Crisis averted. For now.
According to Phillies.com, the Phils and their slugging first baseman have reached an agreement on a three-year deal worth $54M. Incentives are unknown, as is the yearly distribution of those $54 million bucks.
This closes the book on potential arbitration cases for the Phillies, and cements their payroll in the $130-$135M range. It also buys out the last three seasons of Howard’s arbitration eligibility while still leaving him ready to become a free agent in 2011.
Personally, I think this is an excellent deal. It avoids the biggest fear I had: huge, costly raises for the next two years. Given what the future may have held, this could be viewed as something of a bargain, or at least a bailout of a different color. It also allows the Phils some modicum of flexibility, should the need arise to deal him at a later date. For now – at least for the next year and a half to two years, I’d say – Howard will be a member of the Phillies.
UPDATE (4:40 p.m.): The breakdown of Howard’s deal is as follows: $15M for 2009, $19M in 2010, and $20M in 2011. The usual incentives are also included, but in the face of a $20M base, they don’t measure up to much.