The Phillies and Ryan Howard agreed today to a 1-year, $900,000 contract extension. Howard came into the day as an unsigned player not eligible for salary arbitration, which means the Phillies did not technically have to throw money at the reigning NL MVP. The reality of the situation however, demanded the Phils show some love to their superstar who made only $355,000 last season. The figure of $900,000 is a reasonable sum to this end - it is the largest amount given to a player with less than two years service time. I think more so than the dollar amount, the timing of the signing is important. Today was the first day teams could sign players in Howard’s position. So after a winter of negotiating and stuffing Chase Utley’s piggybank, the Phillies demonstrated their commitment to Howard.
A long-term deal, though discussed, was ultimately put on hold. Howard does not become a free agent until 2011 so there is time to work that out…unless of course Ryan is injured or it turns out his best years are behind him. But if Howard performs and stays healthy, he will get paid – it is hard to believe the Phillies brass would be so daft not to. I trust Ruben Amaro when he says, "It is our goal to keep our star players in pinstripes and we’re going to work to that end. We didn’t get to the finish line on this, but we’ll have continued talks on this one."
The difficulty of this situation lies in the fact that teams pay a player based on what they expect he will do in the future, not what he did in the past. That is why player projection is such a valued business. For Howard to make $900,000 in 2007 thus is an agreeable sum. Hopefully being underpaid will motivate him to continue dominating the league, even though I don’t think money motivates this guy. After all, if you watched his HBO Real Sports interview, he still receives an allowance from his mom.
UPDATE: Ryan Howard absolutely crushed a ball today in Clearwater. The home run off Cleveland’s Rafael Betancourt not only soared past the batter’s eye but also over a second fence. He literally hit it out of the park. The Phils won 6-4 behind Brett Myers and are now 1-1 in the Grapefruit League.