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Ryan Howard Rumors: Phillies set to release first baseman?

Howard's huge contract makes him nearly impossible to trade, so the Phillies are considering other options.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard's future with his team is in serious question, and multiple sources have told CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury that the team has "discussed moving on without Howard."

Howard, the 2006 National League MVP when he hit 58 homers and drove in 149 runs, has twice led the league in homers and thrice in RBI. But his high strikeout rate is beginning to catch up to him, and he's in the midst of perhaps his worst statistical season yet, despite making more money this year than ever before.

But Howard's behemoth contract (he's owed $25 million this year and in 2015 and 2016) is exactly what is preventing the team from trading its first baseman, and as Salisbury notes, even eating a portion of Howard's contract likely wouldn't be enough to get a deal done.

With that option effectively thrown out the window, the Phillies' most likely course of action is platooning Howard, according to's Todd Zolecki, though that might not solve the problem given Howard's similar stats against righties and lefties. (His OPS against right-handers is .682, versus .681 against left-handers.)

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg started Triple-A call-up Darin Ruf at first base against the Giants on Wednesday, and did so again on Thursday. Interestingly, Howard is four for his last 11 with a pair of RBI, and he came into Thursday's game with more home runs against Giants starter Tim Hudson than any other active player—seven, tied with Carlos Delgado for the most hit against Hudson by any player.

"The way I see things," Sandberg said via Zolecki's article before Thursday's game, "I basically wanted to give Ruf two days in a row, just to get his feet wet, see him against a right-handed pitcher, then go from there. But in all likelihood, at least after today, it will be a scenario of...I'd be considering a platoon system at first base."

Sandberg's willingness to sit Howard in the midst of a promising stretch and against a pitcher he sees well (1.112 OPS, 12 walks vs. 11 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances against Hudson) is as strong an indicator as any that the Phillies are preparing to slowly part ways with Howard. Plus, Sandberg says Howard's giant contract isn't giving him any favoritism in the lineup, according to Salisbury.

"It's about wins and losses out here," Sandberg said. "When the game starts, it's about winning the game and being productive and chipping in and doing the part and doing something to help win a game. If that means playing somebody else there and there's production right away—that's trying to win a baseball game."