Trying to find somebody affiliated with the case who will talk about the looming Ryan Howard arbitration hearing on the record is like trying to find a Chinese official who will talk about the perceived flaws in the governmental structure of the People's Republic. So, in order to glean some insight into the proceedings, we tracked down a few sources who were willing to talk anonymously about their perspective on the process. Two are baseball officials. One is a player agent. None are associated with the Howard case, which means you are essentially reading their opinion. But those opinions are far more informed than those of myself or Paul Hagen.
On another topic, I had an interesting talk with the agent about philosophies regarding long-term contracts. While he had no inside knowledge of the Phillies' negotiations with Casey Close, he did share some general thoughts about the type of factors an agent and the party whom he represents consider when weighing the risk and reward of such a deal. In Howard's case, he was emphatic in his belief that Howard has a good chance to make more money in the short-term by playing the arbitration game three more times. Even if he loses this year, he could expect to make $18 to $20 million next year, and $22 to $25 million in his walk year.
"Ultimately, if you go to arbitraion every year and you are healthy every year and you are productive, you are going to make more money, because you are able to take advantage of the multi year deals that are out there and the arbitration cases," the agent said.
But, he added, "you are rolling the dice." And, he said, Howard would be rolling the dice more than most player who are in their second year of arbitration. Howard, you see, is already 29 years old. He won't be a free agent until he is 32, when wariness about his age and his body type might affect his market.
I'm sure, in a perfect world, Howard would love to get his once-in-a-lifetime contract now. And I'm sure the Phillies would love to give it to him. The tiny sticking point, of course, is how much each side thinks that contract should be worth.