Ryan Howard (knee) likely done for season
Howard resumed baseball activities on Tuesday, sparking hope that he might return in a few weeks. When you think about it, however, what is the best thing to do with an aging slugger who is owed $98 million over the next four seasons when your team is sitting 14 games below .500? Shut him down.
Interim manager Ryne Sandberg called a potential 2013 return to the field for Howard "counterproductive" on Thursday. He went on to say, "We're talking about his health, getting healthy and getting strong, and having the offseason ahead of him."
It sounds very much like Sandberg is putting his primary focus on his next season, which he should. The Phillies are in fourth place in the NL East and are 15.5 games behind a wild card spot. There is no reason for Howard to return, as the best case scenario is that he plays well and the Phillies still miss the playoffs. The worst case scenario is that Howard re-injures his knee and jeopardizes his 2014 season. It's not a very tough decision.
Howard will wrap up his 2013 campaign with an average of .266 and a disappointing 11 home runs, 43 RBI, and 34 runs scored over 80 games. Unfortunately, one has to question if he'll be any better next year at the age of 34.
It looks like the Phillies will continue to use a combination of Michael Young and Kevin Frandsen as Howard's fill-ins at first base. Young has batted .268 with 38 RBI in 116 games, while Frandsen has posted an average of .233 with 17 RBI across 87 contests. Howard may be a shell of his former self, but the Phillies will still dearly miss his run production.