PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Ryan Howard will make $25 million to play for the Phillies next season. The idea of a part-time player making that much money is a difficult one to swallow, especially if you’re the person who decided to pay that player $25 million.
But Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg might have to make a decision to do just that with Howard next season if his production against left-handed pitching does not improve.
“Well, listen, here’s the deal. I mean, It’s about Ryne Sandberg and how he thinks he matches up. Ryan [Howard] has never been a great hitter against left-handers, but when he is in there and he does enough damage against right-handers it’s tough to take him out of the lineup. Now, if we feel like he’s not performing against the left-handers then we put someone else in there to hit,” Amaro told Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Show on Friday. “I mean, it’s like, if it rains you put the tarp on and if it’s not raining you take the tarp off. If he proves to us that he cannot handle hitting left-handers, then Ryne may have to put someone else in there to hit against left-handers. It is what it is. I fully believe he’ll come back and be a productive player for us, but definitely that’s up to Ryan Howard and if he has to be a platoon player or not play against every tough left-hander, than so be it.”
Howard’s numbers against left-handed pitching sunk even further in 2013, hitting just .173 with three home runs and an OPS of .539 in 87 plate appearances. His OPS against left-handed pitching in 2010 was .826, and was .746 in 2008. As his overall production has declined, his production against left-handed pitching has declined even more sharply. Though the idea of sitting a $25 million player is not optimal, it may be necessary if he’s hurting the team when he’s on the field.
Howard isn’t the only question for Amaro heading into the offseason. A potential battle between up-and-comers for the starting third base job is one that will be watched closely. Cody Asche spent the majority of the time starting at third over the last couple of months of the 2013 season and had some impressive moments.
“[Asche] showed signs that he has the instinct to play that position. I’m actually looking forward to seeing Maikel Franco this spring because I think it is going to cause quite a bit of a competition,” Amaro said. “Maikel, the advantage that he has, is that one he’s young, but also he’s right-handed. We’re so left-handed as team, as we all know, that it could create some balance for us. I mean, maybe it creates a bit of a competition, who knows? And I’m kind of looking forward to it. Is he ready to be in the big leagues? I don’t know, but he’s a pretty advanced hitter.”
While adding offense to the lineup is an obvious need, the Phillies will have some holes in the rotation to fill as well. While Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are two pitchers projected to be cornerstones of next year’s staff, with Roy Halladay a question mark, and Kyle Kendrick’s descent in the second half of last season, anything beyond Lee and Hamels is a mystery.
“Ideally we’d like to try to add to our pitching. I mean, listen, pitching wins—pitching and defense and we have to make sure we are aware of that. We talk a lot about not having enough offensive punch to win games, but more importantly to really win games, you have to be able to pitch,” Amaro said.