As Ryan Howard sits in the dugout for his third consecutive game, watching the Philadelphia Phillies begin a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is talking. He is talking about the rumors that the Phillies are seriously considering releasing the former All-Star and how “That is not something we are contemplating.”
Amaro Jr. is saying this, despite the fact that he is working the phones, trying desperately to find somebody, anybody, who will take the struggling first baseman off his hands. The word is that the Phillies are even willing to eat a huge portion of the $60 million Howard will be owed after the 2014 season in order to get some kind of deal done.
To the shock of no one, there hasn’t been any takers.
And it’s safe to say that there probably won’t be any, no matter how much Amaro Jr. tries to sweeten the deal. Howard is batting .224 on the year with only 15 home runs and 118 strikeouts and has been particularly bad over the course of his last 25 games, hitting an abysmal .168 with only three extra-base hits.
Combine that with the ridiculous salary that he is due, and the odds of finding a team to take Howard off Amaro Jr.’s hands goes from slim to just about none.
This is why many feel that the Phillies only have two real options for dealing with Howard: buy him out or simply release him. The fact that Amaro Jr. has said that releasing Howard isn’t an option is just one more indication that he isn’t the right person to rebuild the Phillies.
When a team is as bad as the Phillies are and have so many issues that have to be addressed, every option should be discussed, no matter how unpopular. The Howard situation needs to be solved, not tomorrow, not next week, but now. If manager Ryne Sandberg does go ahead with the plan of platooning Howard with Darin Ruf, there are going to be issues. Howard has already made one comment, saying “talk to the manager” when asked about the platooning option. And you just know it will only get worse.
Releasing Howard isn’t going to be easy and it will involve a lot of hurt feelings and probably another awkward press conference, like the team had when they fired Charlie Manuel. But to say it’s simply off the table is irresponsible and a clear sign that Amaro Jr. just doesn’t know how to be an effective general manager in the MLB.