The Phillies today handed Ryan "Old Player Skills" Howard a five-year, $125 million contract extension. They are now married to Howard to a whopping seven more years through is age-37 season at an average salary of over $20 million a year.
Beyond the Boxscore rounds up the some of the reactions, and they aren't good. Nor should they be. This, like the Alfonso Soriano deal or the Barry Zito contract, has "mistake" written all over it. Fat guys who thrive on walks and power while striking out a lot don't age well. Howard's top 5 comps on Baseball Reference? Richie Sexson, Cecil Fielder, and Mo Vaughn. Zoinks.
Here's another way of looking at it. Baseball Prospectus projects players' future career paths based on what similar players have done in the past. When it comes to projections, there are no guarantees, but there are certain outcomes that are more likely that others. Here's a graph they do called the "Stars & Scrubs" chart:
(This is a subscription-only image, and if you think it's interesting, I really encourage you to go over and buy your own subscription before I hear from the BP guys and they make me take it down. If they can trace enough new subscriptions to this URL, maybe I won't get in trouble. And seriously, if you're reading this, you're enough of a junkie to try out BP. You won't regret it.)
Basically this is telling us that the odds that Howard will be producing at "star" value in 2013 are extremely slim--forget 2017. By the last season on this monstrosity, there's a 75% chance that Howard will be a bench player. There's about a 50% chance that he won't belong in the majors at all.
Add that to a farm system that they emptied out in the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay deals and the fact that 29-year-old Shane Victorino is their youngest starting position player, and the '10s are looking grim for the Fightins.
So if you're a Nationals fan, make sure you go out to the ballpark the next time the Phillies come to town. Oh sure, they'll beat our heads in again. But you can feel free to show off a smug grin, secure in the knowledge that this Phillies team is headed for a cliff. By 2013, when Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman will be in their primes and Bryce Harper will be breaking into the majors, they're going to have a $25 million-a-year out-machine parked in the middle of their line-up and little help on the way.
Our day is coming, and with Stan's excellent marketing, you know that Phillies fans will be here to take the beatings in person when the time comes