Slugging first baseman Ryan Howard has had a long and successful MLB career. Unfortunately, it does not look like he will get the opportunity to continue to play at the professional level.
Howard, 37, was released from his minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves on Monday. He had been playing for the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett. If Howard had performed well in Triple-A, there was a chance that the Braves would have promoted him to be their backup first baseman. However, he struggled mightily in Triple-A. In 38 at-bats for the Gwinnett Braves, Howard batted just .184 with one home run and five RBIs. He also had 11 strikeouts.
This was not what the Braves envisioned when they signed Howard to a minor league contract back in April. The plan was to have him be the backup to Freddie Freeman. Considering that Freeman is one of the best hitters in baseball for his position, Howard was never going to get a lot of playing time with the Braves. He was fine with this though. All he wanted to do was keep his MLB career alive. After having his contract terminated, this does not seem like it will possible anymore.
It appears as though the end is near for Howard. The chances of another team signing him are very slim. At 37 years of age, he just is not the same power threat that he once was. In his heyday, Howard was one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. Prior to signing with the Braves, he had spent his entire professional career with the Philadelphia Phillies. During his time in Philadelphia, Howard was a three-time All-Star. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2005, a season in which he hit .288 with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs. The following season, he had the best year of his career. Howard belted 58 home runs and drove in 149 runs while batting .313 in 2006. This monster season earned him the 2006 National League MVP Award.
Although Howard’s power numbers have declined over the last few years, he still hit over 20 home runs each of the past three seasons. However, this was not enough to warrant a team having legitimate interest in him as an everyday player in 2017. His contract with the Phillies expired at the end of the 2016 season, and they decided not to re-sign him.
Now that the Braves decided to let Howard go, he may have no choice but to retire. This is obviously not the way that he wanted it to end, but there really is not anything he can do about it. Howard had a good MLB career and was one of the best power hitters of the past decade. Phillies fans will definitely miss him, but those who root for the other teams in the NL East certainly will not. We will see if Howard decides to officially retire sometime within the next few weeks.