Thursday afternoon, the Braves signed former Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard to a minor league deal. The 37 year old former Rookie of the Year and NL MVP hit the free agent market after the 2016 season after spending 13 seasons in Philadelphia. Howard was an integral piece of the Phillies postseason success that culminated in a World Series championship in 2008.
While his overall numbers may not jump off the page, Howard posted a .932 OPS in the second half of the season while belting 13 homers in 130 at bats. This offseason, Howard purchased a house in the Atlanta area so he will essentially be playing at home at either Gwinnett or SunTrust Park. While it’s just a minor league deal, the news was welcomed with open arms in the Atlanta clubhouse at Citi Field on Thursday. Freddie Freeman said he had already exchanged texts with Howard while RA Dickey said his presence alone can not only change the game but put that sense of doubt in opposing pitchers.
Thursdays signing once again goes along with the philosophy John Coppolella and the front office have preached in signing players with absolutely no risk whatsoever. Should Howard prove he has something left in the tank, don’t be surprised if he ends up with the Major League club in mid-May for a road trip that features stops in AL cities Houston and Toronto. In the meantime, Howard will report to Orlando to extended spring training and could progress to Gwinnett from there. Again, a move that includes zero risk and no guarantees going forward. But, the threat of that bat lurking from the dugout can certainly still help change the game with one swing.