It took until the first week of the season but Ryan Howard has finally found a team.
Howard on Thursday signed a minor-league deal with the Atlanta Braves. He'll head to extended spring training next week to get back into the swing of things and then will report to Triple A Gwinnett when he's deemed ready to go.
I'm excited and energized to get going and start this new chapter!!!!#atlantabraves— Ryan Howard (@ryanhoward) April 6, 2017
Howard was one of 111 major-leaguers who hit 20 or more home runs last season. Other than David Ortiz, who retired, Howard was the only one of those players not on a major-league roster.
It had seemed like his strong second half in 2016 -- Howard hit .262/.324/.608 with 13 homers and 32 RBIs after the All-Star break -- would land him a job with an AL team, but the opportunity never arose. It was a decent market for designated hitters this past offseason.
It's an interesting fit because Howard, 37, doesn't have a role with the Braves. The face of Atlanta's franchise is first baseman Freddie Freeman, who like Howard hits from the left side. Barring an injury to Freeman, Howard's best chance at playing time would be as a bench bat. But at this point in the MLB calendar, Howard obviously valued finding a team over finding the ideal fit.
In 13 seasons with the Phillies, Howard hit .258 with an .859 OPS and 382 home runs. His post-Achilles decline was sharp, but in truth, he was beginning to decline even before that. Since 2012, Howard has hit .226/.292/.427 with an average of 19 homers, 66 RBIs, 34 walks and 127 strikeouts per year.
Some of his best work came against the Braves. In 183 career games against Atlanta, Howard hit .280 with 52 homers and 155 RBIs.