Howard, Phillies agree on 3-year contract |

Howard, Phillies agree on 3-year contract

PHILADELPHIA ” Ryan Howard has agreed to a $54 million, three-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies ” avoiding a potentially contentious arbitration hearing.

Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs last season while helping the Phillies win their first World Series title since 1980. He batted just .251, struck out 199 times and made 19 errors at first base, but also was runner-up to Albert Pujols for MVP.

“I’m happy to have this done and to know that I’ll be in Philadelphia for at least another three years,” Howard said Sunday.

Howard will earn $15 million this season, $19 million next year and $20 million in 2011.

The 29-year-old first baseman has less than four years service time in the majors, so he wasn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season. Now the two sides won’t have to worry about any more arbitration hearings.

“We’re very pleased to have avoided the arbitration process, not just for this year, but also for the next two,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Ryan is clearly one of the top power hitters and run producers in the major leagues and is a very important part of our championship club.”

Howard asked for $18 million in salary arbitration, the third-highest figure submitted since the process began in 1974. Philadelphia offered him $14 million, a raise of $4 million. A hearing was scheduled for later this week.

Howard won his arbitration case last year when he was awarded $10 million, the highest figure given a victorious player.

The Phillies avoided arbitration with all 10 eligible players. They gave ace left-hander Cole Hamels a $20.5 million, three-year contract.

A fifth-round draft pick in 2001, Howard quickly established himself as one of the premier sluggers in the majors once he finally reached the big leagues. His path to Philadelphia initially was blocked by Jim Thome, who signed an $85 million, six-year contract in December 2002.

An injury to Thome during the 2005 season paved the way for Howard, who had 22 homers and 63 RBIs in just 88 games to win the NL Rookie of the Year award.

The big man with the powerful left-handed stroke followed that up with one of the best sophomore seasons in history. Howard had 58 homers, 149 RBIs and a .313 average in ’06, nearly lifting the Phillies into the playoffs.

Howard batted .268 with 47 homers and 136 RBIs in 2007 in what was considered a down year for him.

Since moving into the starting lineup for good on July 1, 2005, Howard leads the majors in home runs (174) and RBIs (493).

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