Phillies hopeful Ryan Howard can bounce back: 'He still exists'

Phillies hopeful Ryan Howard can bounce back: 'He still exists'
December 22, 2013, 10:00 am
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The Philadelphia Phillies’ offseason has been defined by trade rumors involving their most prominent players, as the Nats’ NL East rivals have sent mixed signals on their plans for the future. Are they trading away their assets or holding the current roster together for another year?

It’s no secret they have tons of money locked up in older players, they’re set to pay over $140 million to guys over 30 in 2014 alone. But general manger Ruben Amaro, Jr. is confident the Phillies can compete next year with their current roster.

“We have to roll with them,” Amaro told MLB.com. “We’ve committed to them.”

Injuries have hurt the Phillies big time over the last few years as their players have started to show their age. Ryan Howard for instance – the team’s highest paid player – appeared in just 80 games last year. Amaro thinks the former MVP still has something left at the age of 34.

“Ryan Howard does still live. He exists. He's part of our club, OK? And he is one of the most important parts of our club,” Amaro said.

[RELATED: Nats fill out 2014 minor league staff]

Howard has battled injuries for two consecutive seasons now, playing in a combined 151 games over the last two years. Prior to 2012 he placed in MVP voting in six straight seasons. Yes, he still exists, but in a different form than we were once used to.

A productive Howard would change the outlook for the Phillies dramatically in 2014. He was their centerpiece, an MVP-caliber slugger worthy of a massive contract. Just because he hasn’t been the same player over the last two years doesn’t mean he can’t regain his form. Amaro could be right. Look at Chase Utley who hit .284 with 18 homers and 69 RBI in 131 games last season.