Both sides are just being smart:
I was talking to a fellow Daily News writer the other night, hashing through this Ryan Howard situation, when it struck me: in a way, Thursday’s verdict was the best possible out-come for both sides.
When you really think about it, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for either side to agree to a long-term contract extension in order to avoid arbitration. It would have made sense for the Phillies if Howard was willing to trade in some future earnings in exchange for long-term financial stability. And it would have made sense for Howard if the Phillies would have agreed to the sort of landmark deal he and agent Casey Close are inevitably seeking.
But short of either situation, the best thing for both sides was to go through arbitration, then wait to see how 2008 plays out.
In short, 2008 is the money year for both sides.
Though the Phillies obviously would have rather won this case, at least they know now that Howard’s worth is $10 million a year. Chance are, had they signed him to a long-term deal, they would have been paying more than that anyway. For example, let’s say Howard was willing to accept a seven-year, 100 million dollar deal like Pujols received a few years back. He’d be making, in all likelihood, around 14 million this season. Instead, he’s making 10. Which is less than 14, which saves the Phils money.
If he were a free agent after next season or even the season following, it might make a little more sense. But the Phillies control him for the next four seasons. There’s no rush.
Sure, many fans will use this as an example of the Phillies reputation – fair or unfair – of being “cheap.” But it simply doesn’t make sense to give a player a record contract four years before free agency, particularly when he is coming off a year in which he hit .268 and struck out 199 times.
Same thing from Howard’s perspective: this is baseball, so salaries are only going to increase over the next few seasons. And, chances are, the Phillies are only going to make more money. Attendance will likely be up this season, and if they put together a postseason run, there is no telling how much revenue may increase. So they’ll have more disposable cash next season. The pay-roll is already 94.1 million, and that’s not taking into consideration seven players. So the Phils seem guaranteed to eclipse last year’s record pay-roll (around $96.5 million). So the pot will only be bigger a year from now.
From my perspective, 2008 is the money year: if Howard goes out and cuts his strikeouts down by 50, and hits .300, and hits 40+ home runs, and 120+ RBI, he’ll prove that he’s worth a landmark deal.
And from the Phillies perspective, it will make more sense to sign him to that type of deal.
If his average dips to .260, and he still strikes out close to 200 times, then the Phillies will seem a lot more justified in their hesitation to agree to such a contract.
Either way, it doesn’t make sense to either party to agree to a number above or below what they currently see as appropriate.
Just my two cents. . .