The only problem? Howard won’t be ready for the start of the year following a torn Achilles tendon suffered on the final play of the game in the Phillies 1-0 Game 5 NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s not easy to replace a slugger who has averaged 44 home runs and 132 RBI per year since 2006, but here are four potential options for manager Charlie Manuel.
Mayberry really broke out in 2011, hitting 12 home runs from July on. During that span, he posted percentages of .301/.358/.607 in 179 plate appearances.
It would likely be unreasonable for the Phillies to expect Mayberry to repeat that production but he does provide the team with an extremely reliable right-handed option off the bench, and starting him at first base until Howard returns won’t be too much of a loss for the team.
Mayberry also grades as a superior defensive first baseman.
I can’t see the Phillies doing this, but part of it makes sense. Utley is 32 years old with bad knees, and he’s been oft-injured during his last two years with the team. He’s logged some innings at first base during his career with the Phillies and it would keep him fresh.
Obviously this raises the question of who would then play second base. Michael Martinez, Wilson Valdez, and Pete Orr certainly aren’t the option, as we all saw in the first two months of 2011 when Utley was injured.
Signing a guy like Aaron Hill might be a solid option for the Phillies. Hill isn’t the player he was when he hit 36 home runs in 2009, but he is an above-average hitter who can play second base, third base and even shortstop a little.
Hill could also help spell Placido Polanco, who may no longer be a starting quality player at third base.
Michael Cuddyer was one of the names linked to the Philadelphia Phillies around the trade deadline last year, and although the deal never happened, it would make a lot of sense now.
Cuddyer had a strong season—.284 with 20 home runs, 70 RBI and 11 stolen bases—and he just completed a four-year, $33.5 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. He won’t warrant that kind of a deal again, but a two-year, $8 million deal seems reasonable for the 32-year-old Cuddyer.
Cuddyer is primarily a right fielder, but he also played a lot of first base last year, plus even time at second base and third base. He would basically serve as a super utility player for the Phillies.
He could fill in at first base for Ryan Howard, second base or third base should Chase Utley or Placido Polanco get hurt or simply need a day off, and he’s another option in the outfield.
Replacing a big slugger like Ryan Howard with Ross Gload (.257/.276/.327) certainly isn’t an attractive move, but it’s not easy to replace Howard’s production at the plate.
Gload played hurt for most of this season, and he’s a better hitter than his numbers show.
Gload is definitely best suited as a left-handed bat off the bench, but a platoon of Gload and Mayberry or maybe another bat the Phillies sign in the offseason may be a temporary solution.