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The Market for Former Phillies Slugger Ryan Howard is Closing Fast

Last November the Philadelphia Phillies declined Ryan Howard’s $23-million option for 2017, ending their 13-year relationship. The 37-year-old is a free agent for the first time in his career and has seemingly entered a market with little to no interest in the once-feared left handed slugger. Howard has made it clear, however, that he has no intention of walking away from baseball.

Howard’s performance has sharply declined in recent years. Although his power numbers remain relatively consistent, he’s watched his batting average and playing time drop. With his time in the National League likely finished, Howard told Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal he’s “open” to becoming a DH after logging almost 1,500 career games at first base. He’s reached the 20-homer plateau in each of his last three seasons and could help a team looking for power from the left side of the plate.

“I think I can still go out there and compete, and compete at a high level,” Howard told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. “I understand that I’m not going to play every single day. With the way that the game has changed, with teams having analytics and all that, I understand all that stuff.”

The free-agent market this winter hasn’t been kind to one-dimensional power hitters. Howard is certainly a player that won’t hit for a high average, won’t steal any bases, and he’s likely to strike out a lot. That said, he’s still a left-handed power hitter who has the ability to put 30-plus home runs in the stands. The 2006 National League MVP also brings 13 years of experience and leadership into the clubhouse.

It’s shrinking fast, but there are still a small number of teams that could justify taking a gamble on the services of a “Howard”-type player.

Back in 2014, the Chicago White Sox hit a combined 155 home runs, good for fourth in the American League. Of course, that team featured huge seasons from Jose Abreu, Adam Dunn, and Dayan Viciedo.

At the time, those totals were OK. When the White Sox belted 168 homers in 2016, though, they finished third-last in the AL.

The team’s power currently comes from Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, and Abreu. With the exception of Cabrera, those are right-handed hitters, so a lefty power bat could add a needed dimension to their lineup.

As it stands, Chicago doesn’t have a DH. Matt Davidson is tops on the depth chart after batting .244/.337/.773 with three homers in 78 games. For all intents and purposes, Howard could represent a short term upgrade.

The Minnesota Twins might represent another landing spot.

With the exception of Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano, there isn’t a lot of pop in the Twins lineup, and frankly, Byung Ho Park isn’t suited for a DH role.

Howard hasn’t played many games in Minnesota, but during the ones he did appear in, the Twins hated hosting him. In six games, he compiled a .308 average with one homer.

His left-handed power would be a nice complement to the speed the Twins have on the bases. More speed means more RBIs for the big guy.

Swinging back to the familiar National league, the Rockies could possibly offer a spot on their bench as a pinch hitter.

Between the thin air and short porch in Coors Field, Colorado has the potential to be pretty good to Howard.

The Rockies are involved in their own youth movement and had recently signed Ian Desmond as their veteran. However Desmond does have the defensive versatility to also play the outfield as well as the infield.

That being said (although unlikely) Howard could still present a formidable pinch hit left-right combination with the hard hitting sophomore Trevor Story.

Given his age, it was never expected that Howard would have teams lining up for his services. His recent quotes seem to suggest that he’s been realistic, and professional,  about his free agency approach.

“I’m not going to sit here and stress out because that doesn’t do me any good. It’ll happen. And when it does, I’ll be ready.”

If something doesn’t open up soon for the former 2008 World Series hero, however, Ryan Howard could find himself on the outside looking in on the 2017 season.

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