Detroit Tigers Rumors: Ryan Howard Not a Trade Fit


Ryan Howard’s contract and lack of hitting skills make him a poor trade target for the Detroit Tigers.

It’s getting to be that time of year where we’re going to be inundated with Detroit Tigers rumors and speculation. Jon Heyman, national baseball insider for CBS Sports, wrote an article today in which he explored eight possible trade destinations for Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Checking in at number five on the list are the Detroit Tigers:

"5. Tigers: They will of course give the brilliant Victor Martinez every chance to make it back first, but he’s currently on the D.L. trying to improve his leg strength. So far Tigers DHs have a collective .296 slugging percentage, which is a problem."

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It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Tigers could look to add a designated hitter at some point this summer. It’s not clear when Victor Martinez will return from the disabled list or how productive he will be once he’s active, but there are a few factors that would make Howard a sub-optimal fit to fill the potential void.

The first obvious hurdle is Howard’s massive contract. He’s owed roughly $17 million for the rest of this season (prorated from his $25 million total), $25 million in 2016, and then $10 million in 2017 to buy out his option year (or $13 additional million to pick up the option, which isn’t going to happen). Howard certainly isn’t worth a $52 million commitment over the next year and a half, so concessions would have to be made by the Phillies.

Philadelphia has made it clear that they’re willing to eat money to move Howard (Heyman mentions rumors that they were willing to eat $35 million of it in the offseason), but even if that’s still on the table, the Tigers would be looking at paying $17 million and also likely giving up a prospect. That’s still a steep price for Howard.

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  • The second hurdle is very much related to the first. Even if the Tigers aren’t confident that Martinez will return to productivity this season, they’d still be giving him every chance to keep the job for the next three years. The Tigers signed him to a four-year deal in the offseason, and they won’t be so quick to cast him aside.

    All that to say that the ideal candidate to fill a hypothetical DH opening down the stretch in 2015 would be a player whose contract expires at the end of the season. Howard’s contract extends into 2016 (and beyond, with the option), but the Tigers shouldn’t be willing to pay any extra (in terms of dollars or players) for the right to retain him beyond this season.

    The third obstacle is that Howard simply isn’t very good any more. He’s had a nice start to the season — hitting .256/.298/.519 (a 120 wRC+) — but the projection systems remind us that we should also consider his very poor 2014 and 2012 seasons when we project what he will do going forward.

    ZiPS (102 wRC+) and Steamer (96 wRC+) see him as only a league-average hitter (at best, really) the rest of the way this year. That’s replacement-level production out of a DH, something the Tigers wouldn’t want to pay anything closer to $17 million for.

    I don’t think Heyman is on the completely wrong track here with the slugging DH thing, but Ryan Howard just doesn’t look like he’d be a fit for the Tigers.

    Next: MLB Power Rankings: Nationals on Top

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