The slugger is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career. The manner in which the Phillies handle it could shape the club for years.
They say the Phillies were a team of MVPs in 2007. More to the point, they were a team of overlapping MVPs at various segments over the six-month season. Jimmy Rollins won the award for a great campaign from start to finish. Aaron Rowand had that kind of season, too, staying consistent and exceeding expectations. Chase Utley was better than both for about two-thirds of the season. Ryan Howard needed time on the disabled list before putting up MVP-caliber numbers. And don't forget Pat Burrell, who ruled over July and August.
While the award ultimately went to the right Phillie, the most impressive stretch may have been Howard’s final four months. After returning from the disabled list May 25, he was baseball’s best power hitter, drilling 41 homers and 113 RBIs to finish with 47 and 136, good enough to finish fifth in the MVP voting.
Since entering the league, he leads all players in home runs (125) and RBIs (344). No player has ever reached 100 home runs faster. He also entered the history books with the dubious distinction of setting the single season strikeout mark with 199.
In a time when blinding power – natural or otherwise – is drying up, the Phillies are sitting on the best in the biz. And now they must pay the man.
The Phillies have hinted their off-season work is done, but the biggest move always figured to be the Howard contract. At minimum, he will cost them $9 million for a season, but they may be prepared to offer a mega-deal beyond his arbitration years, similar to the one Albert Pujols signed with the Cards.
Expect minor wheeling and dealing between now and the new year, fly specks compared to the one looming later this winter .