Phillies’ “Big Piece” Has A Big Injury

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Ryan Howard has seen an increase of injuries and overall decline since 2010. Photo Credit: cbssports.com

Last Saturday, the Phillies placed first baseman Ryan Howard on the 15-day DL with left knee inflammation, but with a torn meniscus discovered, Howard’s subsequent surgery and recovery time of six-to-eight weeks may push the Phillies to sellers rather than buyers.

The 33-year-old Howard posted a 110 OPS+ this season, and is owed $20mm this season, with annual payments of $25mm starting in 2014 and all the way up to his age 37 season. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.–who signed him to a 5-year $125mm extension back in 2010–publicly called out Howard for “not getting the job done,” citing the fact that Howard has become a very expensive platoon player with a penchant for breaking down (who was the one that signed him to the extension?).

Since 2007, Howard has seen leg injuries pile up; a quad injury in 2007; an ankle injury in 2010 with a torn Achilles in 2011 on the last play of the Phillies season, and arguably, their National League dominance. Howard, who was hitting .266/.319/.465 this season, averaged a .961 OPS until his mega-deal in 2010. Since then, an OPS 145 points lower at .816 while the OPS has gone from 143 in his peak years to 118.

Three games under .500 at 43-46, the Phillies would have a lot of pieces to sell, including Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Delmon Young. Perhaps Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon could be moved, but the Phillies feel as if they can still contend with those two pieces on next year’s ballclub.

With Howard likely out until mid-September, this paves the path for an everyday opportunity for Darin Ruf, who captured Philadelphia with his 12 game cup of coffee last season. Ruf hit .266/.344/.408 in 82 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being called up on Saturday.  With just 5 PAs in the Majors this season, it’d be foolish to suggest Ruf will continue to slug .750, but, his .351 OBP in the aforementioned 12 games last season is just 29 points off the career .380 OBP he posted in the minors.

With Amaro Jr. stating the Phillies current home-stand is “crucial,” whether or not they will be buyers or sellers, this news out of the injury ward certainly hinders their chances of holding on to the dynasty that brought them “World F-ing Champions!” in 2008.

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