Ryan Howard just wanted to concentrate on baseball this spring. No squabbles over hiscontract. No daily questions about his future.
The big slugger got his wish -- and a hefty raise, too.
Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a $54 million, three-year contract on Sunday, avoiding a potentially contentious arbitration hearing.
The 2006 NL MVP will earn $15 million this season, $19 million next year and $20 million in 2011. He can increase the base salary by $1 million in each of the last two years if he wins the MVP award during the previous year. He can boost it by $500,000 if he finishes second.
"The things that have happened prior with Ryan, it was really nothing adversarial, although I know with some people it was depicted that way," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We just agreed to disagree. It didn't make us love Ryan any less, and it didn't make Ryan love us any less."
Howard 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 in a statement.
The Phillies are free to trade Howard without penalty after Nov. 1, 2010. But if he is traded before then, he would get an additional $1 million, according to terms written into the new contract.
The 29-year-old Howard 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," Amaro 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.