Dan Dunkin writing for phillyBurbs.com:
Despite all the bone-headed, short-sighted things the Phillies have done en route to the brink of 10,000 defeats, give them credit for one thing: At least they didn’t trade Howard for Kip Wells.
Actually give credit to Pittsburgh Pirates GM David Littlefield. That discussed deal in the summer of 2005, near the end of the disastrous Ed Wade administration, didn’t happen because Littlefield wasn’t enamored enough of Howard. Friday night the Phillies’ potent young lineup shelled Wells — previously 5-0 against them, but 3-11 this season.
It's been denied that Ed Wade offered Howard for Wells (or Benson, the year before), though it was rumored (scroll down, 7-18-2005) that Wade "dangled" Howard before Littlefield's eyes. Also, I never saw a report suggesting that Littlefield asked for Howard or otherwise expressed any interest in him.
This story won't die because, in July 2005, both the Phillies and the Pirates were at the center of trade speculation, and their needs appeared to match well. Howard demanded a trade in early 2005 because he was blocked by Jim Thome. The Pirates needed a left-handed power bat, and Howard's profile reminded some of Willie Stargell. But, like Brad Eldred, Howard struck out "too much." And his success in the minors was discounted for him being a bit old for his level.
Howard had vocal doubters until he proved himself at the big-league level. For example, Ken Mandel reported (for MLB.com) that no one wanted Howard, though his future lay "with another organization," in July 2004. That same month, Chuck Hixson wrote that the Phillies would be "lucky" to get someone like Kris Benson for Howard. In mid-2005, the Pirates had Brad Eldred looking about as good as Howard.
So, to be honest, I can't remember anyone being unreservedly enthusiastic about Howard's future -- this was more the tone of Howard speculations. He was regarded not as a slam-dunk sure-thing but as a chance the Pirates would do well to take.