Stark Report: Will the Phillies Bring Up Maikel Franco, Release Ryan Howard?
There's no secret that Phillies mainstays Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are struggling. After last night's 1-0 win over the Braves, the duo is hitting a combined .140 (Utley .135, Howard .180) on the season with just three home runs and 13 RBI.
Meanwhile, down on the farm, 22-year old prospect Maikel Franco is tearing it up playing for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. In 15 games, the third baseman is hitting .343 and leads the International league with 36 total bases, 23 hits and eight doubles.
Back in Philadelphia Franco is blocked.
The current third baseman is 23-year old Cody Asche, who is off to a fast start, hitting .323 in the teams first 16 games.
Then there is Howard.
The former 2007 NL MVP is nearing the end of the line, but with a $25 million dollar check coming his way for the rest of this season and next (the team has a $10 million buyout option for 2017), the team has a tough decision to make. Do they continue to allow him to block Franco, who can also play first base? Do they release their former MVP and eat his salary?
ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jayson Stark joined me on the Sports Bash and discussed the Phillies dilema.
"I don't have any indication that it's close," Stark admitted about bringing Franco up to the big leagues. "Unless he (Howard) were to really pick it up, this is going to end with Ryan Howard getting released. Do you see it turning around? They are praying it does, but we've been here the same talk for a long time now."
(Listen to Jayson Stark on the Sports Bash discuss the Phillies problems, and some of the early bright spots this season.)