Howard's future with Phillies remains unclear

First baseman dealing with bruised left knee; may not play again in '15

Howard's future with Phillies remains unclear

MIAMI -- Ryan Howard's bruised left knee has improved, but not to the point he can hit.

The longer he sits, the less of a chance he plays again in 2015.

But will Howard play for the Phillies in 2016? Howard will make $25 million next season, which does not include a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option.

"Well, he leads our team in home runs and RBIs," incoming Phillies president Andy MacPhail said Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park. "I think if he had been on the field those three games [over the weekend] in Atlanta, I bet we would have won one. But some of his struggles have been well chronicled, too. So I think we just get him healthy again, get him to Spring Training and see where we are."

Phillies name Mackanin manager for 2016

Howard, who will turn 36 in November, leads the Phillies with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs, but his .720 OPS is 103rd out of 147 qualified hitters in baseball. His .418 OPS against left-handers this season has turned him into a platoon player with manager Pete Mackanin not playing him against left-handed starters.

MacPhail: GM search in 'early stages'

The Phillies have tried to trade Howard for some time, but have found scant interest, despite the fact they have offered to pay almost the entirety of his contract. Perhaps MacPhail and the Phillies' next general manager will have better luck in the offseason.

"I anticipate he'll be in Clearwater," MacPhail said about Howard's presence in Spring Training. "We'll see where we go there. I don't know what's going to happen over the course of the winter, what opportunities may be available for us and for him. We just have to cross that bridge when we get there, but right now he's somebody we have a vested interest in getting back healthy and getting him to Clearwater and getting that bat in our lineup that we don't have without him."

Howard honored before game

Worth noting

• The Phillies have been watching rookie right-hander Aaron Nola's workload, but he will make another start Saturday in Washington.

Nola's one-run outing

"He was gung-ho," Mackanin said. "He wants to start again. He said, 'I feel great. I'm anxious to get back out there.' So he's going to get another start and then we'll go from there."

• Infielder Maikel Franco has not played since August with a broken left wrist. Despite some improvement, Franco still feels something in his wrist.

Franco's solo homer

"Another few days and it doesn't look like he's going to get any at-bats to get any timing," Mackanin said. "I would guess that it doesn't look good for him the rest of the year. We have to see. Before he leaves Clearwater, they want to make sure he's 100 percent because he's going to play Winter Ball. They're not going to let him leave to play Winter Ball if he's still feeling something. He'll probably rejoin us in Philly to collect his things and get reevaluated."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.