Every year during the offseason, rumors fly and folks suggest various trade and signing scenarios. I do this…we all do this to some extent. When there aren’t games taking place, and when there’s not a transaction taking place every day, it leads to speculation and a brainstorming of ideas. I’d like to take some time this offseason to focus on moves that the Indians should avoid at all costs. Not just avoid, but Chris Antonetti should run screaming from any room where these discussions are taking place. I’ll make my case on why the Indians should avoid this move like the plague…perhaps you’ll agree, perhaps you won’t. While I’m often critical of the Indians, they usually seem to avoid these blatantly bad moves each offseason (I hope I didn’t jinx them right there). They can leave those head-scratching moves to teams like the Mets (that Michael Cuddyer deal…am I right?)
First up in this mini series – trading for Ryan Howard.
If you have selective amnesia that causes you to forget the last few seasons, this move could seem almost tempting. Ryan Howard was once an offensive force – he was one of the big players in the Phillies World Series run a few years back, as well as several other seasons of playoff contention. If he could move to the AL and perform primarily as a DH, perhaps he could see a bit of a bounce-back? Guess what? It’s not worth the gamble.
Ryan Howard was so bad last season, that the Phillies seriously considered designating him for assignment and eating the roughly $70 million left on his contract (at the time). That’s not $7 million (which is a lot to pay a released player in the first place)…that’s $70 million. To put that in perspective, the Indians’ 2014 team payroll was just north of $81 million. Granted, Howard’s salary is stretched over the next couple of seasons, but still…that’s an absurd amount of money to just toss out the door. Howard will make $25 million in 2015, and the same in 2016, with an option/buyout in 2017. There’s no team in its right mind that would be willing to take on that salary, so the Phillies either have to find a bigger sucker than them, or eat that money.
So there’s no reason to help them out…let them tango with the date they brought to the dance. Ryan Howard was a negative WAR player in 2014, which means that you could pretty much replicate his performance with any generic player at the major league minimum. He’d been on the decline each year to begin with, but last year he hit just .223/.310/.380 (.690 OPS). We’re already getting that kind of “production” from Nick Swisher, so do we really need another aging, struggling slugger, just hoping against hope that he’ll have a bounce back season? Before you get tempted, think about all of the times Indians fans said to themselves “Just think if Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore are healthy and can have a bounce-back year?!”
At this point in his career, Howard is the kind of player that should get a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Instead, he’ll be paid $25 million in 2015. Unless the Phillies are prepared to eat 100% of that contract, and ask for nothing more than a pack of gum in return, he should be avoided like the plague. If you need more convincing, just Google some variation of the phrase “Ryan Howard terrible contract” and get to work reading the hundreds of articles that pop up.