SAN FRANCISCO -- About to jump on a conference call with Ryan Howard's agent, Casey Close, but for now, here are some of the most interesting answers from the press conference that just ended with Howard and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
AMARO: We just felt it was good timing for us. We felt like No. 1, he's one of the elite offensive players in the game. We could have waited another year-and-a-half or so and dealt with it later on, but the fact of the matter is we decided that he's that important to our organization and our future. We decided to go ahead and work something out with Casey and it worked quite well.
Did the market of other first basemen (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez) play a factor in doing it now?
HOWARD: I know that all of us were going to be free agents around the same time. I think the decision was based more for myself. It wasn't trying to live off what Albert might get or what Prince might get. It was look after myself in this situation. I wanted to stay in Philadelphia. I've had fun here. The fans have been great. The organization has been great. I'm glad we were able to reach the agreement and now I can focus on going out there and just playing ball.
You could be 37 when it ends. What's the risk involved?
AMARO: I think that we're blessed as an organization with guys who take a lot of pride in their craft and what they do. Ryan is one of those guys. Ryan has clearly dedicated himself to being a very complete player. He's worked on his defense. He's worked on a variety of ways to make himself a more complete player. He has a special attribute with his power and run-production that not many in the history of the game have been able to accomplish. Yet he continues to try and work to be a better player. When we commit these kind of dollars and these kind of years to a player, it's not just because of what he does on the field as an athlete but it's also as a person. To me and to our organization and to our fans, he's not just a special athlete, he's a special person. And that makes a difference.
HOWARD: For me, the production and whatnot, it's just a matter of going out there and continuing to do what I've been doing over the last couple of years, which is trying to stay ahead in my training. Just making sure my body is staying good and staying healthy is the most important thing. I feel that what I've been doing over the last couple of years, I feel pretty confident that down the road, I'll be right where I want to be and doing the same thing.
Do you still have payroll flexibility with this deal?
AMARO: We tried to design the contract in a way that we can. Our goal remains the same: put a championship team on the field year in and year out. We feel the way the we structured the contract gives us a little bit of flexibility to be able to do that as far as Jayson [Werth] and Jimmy [Rollins] and other that will be become free agents in the not so distant future. Natually we’d like to keep all those guys. We’ll go on a case by case basis … Hopefully we can keep this group together, but we’ll see how the pieces of the puzzle are fitting for us.
Do you see this as a market-setting deal?
AMARO: Ryan earned this contract with what he’s done. Very few can say they’ve done what he’s done and in some categories there’s none. ... He kind of set the market for himself. … We don’t view it as a market setting deal. We think it’s an equitable deal for both sides and it’s something he deserves. There’s always risk when you’re doing guaranteed deals but with what Ryan has done and what we think he’ll do in the future I think it’s a good risk.
Read Tuesday's Inquirer for full coverage.