Home > Uncategorized > Trading Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard…

Trading Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard…

There’s a report on ESPN today that the Philadelphia Phillies have been having internal discussions about trading star slugger Ryan Howard to St. Louis for Albert Pujols. That’s strange, because I’ve been having internal discussions about trading my bicycle for a Ferrari. I mean, I think it would be a good deal for the local dealership, because my bike has a really nifty basket on the front and it even has a pink Barbie Bell.

I know, I know, Ryan Howard is a really great player. He’s an MVP, he’s averaged 49.5 HRs in his four full seasons, and he’s won three RBI titles. Plus, he’s only been in the majors for five years, so he has a long career ahead of him. Thus, if St. Louis has doubts about whether or not they can sign Pujols, it would be smart for them to swap him for Howard, right?

Well, actually no. It would probably be one of the worst trades St. Louis could make. Right off the top, much like Minnesota with Joe Mauer, I’d be surprised if St. Louis didn’t come to a deal with their iconic player. In the article Buster Olney (who, don’t get me wrong, is a great baseball writer) mentions that Howard is from St. Louis and that’s really great, but Pujols has been the best player in baseball for the last six years, while wearing a Cardinals uniform. That’s a little more relevant to fans than where a kid went to grade school. He also equates it to the Twins moving Johan Santana and the Jays moving Doc, but the difference is that in those scenarios, those teams knew they had to move a player who was absolutely going to leave the following winter. Thus far, there is no sense that the Cardinals will lose Pujols, so I would imagine that they’ve barely begun to ponder the doomsday scenario of having to get equal return for the best player in baseball.

Having said that, even were the Cards to decide that trading Pujols was the only recourse, then moving him for Howard makes no sense. When Howard was a young buck, he was blocked from joining the Phillies by Jim Thome. Why does this matter? Because despite only four full seasons, Howard is actually a few months older than Pujols.

Which brings us to the talent. Without hyperbole, Pujols is the best player in baseball (with apologies to Mauer, and Hanley Ramirez), while Howard is the most overrated player in baseball (with apologies to almost everybody that Dayton Moore signs). To the casual fan (or the fan still using the triple crown stats), Howard seems like the preeminent slugger in MLB. His four top five MVP finishes certainly prove that mainstream journalists think he’s pretty good, and that’s because Howard does two things really well. One he hits a lot of home runs. Two, he hits behind Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley… what’s that? That’s not a skill that he has? Well, congratulations… You get it, now why can’t MVP voters?

Ok, yes I’m being a bit factious, but the RBI thing is so beyond debate at this point, that it’s kind of like arguing who won their breakup, Britney “I can’t find my underwear or my children” Spears or Justin “Dick in a Box” Timberlake.* Howard gets an inordinate amount of credit for hitting home runs, which is good, and batting behind Utley and company, which is contextual. He strikes out in record setting numbers, he doesn’t run the bases well, his defense is suspect (although much improved in 2009), and most importantly, he’s only average at getting on base.

*(If you’re new to this, then that’s fine, but lets just say that RBIs are what’s known as a context driven stat, so they don’t tell you much about someone as a hitter, other than that his teammates were on base. Want to know more? Well, it just so happens that the great and mystical Joe Posnanski wrote eight billion words on this topic yesterday)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Howard isn’t a good player, certainly he is. It’s just that most Howard fans think those 140 RBI seasons mean he’s a top ten player in baseball, when he’s barely a top ten player at his own position (and since I know you’re going to argue this one, here’s an unofficial off the top of my head list: Pujols, Fielder, Cabrera, Teixeira, Gonzalez, Youkillis, Lee, Howard, Morneau, and Votto… although I might be forgetting someone and Votto might actually be too low). So, basically we have an inferior player, who’s slightly older, which would be fine, if Howard were signed to Evan Longoria’s contract (the best in baseball), but he’s not.

This year, King Albert will make 16 million, while Howard banks 19. Next year the Cardinals will have a 16 million option for Pujols, while the Phillies will be shelling out 20 million for Howard. Of course, the big reason that the Cards might have to move Pujols, is that in 2012, Albert is a free agent… but so is Howard.

I doubt that St. Louis has even considered the possibility of trading Pujols, let alone considering what they might want in return for him, but I can guarantee that unless Cards management wants to be looking for employment outside of baseball, there is no scenario in which they would consider moving Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard.

So, the Phillies can internally discuss it all day long, but that and five dollars will get them a coffee from Starbucks. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to bike downtown to pick up my new Ferrari…

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