The Phils have another loss to add to their all-time total. Ryan Howard defeated his employers in the eyes of an arbitration panel and was awarded $10 million, leaving the Phils holding the bag for an extra $3M.
The total is the most ever awarded to a player with only three years of service time, and the most awarded to a player on the winning side of arbitration. The Phils hired Tal Smith, President of Operations for the Houston Astros, as a consultant, but Smith and the Phils failed to convince the panel that Howard was only worth $7 million after deliberating with them for close to four hours yesterday in a St. Petersburg hotel. Instead, they agreed with Casey Close, Howard's agent, that the 28-year-old slugger was worthy of a new high-watermark for salary arbitration. Howard won Rookie of the Year and MVP in back-to-back years; only Cal Ripken has done it before. Howard's win becomes the first by a player this year in arbitration, and the record now stands at 5-1 in favor of the owners.
Beerleaguer: The Phillies reportedly met with Close the night before to hash out a deal before sitting down at the table yesterday, worried about a possible "make-up call" by the arbiters, as FoxSports Ken Rosenthal put it last night on "Daily News Live." Rosenthal also reported that Howard's father has played a significant role in this process, pushing for the kind of money that would put him into the upper-strata of MLB players. For that to happen, the best road for Howard would be through season-by-season deals until free agency, especially now that he gets the ball rolling at $10M.
This is great news for Howard, who deserves it, but may be bad news for fans wanting to see the big guy finish his career in red pinstripes. Looking into the crystal ball, and knowing the way the Phils operate, Howard will be here this season, and next season, but the Phils could start getting the itch to move him by 2010 or 2011, at which point they could entertain the notion of shifting Chase Utley or someone else to first and test the market for Howard, who will fit into their self-imposed salary cap like a whale in a fish tank. There could be roster ramifications, for instance, whether they make an offer to Pat Burrell at the end of the season.
The other option, of course, is to suck it up, forget about 2011, treat the next four years like a window of opportunity, step on the gas and go for it.