Ryan Howard downplays 10-and-5 status with Phillies

Phillies' Ryan Howard celebrates after hitting a first-inning three-run home run with teammates Chase Utley and Odubel Herrera against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, April 26, 2015 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

MIAMI - Ryan Howard Friday became the Phillies' all-time leader in games played at first base. He past Fred Luderus, who played 1,298 games at first game for the Phillies from 1910-20.

Saturday, Howard reaches another career milestone. Howard's major league service time reaches 10 years.

"It means I've been in the league for 10 years," Howard said. "That's an endeavor in itself."

And that's true. But, as a player with 10 years of big-league service time and at least the last five years with the same team, Howard also earns this: the right to refuse any trade.

"I wasn't even really thinking all that much about it," Howard said yesterday afternoon at Marlins Park. "I mean I knew it was coming, but again . . . I wasn't paying attention to it the way [the media] payattention to it."

Howard, whom the Phillies attempted to trade this past winter, has a full no-trade clause beginning today. But, in reality, he actually has had a trade clause that was nearly the equivalent of a full no-trade since shortly before Christmas.

Before the Phillies traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers in mid-December, Rollins wanted a clause written into his contract so that he could not be traded again without his consent. Rollins was approving a deal to the Dodgers, but he was set to lose his 10-and-5 rights once the trade was commenced.

He didn't want Los Angeles to have the ability to flip him to another team.

How does that affect Howard? The five-year, $125 million contract he signed on April 26, 2010, included a most favored nation trade protection. What's that mean? Howard gets the benefits of any no-trade protection in the contract of any teammate who signs after him.

So when Cliff Lee signed as a free agent before the 2011 season, the trade protection in his contract also became the trade protection in Howard's contract. If any player had received a full no trade clause in a free-agent contract since 2010, Howard also would have received a full no-trade clause.

The most favored nation trade protection was voted out of baseball's most recent Basic Agreement; anyone who already had it in their contract, like Howard, was grandfathered in.

In conclusion: Because of the clause placed into Rollins' contract before the December trade to the Dodgers, Howard could have only been traded to the Dodgers without his consent before today. As of today, he cannot be traded to any team without his approval.

Would that impede Howard from leaving if a trade possibility arose?

"I'm not going to get into all of that, that kind of talk," Howard said. "Tomorrow is my 10-and-5; we'll take it as it is. I'm 10-and-5 tomorrow. We can celebrate that."

Perhaps any trade talk involving Howard is wasted breath, anyway. Howard entered the 2015 season with $60 million still owed to him from his aforementioned contract and has seen his offensive production decline steeply since undergoing Achilles' surgery 3 1/2 years ago.

But the trade protection Howard received last winter does probably explain the awkward conversation the team's longtime first baseman had with Amaro in the winter.

Shortly after the Rollins' trade, Amaro acknowledged in a radio interview that he had told Howard the Phillies would be better off without him in 2015. Before the Phillies reported to spring training, Amaro personally apologized to Howard for those comments.

Howard entered play Friday hitting .194 with a team-high four home runs in 20 games.

Manager Ryne Sandberg promoted Howard back to the fourth spot in his lineup on Thursday and had him in the same spot when the Phillies' opened a four-game series in Miami. Sandberg credited Howard for a new pregame regimen and better recognition of the strike zone.

"I think his overall work ethic and routine should start to show on the field," Sandberg said. "I've seen the progress in the past week of stinging the ball and making good contact. And to do that, he's had to have a routine that has him swing a lot, because that allows him to have some bat speed."

Howard went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. It was Howard's first multi-strikeout game in 10 games.

Howard had struck out in five of his previous 35 plate appearances (14 percent). He struck out in 29 percent of his plate appearances (190 in 648) last season.



On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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