clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No, the St. Louis Cardinals should not trade for Ryan Howard

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Two days ago, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams was removed from the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks after pulling up lame rounding first base during a fifth-inning stand-up double. Adams was almost immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list, and regarding the injury, Matheny stated that there was a "high level of concern."

The original diagnosis was a "quad strain." As we know, all strains are tears, they just vary by severity (or grade). A full tear of the muscle is considered a grade three strain and often requires surgery followed by an extended recovery period (i.e. three to four months, sometimes longer). Late last night, Derrick Goold confirmed probably the worst possible outcome regarding the injury:

While we knew almost immediately that the injury was severe, the official designation of a surgery date is all the confirmation needed. If the three-to-four month timetable holds, the Cardinals will be without their left-handed swinging first baseman until very late September, with the team's last regular season game taking place on October 4th in Atlanta against the Braves. Thus, if his recovery lasts the full four months, Adams is essentially out for the rest of the regular season.

Earlier in May, while enduring a one-for-30 slump, it was reported that Adams was being given time off to "focus on his swing." While Adams had since turned things around a little bit, extended time away from live pitching during his recovery will negatively affect his timing, which can be a huge deal for a hitter who has been "searching for his swing." Ultimately, this will require a tough decision on whether or not to even include Adams on a possible postseason roster. After the surgery takes place tomorrow, we will likely be given more answers, but there is still a chance that this ends up being a 2015-ending injury, should the medical staff believe that is the best option for Adams' future.

Of course, respected national media members decided to "stir the pot" on Twitter a little bit:

Ryan Howard is indeed from the St. Louis area. We are all familiar with the story by now. As a freshman at Lafayette High, a future major league power hitter played on the freshman team. As a sophomore, he technically made varsity, but was sent down to the sophomore team one week prior to the start of baseball season. He followed his coach's advice and "did something about it," putting up monster numbers in his high school career and eventually cemented his MLB prospect status at [Southwest] Missouri State.

This November, Howard turns 36 years of age, so these fond, career-changing memories of St. Louis and Missouri took place 15 to 20 years ago. A whole lot can happen in 15 to 20 years. Look no further than this November 2014 article by Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Enquirer/philly dot com:

"Before Ryan Howard's twin brother sued him for $2.8 million; before his father, who helped manage the Phillies slugger's money, allegedly requested a $10 million separation payment; before Howard claimed his parents and brothers conspired to defraud him, Howard planned a mansion with eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.

The sprawling Florida home was a place for the family - especially Corey, Ryan's look-alike confidant who moved from St. Louis to Philadelphia in 2008 to live with Ryan. But beneath it all, Ryan harbored distrust in his family's dealings while Corey claimed a breach of their consulting contract. It fractured the Howards."

Having legal issues with family, though reportedly behind him, does not make for a pleasant homecoming. Plus, Howard no longer has a house in the St. Louis area. Since at least 2008, he has lived in a Florida mansion (as described in the excerpt above). These are just a few reasons as to why Howard would not want to come to St. Louis. While he now holds a full no-trade clause (part of his 10-5 rights that kicked in earlier this year), it is worth noting that the Cardinals were one of 20 teams on a previous no-trade list. As Goold put so eloquently, Howard has "lots of reasons to be elsewhere."

At this point in the article, I'll be honest, it feels like I am saying, "The Cardinals may want Howard, but Howard doesn't the Cardinals." That was not my intention, at all. I just wanted to provide context behind why this "intriguing thought" of a St. Louis homecoming, perpetuated by Rosenthal, is nonsensical.

Moving forward, let's look at the situation from the Cardinals' perspective. Prior to the news of his injury, ZiPS had projected Adams to produce 1.0 fWAR the rest of the season. Reynolds, his replacement, is projected 0.5 fWAR, but with 30 fewer plate appearances than Adams—plate appearances he will most likely make up and more now that Adams is injured. Thus, while the Cardinals will miss Adams, the reality is that they don't need to fill that big of a hole.

Plus, I strongly believe, whether this was a smart move by John Mozeliak or not, the Cardinals signed Reynolds to be more than just a power threat off the bench. If the organization really wanted just a power bench bat, the promotion of Xavier Scruggs, at league minimum, would have been $1.5 million cheaper. However, a Scruggs' promotion did not happen, and it is reasonable to believe that the front office saw the 31-year-old Reynolds as a bench bat and a quality insurance policy should injury strike.

Cot's Contracts reports that Howard is due $25 million this season, $25 million in 2016, and $23 million in 2017 (or a $10 million buyout). First and foremost, what was Ruben Amaro Jr. thinking when he offered such a contract to Howard? Sure, he had some good seasons and possesses legitimate power, but he had just come off two subpar seasons with 1.0 fWAR and 1.6 fWAR in 2010 and 2011, respectively. (10:35 AM CST correction: Howard signed the extension on April 26, 2010, so my original reference of 2010 & 2011 fWAR is silly. His contract extension began in 2012, after two poor seasons). Again, Rosenthal reports:

The "overwhelming majority" seems reasonable when you are dealing with $5 or $10 million contracts, but if the Phillies agree to cover, say, 85% of Howard's remaining contract (assuming a 2017 buyout), the Cardinals would be on the hook for $5.25 million, beyond whatever percentage they'll owe the rest of this season. Five-plus million dollars may not seem like much for a family of owners as wealthy as the DeWitts, but with Howard unlikely to live up to that value (plus whatever prospects they'll have to send to Philadelphia as well), it does not seem like a prudent investment. The DeWitt family has proven that they do not fund risky (or in this case, dumb) investments.

Finally, while Howard has definitely had a good power-hitting start to the 2015 season (.263 ISO), he has produced 0.5 fWAR. Reynolds, too, has been worth 0.5 fWAR thus far, and this is with 63 less plate appearances than Howard. As I stated earlier, ZiPS projects Reynolds to be worth 0.5 fWAR the rest of the season. Howard? 0.3 fWAR. If the point is to replace what is missing, taking a step backward with the replacement is illogical.


For those in the "too long; didn't read" mood this morning, I present you this: Let Mark Reynolds fill in for now, and let's see what he can do. While things can definitely change given that the sample size is still quite small, Reynolds has already provided quite the value to the Cardinals. If Reynolds flops, the front office can readdress the situation, but even then, Howard should not be one of the replacements considered.