is right….nothing.
Keep building from within. There are sold foundations to build upon for both the pitching staff and outfield. Both have been dysfunctional areas for the ball club in the past three seasons.
Stay calm. Even though Howard and Ruiz will be staying pat, the team will continue to grow, stars will emerge, and rally towels will be waving at ‘The Bank’ sooner than you think.