One of baseball’s former elite stars appears to be on the comeback trail.
Yesterday, the Colorado Rockies announced the signing of former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard to a minor league deal. The veteran slugger will report to the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Rockies’ triple-A affiliate.
The 37-year-old Howard hasn’t played in the majors this season. He last played in 2016, hitting a career worst .196 in 331 at-bats with 25 homers. Following the season, the Phillies declined his $23 million option for 2017.
Howard, the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year and 2006 NL MVP, has spent his entire MLB career with Philadelphia which began with 39 at-bats in September 2004. As a rookie he hit .288/.356/.567 in 88 games with 22 homers, and his breakout MVP campaign saw him lead the majors with 58 homers, 149 RBIs, and 383 total bases. In addition, he was a World Series champion in 2008, and the 2009 NLCS MVP.
It’s no secret that Howard’s performance has been steadily declining. From 2006-2011 he averaged 153 games, 43 homers, and 132 RBIs a season while hitting .273 and slugging .559. In the last five years though, those marks have dropped greatly to 109 games, 19 homers, and 66 RBIs with average/slugging marks of .226/.427.
Overall, this is a decent pickup for the Rockies. It’s definitely worth a shot. If Howard performs well enough in triple-A, he could be in the majors before September when the rosters expand. What he’d do is give Colorado a power hitter off the bench as well as another option at first base in addition to Mark Reynolds who’s struggled offensively since July, and 22-year-old top prospect Ryan McMahon who was called up on Friday (can also play third base).
This is a great opportunity for Howard to rediscover some of the power he possessed early in his career. Playing in Colorado’s thin can definitely help that, assuming he makes it to the big club. For an aging slugger well past his prime, you’d think it’s a perfect fit.
Since Howard was limited to 71 games in 2012 and 80 the following year due to injuries, he appeared in 153, 129, and 112 games, respectively, the next three. Despite just a .219 average in those three seasons, he’s averaged 29 homers and 95 RBIs per 162 games since 2014. So the potential to be productive is still there, when he is in fact on the field. He may not hit for average, but he can still hit you a big dinger. Definitely a move that could give the Rockies solid insurance.
Overall, Howard’s a career .258/.343/.515 hitter with 382 homers and 1,194 RBIs.