Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Mariners could all benefit by adding the home run power of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. It’s difficult to imagine how the left-handed slugger would fit into the Seattle’s 2015-16 plans for several reasons.
Howard has two more years remaining on his five-year/$125 million contract, plus a $10 million buyout for his $23 million club-option in 2017. His salary will be a major hurdle to any trade. Rosenthal suggests that Philadelphia would probably need to be willing to pay a significant amount of Howard’s remaining salary, so that his new team would obligated to pay him $7-10 million annually. Even at that reduced amount, bringing the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player to Seattle would be cost-prohibitive and an inefficient use of resources.
The Mariners have demonstrated a willingness to increase their payroll, which could reach a team-record $120 million if the arbitration cases of eight eligible players adds an estimated $19 million, as expected. Next off-season will be even more challenging as the team will once again have eight arbitration-eligible players and everal key players eligible for free agency, including starting pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and J.A. Happ, closer Fernando Rodney, and center fielder Austin Jackson. Any money obligated to Howard would be better utilized on retaining the team’s own players and/or acquiring replacements.
Durability and decline
Prior to suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon during the 2011 National League Division Series, the 35-year-old slugger had averaged 153 games over six seasons. Since then, he’s missed the first half of 2012 while recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and then the second half of 2013 after undergoing surgery in July to repair a torn left meniscus.
In 2014, Howard bounced back by playing in 153 games, although he endured the worst full-season performance of his 11-year career posting a .223/.310/.380 triple slash and striking out 190 times. Despite being far less productive at the plate, the three-time all-star did manage to hit 23 home runs, which was 30th best in the majors.
Normally, adding a player as costly as Howard signals that the player will be an everyday contributor; there’s no place for the slugger in the projected Mariner’s 2015 daily lineup. The two most natural fits would be designated hitter and first base and neither is currently available. The team is obligating $57 million over the next four seasons to free agent slugger Nelson Cruz to be their primary designated hitter and Seattle already has a left-handed first baseman, Logan Morrison, who is eight years younger and much cheaper than the 2005 National League Rookie of the Year. The 27-year-old Mariners first baseman, provided more value to his team in 2014 with a 1.6 fWAR and only stands to make an estimated $2.6 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
Adding an aging left-handed slugger, who only can play positions occupied by better players would be a redundant move and an inefficient use of Seattle’s resources. Based on numerous interview comments during this off-season by Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik, he won’t negatively impact his long-term plan to keep the Mariners competitive for many seasons beyond 2015. Adding Ryan Howard would negatively the team’s roster and payroll flexibility. Thereby, he is not a fit for the Seattle Mariners.
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