Getting up to speed on the business of Phillies baseball.
Ryan Howard’s search for a new agent is worth its own thread, but isn’t an issue I have much desire to discuss or compare with recent Phillies history. The reigning National League MVP is seeking new representation and is staring at a modest raise by today's standards. According to the Daily News, the Phillies are expected to toss in $1 million over last year’s salary.
As for the unease of feeling all this money going around will lessen Howard’s ambition to drive baseballs into the upper deck: unlikely. That isn’t Ryan, and players understand the pecking order. He’s put in a year-and-a-half of service, four years from the point Jimmy Rollins signed his five-year extension, and over 18 seasons less than the most senior member of the squad.
However, for a player of Howard’s caliber, there’s only one comparison you need to know: Albert Pujols. The Cardinals first baseman put in three full seasons of superstar service before hitting pay dirt. The 2005 MVP avoided his first arbitration to sign a deal worth $100 million over 7 years right before the 2004 season. Expect a comparable timetable for Howard, with a similarly structured deal, making the arbitration years more profitable while locking up a few seasons past free agency. This is a solid pact for all involved, and Howard will stand to earn more than Pujols when it's all said. The Phillies understand their home-run king is a non-issue until after this season, and are treating it as such. Meanwhile, the industry's best agents are jockeying for position to cash in.
The Phillies have more pressing matters, frankly. Marcus Hayes of the Daily News reminds readers this morning the Phils are preparing for arbitration with five players: Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, Geoff Geary, Brett Myers and Aaron Rowand. Utley may have reached the point where the Phillies want to lock him down.
I've thought all along this year's arbitration situations won't be cut-and-dry, and to brace for at least one player to be moved. There are a couple of stars on that list, and it figures to be a difficult challenge for Gillick and crew to get through this unscathed with all players returning. The Phillies haven't gone to arbitration since 2001.
It was also reported today that the Phillies are unlikely to pursue any of the remaining free agent relievers. One possibility could be to wait on what shakes loose from other clubs. It was last year at this time when Texas was able to swing a deal for Vicente Padilla.