Five questions: Making sense of Howard's new deal

Ryan Howard smiles as he talks about his five-year, $125 million contract extension. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

There is plenty of info to come on the five-year, $125 million contract extension Ryan Howard agreed to earlier today. For all the nuts and bolts of the deal, see our previous post. In the meantime, we'll look at some FAQs concerning the deal.

This started as three questions, and will likely grow throughout the day.

1. What does this mean?

It means that the Phillies are planning on building around Howard, Roy Halladay and Chase Utley for the next four seasons. Those three players are the only ones on the roster signed through the 2013 season. Utley's contract expires after 2013. The Phillies have a club option on Halladay for 2014. Howard, obviously, is signed through 2016.

Here is the money the Phillies have allocated through the end of Howard's deal, according to Daily News records:

2012: $82.75 million to Halladay, Howard, Utley, Victorino, Blanton, Polanco, Ruiz (Lidge option; Hamels, Happ, Francisco arb eligible)
2013: $55.0 million to Halladay, Howard, Utley (Polanco, Ruiz club options; Happ, Francisco arb eligible)
2014: $45 million to Howard and Halladay (assuming option vests)
2015: $25 million to Howard
2016: $25 million to Howard

Jimmy Rollins is signed through 2011.

2. How does Howard's contract compare?

The market was set last year by the Yankees when they signed Mark Teixeira to an eight year, $180 million contract that runs from 2009-16. Like Teixeira's, Howard's contract runs through 2016. Like Teixeira, he will be 36 years old in the final guaranteed year of his deal. Howard's contract guarantees him $12.5 million more than Teixeira will earn over the last five years of his deal, from his 32nd birthday through his 36th.

One key difference is that Teixeira has a full no-trade clause. Howard has a limited no-trade clause (at this point, I'm not sure how limited), which for the Phillies could wind up being more valuable than $12.5 million.

On the other hand, Teixeira's deal was signed when he was on the open market. The Phillies weren't negotiating against anybody else with Howard's deal.

Teixeira deal
2009 (29): $20.0
2010 (30): $20.0
2011 (31): $22.5
2012 (32): $22.5
2013 (33): $22.5
2014 (34): $22.5
2015 (35): $22.5
2016 (36): $22.5

Howard deal
2012 (32): $20.0
2013 (33): $20.0
2014 (34): $25.0
2015 (35): $25.0
2016 (36): $25.0
2017 (37): $10.0 (guaranteed)/$23.0 (if option exercised)

3. How does the contract affect the Phillies ability to re-sign Jayson Werth?

Not as much as you might think. It might affect their willingness to give Werth a long-term deal at his market rate, but Howard's contract does not eliminate the possibility. The extension takes effect in 2012, when the Phillies now have $84.25 million guaranteed to Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz, along with a $1.5 million buyout to Brad Lidge if they don't pick up his $12.5 million option. This number does not include Cole Hamels, who will be eligible for arbitration after making $9.5 million in 2011. Hamels is eligible for free agency after 2012. It also doesn't include salaries for J.A. Happ and Ben Francisco, both of whom will be arbitration eligible.

So the Phillies still have plenty of payroll flexibility in 2012. The Howard deal does not affect their flexibility for next season, when they have $130.85 million guaranteed to 15 players.

The doubt about the Phillies' ability to sign Werth centers around next year, since they have just $9.15 million of available cash before they hit this year's Opening Day roster total of about $140 million, and 10 active roster vacancies to fill.

4. What was that anguished scream echoing across the Mississippi River I just heard?

That would be John Mozeliak, general manager of the Cardinals. Perhaps part of the Phillies' strategy was to either get Albert Pujols traded out of the National League or bankrupt St. Louis in the years to come. Regardless of what you think of the extension, the Phillies set an early market for future free agents like Pujols and Prince Fielder a year-and-a-half before they had to.

5. So why now?

It's going to be a big question posed to Ruben Amaro Jr. later on this evening. I'm not surprised that they decided to sign Howard now, but I would've thought that any deal would come only as a result of some obvious concessions on Howard's part. I thought there might be a chance that the two sides re-worked these next two seasons as well, giving the Phillies a better opportunity to sign a guy like Jayson Werth. Perhaps cutting Howard's salary a tad next season and then adding it on in the form of deferred money or some back-loaded years.