Phillies sign Howard to 5-year, $125 million extension

Ryan Howard is hitting .275 with 3 home runs and 16 RBI so far this season. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Phillies have locked up their slugging first baseman with the richest deal in franchise history.

Ryan Howard has signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension, the team announced Monday. There is a club option for a sixth year, meaning the deal could reach $138 million in total value if the option is exercised.

Howard would have been a free agent after the 2011 season.

When the deal kicks in, Howard, 30, will become the highest paid player in franchise history. Roy Halladay's deal pays him $20 million per season as a Phillie. The average annual salary of Howard's deal is larger.

Currently, the only player with a higher average annual salary than Howard's in 2012 and beyond is New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

The contract breaks down like this:

2012: $20 million
2013: $20 million
2014: $25 million
2015: $25 million
2016: $25 million
2017: $23 million club option with $10 million buyout

The deal also included a limited no-trade clause and awards bonuses.

In 2016, the final guaranteed year of the deal, Howard will be 36 years old.

Howard is making $19 million in 2010. He is due to make $20 million in 2011. So Howard will not see a raise in his salary in the first two years of the extension, which has to be considered a coup for the Phillies. If Howard would have gone on the open market after the 2011 season, he assuredly would have had an instant raise in 2012.

The $125 million contract extension is the 14th largest contract ever signed in baseball history. When the deal kicks in, Howard would be the highest paid first baseman in the majors based on average annual salary. Of course, by 2012, that could very well change considering Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez are all due new contracts.

Obviously, the Phillies have put their eggs in one very large basket. What does this mean for impending free agent Jayson Werth? Hard to say. The Phillies' chances of re-signing Werth after this season were already slim. If Werth wants a five- or six-year deal similar to those given to Jason Bay and Matt Holliday this past off-season, the Phillies could decide they already have too much invested.

As it stands, with Howard's $20 million added to the equation, the Phillies have $84.45 million committed to seven players in 2012. (That includes a $1.5 million buyout on Brad Lidge's contract.)

But consider this: One of the Phillies' buzz words in the off-season was "cost certainty." The Phillies locked up players like Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Carlos Ruiz to three-year deals. Because Howard won't see a raise in his salary until 2014, the Phillies remain somewhat flexible in their payroll. Enough to sign Werth? It will be challenging.

The last time the Phillies invested this much in a first baseman, they signed Jim Thome to a six-year, $85 million contract. Thome was 32 when he signed his deal.

Howard's last contract he signed with the Phillies before the 2009 season was for three years, $54 million

Howard, a fifth-round pick in 2001, is hitting .275 with three home runs and 16 RBIs this season. Since becoming an everyday player on July 1, 2005, Howard leads all major league players in home runs (222) and RBI (650).

He is fifth on the Phillies' all-time home run list.

Howard, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel will meet with reporters at 7:30 p.m. (East Coast time) before Monday night's game at AT&T Park.

Much, much more to come...