What are the Phillies doing with Ryan Howard?

If the Phillies want to trade Ryan Howard – the concept is borderline comical, but work with me – they sure have an odd way of showing it.

Howard, 34, has little if any trade value, but he certainly cannot increase his value sitting on the bench. And for all of his many faults – his .682 OPS, his sudden inability to hit right-handers, his below-average defense at first base – he is second on the Phillies with 15 homers and leads the team with 60 RBIs.

RBIs, of course, are not the best measure of offensive performance. And sure, maybe Darin Ruf will give the Phillies a boost, even though he is no youngster at almost 28 and had a .681 OPS at Triple A. But if the Phillies are upset that Howard is underperforming his contract … well, who was it that gave him the money?

I understood when Ryne Sandberg benched Jimmy Rollins in spring training; he wanted to snap Rollins to attention, however indelicately. But the Phillies aren’t going to release Howard when they still owe him some $70 million. And they probably can’t trade him even if they pick up virtually every last cent.

So tell me: What exactly is the point here?