Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported yesterday that:
They are intent on dumping first baseman Ryan Howard and the remaining $60 million on his contract, but after finding no takers during the season, they have surprising interest from a small-market club with one baseball's lowest payrolls.
. . . [I]f the Phillies are willing to eat most of the contract, the Royals have had internal discussions about acquiring him.
They believe he just might be the perfect fit to replace Billy Butler as their everyday DH, and considering they didn't have a single player hit 20 homers or drive in 75 runs last year, he may be the power threat the Royals need to return to the World Series.
Ryan Howard, who turns 35 in eight days, has been not particularly good for three full seasons now. This past season marked the first in the past three in which he played in more than 80 games. His triple-slash over the past three seasons has been .233/.309/.412. Despite having hit 48 home runs and driving in 194 runs in that time, Howard has been worth a dismal -1.0 fWAR and -1.5 rWAR thanks in large part to a .312 wOBA and 96 wRC+ put up while playing first base.
While Howard's defensive reputation is terrible, his UZR/150 over the past three seasons is only -4.9. Obviously that's not good, but it's not nearly as horrendous as one would have assumed it would be.
Unfortunately, the fact that his defense is merely bad, not horrifying, makes the fact that he has been at least one win below replacement value at first base over the past three seasons in total all the more worrisome. It is not as though the Royals are looking at a National League first baseman whose defense is so bad that it is doing serious harm to his value. No, his relative worthlessness is derived from the fact that he does not appear able to hit anymore.
Any discussion of Ryan Howard must also include the fact that he is set to make $25MM in each of the next two seasons and that the club option for 2017 at the same figure has a $10MM buyout attached to it. In other words, Ryan Howard is due to rake in $60MM to likely be terrible.
How much money would the Phillies have to kick in to make an oft-injured, non-hitting, below-replacement level full-time DH make sense for the Royals? His production over the past three seasons in terms of $/WAR would have been a cumulative -$4.5MM.
Unless the Phillies are going to pay the Royals somewhere between $65MM and $70MM to put Ryan Howard on their 25-man roster--which would be both hilarious and $5MM-to-$10MM more than Howard is set to make--it is difficult to see how Howard fits on this roster.
When adding the point that Howard led the majors in strikeouts again this past season--something to which the Royals as an organization are extremely averse--it makes even less sense for the Royals to be considering adding Howard. The varied maladies affecting his left leg over his career that have caused him to miss 222 days of the regular season, most of which has come over the past three calendar years, make his acquisition even more suspect.
Teams wanting to get back to the World Series would be better served not inserting someone projected to be worth -0.6 fWAR into the lineup in 2015.