It had long been clear that Ryan Howard’s time as a player with the Phillies was over. The team honored the former National League MVP with a moving tribute on the final day of the regular season last month and he left the field to a standing ovation at Citizens Bank Park at the conclusion of his 1,572nd and final game with the club.

On Thursday morning, the end became official when the Phillies declined the $23 million option on Howard’s contract for 2017. They'll pay him a $10 million buyout.

Howard is now a free agent.

In addition, the Phillies declined pitcher Charlie Morton’s 2017 contract option. He, too, is a free agent. Unlike Howard, there is a chance that the Phillies could bring back Morton in 2017, though at a much lower salary than the $9.5 million his option called for. Morton, who turns 33 later this month, made four starts for the Phillies in 2016 then went down with a season-ending hamstring rupture. Before becoming a free agent, he spent time at the Phillies’ rehab facility in Florida. The team could look to bring him back, possibly as a reliever, on a low-risk, incentive-based deal for 2017.

Howard, who turns 37 this month, will move on and look to continue his career, most likely as a designated hitter with an American League club next season.

“I still want to play and I know there's more in the tank,” Howard said after his final game with the Phillies last month. “I tell my wife all the time that I'll know when it's time. I just want to get it all out of the tank and have no regrets. I don't want to sit at home and be like, ‘I wish I could still go out there and play.’ I don't want to have those kind of thoughts.


“When it's time, I'll know when it's time.”

Howard had been the last member of the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship team still with the club. Now, they’ve all moved on. Howard had an impressive list of accomplishments in 12 seasons with the club. They included NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, three-time All-Star and World Series champ. He ranks second on the team’s all-time home run list with 382 and third in RBIs with 1,194.

Before Howard's final game last month, we offered a tip of the hat to him. He talked about his time with the Phillies after his last game and said Philadelphia would always be his home.