Could the Philadelphia Phillies Release Ryan Howard?

What a dramatic fall from grace this would be. From 2006-2011, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard put up 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBI’s in six consecutive seasons. But he’s three years removed from being an above-replacement player at the Major League level, putting up just 40 homers and hitting .236 since the start of the 2012 season. 

With a guaranteed salary of $25 million next year, it comes as a surprise that the Phillies could potentially release Howard following this season (via Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia).

Multiple sources say the team has also discussed moving on without Howard. The team has floated his name in trade talks but Howard is owed the remainder of $25 million for this season and $60 million over the next two seasons. No team is interested in taking on that amount of money.

The logical next step is to release Howard. Sources say team officials have discussed the possibility of paying off Howard and moving on without him after the season.

It would be a drastic measure for a team that is looking at every possibility to improve its roster for the 2015 season. Why would another team pick up the $60 million owed to Howard over the next two seasons, especially considering his struggles this season? The former NL MVP is hitting just .168 over his past 25 games and his been benched against left-handed starters since the All-Star break. It makes little sense to pick up a soon-to-be 35-year-old power hitter who is in the midst of a steep decline.

Even if the Phillies were to trade Howard, they would have to pick up a substantial chunk of his contract, essentially paying for him to play for another team. Unless they are able to get a decent return, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either.

For his part, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg seems nearly ready to move on from Howard.

I’m interested to see what he can do,” Sandberg said of Ruf. “I know what [Howard] can do. I’ve seen him for 100 games. I know what he can do. I think it’s important to see what a guy like Darin Ruf can do also going forward.

Sandberg continued by indicating that Howard’s potential presence in the lineup will be day-to-day. That’s not necessarily a show of support for one of the highest-paid position players in all of baseball.

This is definitely something to pay attention to prior to the August 31st waiver deadline. If Philadelphia can send Howard to a contending team while paying a nice chunk of its contract, that is something general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. might do. If not, Howard could very well be out of a job come winter.

Photo: Fox Sports