Trades can still be made in August, and Ryan Howard is, suddenly, a pretty intriguing candidate.
Howard's grand slam in the fifth inning Friday off hard-throwing Rockies right-hander Jon Gray helped Jake Thompson to his first big-league win and put an exclamation point on Howard's recent hot streak (see game story).
Howard went 3 for 5 with the homer and five RBIs in the 10-6 win, and has hit .386 with four doubles, five homers and 13 RBIs since the All-Star break.
He's up to .195 on the season, the highest his batting average has been since April 30. But with Howard at this point, it's not about that. With Howard, all that matters is whether he's hitting right-handed pitching. If an American League team comes calling, that's what it will be for — a left-handed hitting DH.
Howard is slugging .462 against righties this season. To put that in perspective, Giancarlo Stanton has a .460 slugging percentage against righties. Bryce Harper has slugged .450. Adrian Gonzalez, .451.
"If I were a playoff team, I’d take notice," manager Pete Mackanin said after Friday's game. "What [Howard] did tonight is something he’s capable of doing, either as a DH or a pinch-hitter off the bench. He’s just swinging the bat, coming up with big hits. I’m happy for him. ...
"It was good to see Howard hit that grand slam on the night we’re honoring [Jim] Thome, as they passed the wand to one another." (More on Thome here.)
Regarding the possibility of moving to a contender that seeks his currently hot, late-season power bat, Howard deflected. He's staying in the moment.
"Really and truthfully I'm just taking it as it comes," he said. "Not trying to put too much thought into anything, just trying to keep it simple."
There would seem to be little downside or risk for a team interested in Howard. The Phillies won't be asking for much in return. They've in the past appeared willing to eat money on Howard's contract, which has about $16 million left when you include the $10M buyout coming this winter.
Which teams would he fit? The Astros could use Howard in a DH platoon with Evan Gattis and give Howard more ABs when Gattis catches.
There aren't many other fits, though. The Orioles, Blue Jays and Red Sox don't have a need for left-handed bat like Howard's. Nor do the Indians, Tigers, Royals, Rangers or Mariners. And every other AL team is out of contention.
As for NL contenders with less-than-ideal situations at first base ... the Marlins are reportedly without Justin Bour until September and the Mets are starting James Loney.
There aren't a ton of suitors for Howard. There haven't been for some time, but he also hasn't hit like this in some time. It seems crazy for the topic of his trade value to be relevant, but the guy has 36 homers and a .485 slugging percentage off right-handers the last two seasons. When Howard's hitting, he has value. And he has a long history of getting hot in mid-to-late August and beyond.
It's a situation worth monitoring. Howard is likely to sit Saturday after the big night with the Phillies facing Rockies lefty Tyler Anderson. Tyler Chatwood, a right-hander Howard's doubled off twice in eight at-bats, pitches Sunday.