Ruben Amaro must really hate confrontation. Faced with his first big arbitration hearing of his short career as Phillies' G.M., he decided to cut out the back-and-forth dickering and all that arguing mumbo-jumbo and just wrote a big fat check to his big fat first baseman. Ryan Howard was offered $14 million earlier this winter by the team but he wanted $18 million in arbitration. No matter, he'll make his desired amount three times over in the next three seasons as his new contract is worth $54 million. Do you have any idea how many five-dollar footlongs that can buy? My rudimentary arithmetic says "enough to block up his bowels for the next 83,297 ice ages".
So, is he worth it? Last summer I compared Howard to Mo Vaughn which is akin to comparing your favorite musician to Creed. Howard just turned 30 in November and has pretty much started his career decline, typical among power-hitting, poorly-fielding first basemen. His slugging percentage and on-base percentage have dropped noticeably the last three seasons while his strikeout rate has remained about the same. Perhaps the only real good news is that his defense isn't getting any worse, but that's mostly because it's really hard to earn a grade lower than "F minus minus".
But Howard still has value, and most projections have him rebounding from a somewhat under-performing 2008 season. The man could strike out three times a game and still provide value to his team with his tater tots, free Subway sandwiches, and all-around jovial mood. The three-year $54 million deal buys out his remaining arbitration-eligible years and will leave him a free agent after 2011; Amaro is assuming that his value will not drop precipitously until that point so I'm going to call this a good deal for both the team and the player. As long as Ryan's mom keeps doling out his allowance and investing the rest of the $54 million, Howard should be comfortable the rest of his life, even if he's out of baseball at age 34 like Cecil Fielder.
(photograph stolen from Flickr user ebot)