Ryan Howard wants to play another season. Despite the impending expiration date on his nine-figure contract and the new depths to which his performance has sunk this season, Howard reiterated to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki this weekend that he wants to play a 14th year in the bigs, maintaining a stance he's held since spring training.
"For whatever reason everybody else thinks I'm done playing," Howard said. "I know I can still play. I know I'm still capable of it. This year, one bad month and you're done. For me it's about not having the opportunity to rectify the one bad month."
That comment may not ring true to those who have watched the Phillies regularly this season. Howard hit .203 with a .265 on-base percentage in April. He hit .101 with a .160 OBP in May. He hit .140 with a .213 OBP in June. That's more than one bad month.
Howard has been hot since the All-Star break, going 13 for 35 (.371) with four homers and three doubles. That's the kind of power he'll need to continue to show for an American League team to consider signing him this winter.
Howard, like Jimmy Rollins this past offseason, could sign a non-guaranteed, minor-league contract with an invite to big-league camp. Rollins signed such a deal with the White Sox, who had one of the shakiest shortstop situations in baseball, and won the opening day job. (Rollins was designated for assignment by Chicago in early June.)
Howard's role, if he does in fact play next season, would almost certainly be as a platoon DH. Against right-handers this season, Howard has hit just .198 with a .265 OBP but he also has 15 home runs and a .443 slugging percentage. Overall, is that valuable to a club? Hard to say. Typically the power would be intriguing, but is it offset by his making outs 75 percent of the time? These are questions AL clubs will weigh this season.
Which teams might consider Howard? The Tampa Bay Rays always need offensive help. The Oakland A's have taken fliers on aging, declining sluggers in the past (Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza). The Red Sox could (key word: could) look at Howard with DH David Ortiz retiring.
"I know I can play and I still want to play in the future," Howard told MLB.com. "That's where my mindset is. Now it's just taking advantage of the opportunities I get and put it in play for next year."