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Former Phillie Ryan Howard Given an Opportunity by the Braves
- Updated: April 7, 2017
In a move that could be described as a bit of a surprise from all sides involved, the Atlanta Braves agreed to terms with former Phillies slugger Ryan Howard on a minor league deal.
Before the season, knowing Howard had no interest in retiring, I tried to project a few of the teams that might have a need for the once feared slugger. Although the Braves weren’t one of the teams I considered, there are, in fact, some reasons that this deal makes sense for everyone.
From Howard’s point of view, this (obviously) affords him the opportunity to make a big league roster. This offseason the market wasn’t kind to sluggers in the latter stages of their careers. Howard in particular, despite insisting that he wasn’t ready to hang the cleats up, was shown virtually no interest. He’s taking what was probably one of the only jobs offered to him.
The Big Piece also hasn’t seen (professional) live pitching since the end of last season. Most reports are saying that he’ll start working out with Braves minor leaguers in extended spring training. This is a benefit for Howard in the sense he’ll have time to knock off about six months worth of rust and still be within an hour’s drive of his Tampa Bay-area home.
On the other side, the Braves have been on the hunt for some help off the bench. Although Ryan Howard is FAR removed from his MVP caliber days of 2005-2008 when the slugger hit .279/.381/.591 while mashing out 175 homers and collecting a .971 OPS, the virtually-no-risk signing makes sense for the Braves. If he rebounds, Howard provides a big left handed bat off the bench – something Atlanta lacks. The signing also prevents Ryan from absolutely obliterating the Braves as he has done in his career – to the tune of .280/.362/.573 with 52 homers in 183 games.
Although his splits from 2016 are nothing to write home about (to be kind), .749 OPS vs RHP and a .355 OPS vs LHP, Howard did hit .265/.328/.590 over his last 39 games. He joins a Gwinnett team that features Matt Tuiasosopo, an outfielder turned first baseman. At the very least Howard might provide a solid alternative should Tuiasosopo struggle in the infield.
Although I think the odds of Howard returning to the big leagues are still extremely long, we may not have heard the last of the Phillies icon quite yet.