The non-waiver trade deadline was July 31, but teams are still free to trade players once they have cleared waivers. Waivers creates some difficulty however, since any team can put in a claim and be awarded a player for the waiver fee. Accordingly, the only players that tend to clear waivers the players no one wants.
The few players that do tend to clear waivers for a trade are players with millstone contracts, financial deals no one wants to take on. Which brings us to Ryan Howard. The Philadelphia Phillies have benched the former MVP and ESPN's Jayson Stark reported before the trade deadline that the Phillies were eagerly looking to move the first baseman, but were finding no takers. The Phillies have denied they will release Howard, but obviously any release rumors undercut their ability to trade Howard, so it makes sense to deny this.
Ryan Howard is a 34-year old first baseman who signed a massive 5 year $125 million deal with Philadelphia in 2012. Howard is owed about $8 million the remainder of this season, and $25 million in 2015 and 2016, with a 2017 club option that will certainly be turned down in favor of a $10 million buyout. In short, he is owed $68 million for his services for the next two and a half years.
In 2014, Howard is hitting .215/.297/.366 with 16 HR 63 RBI. His .664 OPS is worse than Wellington Castillo, D.J. LeMahieu, Juan Lagares, Mike Zunino, and yes, Billy Butler. Only 15 players in baseball qualify for the batting title and have a worse on-base percentage than his .297. Howard has also been a massive liability on defense for his entire career, and would thus have to serve as a full-time designated hitter for an American League club. Howard has -0.1 oWAR this year, when looking just at his offensive numbers.
Howard's rough year is not a one year anomaly either. Howard played in just 151 games from 2012-2013 due to injury, hitting just .244/.307/.445. Those numbers improve slightly if you look at his numbers just against right-handed pitchers, but this year he is hitting just .211/.296/.341 against right-handers.
Ryan Howard is a nice story, a local kid whose mom still lives in the area. At his prime, he was a terrific face for the game of baseball, and is probably a good clubhouse guy with post-season experience. He can hit home runs, but at great cost, for when he's not hitting home runs, he's making outs at a terrific rate.
Howard is 34 and has suffered from a torn Achilles heel and torn meniscus in his left knee in recent years. It is hard to see him staying healthy as he ages with his large frame. The Royals have seen how damaging it can be when a full-time designated hitter fails to hit and it seems unwise to try the experiment again with a much older hitter. Even if the Phillies were to absorb the great bulk of Howard's contract without asking for anything in return, it doesn't seem to make much sense to add him to the lineup as a worse hybrid version of Billy Butler and Raul Ibanez.