Bill Streicher - USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Howard officially had his option for 2017 declined by the Philadelphia Phillies

It wasn't even a close call as to whether the Phillies would pick up the option on Ryan Howard's contract. For a couple of years now, it was obvious that Howard and the Phillies would cut ties following the 2016 season. Now, it's official.

Instead of paying Ryan Howard $23-million to play in Philadelphia in 2017, the Phillies decided to give him $10-million and the opportunity to play elsewhere next season. The move comes as no surprise, with the Phillies essentially giving Howard a going away party on the final day of the season.

The Phillies had openly tried to trade Howard, who turns 37 in two weeks, for the past couple of seasons, but couldn't find a taker, partially because of a huge contract that remained and partly because his production has fallen. In the last three seasons, Howard has averaged a line of 24-77-.219/.286/.419 in 394 games. In 2016, Howard hit 25-59-.196/.257/.453 in 112 games with the Phillies. Over the years, Howard's struggles against left-handed pitching have been well documented and they've gotten worse as the years have worn on. In his career, just 91 of his 382 home runs have come against left-handers and he's hit just .217 against lefties, while batting .277 against right-handers.

Howard and the Phillies agreed to a five-year, $125-million contract extension that took him from 2012 through the 2016 season, with an option for 2017. The Phillies and Howard agreed to the deal in April of 2010, while he was still signed through the 2011 season. Many - especially late in his contract - thought that the Phillies signed him too early, but the Phillies signed him in an effort to get what at the time, was considered a bargain for the type of hitter that he was. At the time of the deal, Howard had averaged 49 home runs and 143 RBI per season with the Phillies and was playing out a three-year deal that averaged $18-million per season.

The problems started for Howard before the new contract even kicked into effect. In the final game of the 2011 National League Championship Series, Howard tore his Achilles tendon making the final out of the series against St. Louis. Over the next two seasons, Howard played in a total of just 151 games for the Phillies and hit 25 home runs over the two seasons. After the injury, and battles with chronic knee issues, Howard was never the same player that he was early in his career.

Howard lost considerable playing time because of injuries and this season, lost playing time to right-handed hitting Tommy Joseph, who was called up early in the season and became the primary option at first base, especially against left-handers.

Howard won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2005 and followed that up with a league MVP Award the following season. For the next three seasons, Howard finished in the top five in MVP balloting, finishing second in 2008, as he helped lead the Phillies to a World Series Championship, their first in 28 years.

With the Phillies not picking up Howard's option, he is a free agent and able to sign with any team. He has said repeatedly that he still believes he can play and will look to sign on with a club for the 2017 season.

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