The Philadelphia Phillies made a long-expected move Thursday, as they announced they have declined the 2017 club option on first baseman Ryan Howard‘s contract, making him a free agent.

According to Spotrac, the Phils would have had to pay Howard $23 million next season had they exercised their club option, but they instead decided to buy him out for $10 million.

The Phillies honored the 36-year-old veteran prior to their final game of the 2016 regular season in a move that signaled the end of his time with the organization.

Despite that, Howard made it clear he wanted to continue playing elsewhere, according to “I know there’s more in the tank. I’ll know when it’s time.”

Howard hit a career-low .196 last season, and his 56 RBI were the fewest of his career in a season that saw him play 100 or more games.

The 2001 fifth-round draft pick of the Phillies did club 25 homers, however, which was his highest total since hitting 33 in 2011.

Howard finished in the top 10 of MVP voting every year from 2006 through 2011 and won the award in 2006, when he hit .313 with 58 home runs and 149 RBI. He was named to three All-Star teams during that six-year run and averaged a .274/44/133 line per season while also leading the Phillies to a World Series championship.

The five years since then have illustrated a significant fall from grace, as Howard averaged a greatly reduced .226/19/66 line during that time frame.

With Howard’s skills eroding at the plate and his already mediocre defense getting even worse, turning the page on him was an obvious move for the Phillies.

Also, 25-year-old Tommy Joseph emerged as a power threat at first base last season, hitting .247 with 21 home runs and 47 RBI.

There was no longer any room for Howard on the team with Philly fully embracing a youth movement, and keeping him for $23 million as a part-time player and pinch hitter wouldn’t have been a smart economical decision.

Howard could still have some value, potentially as a designated hitter in the American League, but his best days are undoubtedly behind him.

If he can be had at a bargain price in free agency, then Howard’s contributions in 2017 may be viewed far more favorably than they were when he underperformed while making over $20 million per season with the Phillies.


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