Move over, Joe Mauer. You have just passed the Torch of Large Contract Extensions* over to Ryan Howard of the Phillies. For those of you that haven’t heard, Howard received a 5-year, $125 million extension, starting in 2012. Remember how the Twins wouldn’t give Torii Hunter the contract he wanted because he would be 37 at the end of it? Well, that’s what’s going to happen with Howard in this extension. 2012 happens to be his age-32 season, and well, we can all add 5 to 32.
* Which I’m sure some owners wish they still had in their possession. It would be handy in burning up some of those contracts.
There has already been plenty of opinions on the contract. Not only has Matthew Carruth of FanGraphs given his input (it’s not positive), but there’s also over 150 comments from readers. As I’m typing this, Keith Law is advertising that he’ll be on ESPN Radio to talk about the contract, and MLB Trade Rumors already has a post up collecting some opinions of Howard’s extension around the Internet.
This is partially from what I’ve read, but it seems like some ideas floating around the blogosphere and media outlets is that the Phillies are possibly hoping that the economy picks up over the next few years, and that will make $25 million seem more acceptable then compared to now. Others note that the type of skills that Howard provides (namely, power) is highly valued when going through the arbitration process and free agency, so he’d be making a large sum of money regardless.
Here’s where we cross over from what “they” are saying into what I’m thinking. Whether this was done on purpose or not, the Howard extension likely will be a benchmark for some players in the future. Even before this extension was signed, Albert Pujols was rumored to become the first $30 million-per-year guy in MLB. Before the extension, I don’t know if that would have happened. The media had us believing that Tim Lincecum was going to ask for $23 million in arbitration after winning 2 Cy Young Awards. Instead, it turned out he only requested $13 million. However, now that Ryan Howard will be making A-Rod money, I have to wonder if the $30 million rumors for Pujols won’t become a reality.
Even if Pujols doesn’t reach the $30 million plateau, this extension will still likely have an effect on other players. Agents and free agents love using comparable players when trying to find contracts for the upcoming season(s), and it will be interesting to see how many agents will be quoted as saying they are using Howard as a comparable player. Of course, I doubt that we’ll see $25 million as becoming a common per-year salary, but you have to wonder if it won’t make other players value themselves a little higher. After Mauer signed his extension, he couldn’t even get through his press conference without being asked how he felt his contract would affect Boston’s Victor Martinez, who will be a free agent in 2011. Martinez is a pretty good offensive comparison, but his defense is nowhere near Mauer’s, and there are now reports that his defense will cost him millions of dollars. Likewise, I can see some players or agents saying, “Well, my client/I am just as good as Ryan Howard in (insert category), so I feel that he/I deserve x million dollars.” x won’t necessarily be $25 million, but I’m sure it will be higher than what it would have been if Howard’s extension didn’t exist.
Finally, as is standard with a player signing a huge contract, we have to wonder how this will affect the Phillies in the future. There’s already been some questioning as to why the Phillies couldn’t hold on to Cliff Lee, but were willing to throw so much money at Howard. My best guess is that the Phillies were always considering an extension for Howard, but the addition of Lee would have been more money than they were willing to spend.* Prior to the extension, there were also rumors that they would be unable to hold on to Jayson Werth, and I have to believe that he’s all but gone now. In addition to Werth, I’m curious to see if this will hinder the Phillies’ ability to sign other significant free agents, but you never know with a team that will now likely carry a payroll over $100 million per year.
* At least that’s what I got out of the whole reasoning behind the Halladay/Lee plus others trade.
Oh, and the best part of this contract? That Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols trade rumor is now officially dead.
Last second edit: HA. MLB Trade Rumors just put up a post discussing how the Howard extension will affect other players. According to the post, Jayson Werth could still sign his own extension to stay with the Phillies. I guess I was wrong there.