Ryan Howard hit 25 home runs for the seventh time in his career last season, but that came with a .196 batting average and .257 on-base percentage in 362 plate appearances. He entered last season as the starter at first base, but started losing his grip on the job by late-May. He did little with his playing time in June, but started to show signs of life in July. That earned him some additional playing time in August where he hit .314 with six homers in 51 at-bats. He continued to play semi-regularly in September as the Phillies honored Howard for his contributions to the club while acknowledging he would not be back with the team in 2016. Howard's second half of the season showed he still has some pop left in his bat. He would be best used as a DH and in a platoon role starting against righties. The batting average will be a drain, but if he can find that type of role, he could be useful in AL-only leagues.
The Phillies announced Thursday that they have declined the 2017 team option on Howard's contract, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports, and he is now a free agent. Howard hit 25 home runs in 2016 for the seventh time in his career, but he also hit just .196 and would have been due $23 million had the Phillies picked up his option, so there was not much of a decision for them to make. Howard has not announced any intention to hang up the cleats, so he will likely look for a job elsewhere. At this stage of his career, however, he is likely looking at a reserve job wherever he lands.
Howard went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Mets. The veteran slugger took Bartolo Colon deep in the fifth for his 25th bomb of the season, the third consecutive year in which he's eclipsed the 20-homer mark. Howard has hit safely in three of his last four games, giving him a chance to finish the season above the Mendoza Line if he's in the lineup Sunday for the final contest of 2016.
Howard will not be in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Braves, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Howard started five of the last six games at first base and is expected to start all three of the Phillies' final three games this season, so manager Pete Mackanin decided to give him a day to rest Thursday. Tommy Joseph will man first base for the Phillies in Howard's place.
Howard went 2-for-3 with a walk, a solo homer and four RBI in Tuesday's game against the Braves. The veteran has had a season to forget in what may be the final campaign of a great career. However, despite Howard's career-worst .196 batting average, he's now managed to hit 24 homers in 2016, the most he's hammered in a campaign since 2011. Furthermore, the first baseman's 56 RBI total in second-most over his last five seasons (in fairness, he only played half a season in 2012 and 2013 due to injury). Howard's disappointing season can mainly be attributed to his abysmal first-half performance, as he's been significantly better-- and even fantasy-relevant -- since the break.
Howard went 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBI in Tuesday's 7-6 loss to the Braves. Howard has homered in three of his last five games. The two-hit game pushed his average up to .196, giving him a chance to cross the Mendoza Line before the season ends. Despite the poor batting average, Howard has been somewhat productive this year with 24 home runs and a .453 slugging percentage in 316 at-bats.