Friday, January 4, 2013

Reports: Dodgers to sign former Rays' LHP J.P. Howell to 1-year contract

Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweeted the Dodgers a closing in on a 1-year deal with left-handed reliever J.P. Howell.
"Source: moving toward a one-year deal with left-hander J.P. Howell. Contract still hasn't been finalized."
See, I wouldn't lie to you.

Buster Olney went one step further.
"J.P. Howell agreed to terms with the Dodgers. A left-hander for a very deep bullpen."
"Howell gets a one-year deal with LAD, for just under $3 million in base salary, and performance bonuses."
This is a minor move for the Dodgers. It's decent, but not a move that's going to put them over the proverbial hump.

Howell isn't a flamethrower by any means, as his fastball averages 85.2 MPH for his career. He also uses a high-70s curveball and changeup. His change might be his best pitch.

Howell, 29, was drafted in the first round of the 2004 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. He spent one season with the Royals, posting a 6.19 ERA in 15 starts. He was traded to the-then Devil Rays in 2006. The Rays tried him as a starter for parts of two seasons, making 18 starts and struggling (6.46 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 11.7 H/9, 1.2 HR/9).

Tampa moved him to the bullpen in 2008, and he flourished. He posted a 2.22 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 and 3.39 FIP in 89 1/3 innings. He was the Rays' closer for a portion of 2009, posting 17 saves and similar numbers to his '08 campaign.

However, a balky shoulder ended his 2010 season before it began. He pitched poorly in 2011 (like, 2005-07 poorly) in his first season back. He had a decent 2012, but his FIP was an alarming 4.78 because he gave up seven home runs in 50 1/3 innings. He's also WAR'd -0.5 and -0.3 the last two seasons, which is never a good thing.

When healthy, Howell can be an asset out of the bullpen. He posted a 9.9 K/9 prior to the surgery and, while walks were a problem (4.2 BB/9), he was still a weapon out of the Rays' bullpen. But if his last 81 innings are any indication, that Howell may never resurface.

His splits are pretty similar for his career against lefties and righties, but it's no surprise to see his OPS nearly 75 points higher against righties.

This signing means one of two things:
  1. The Dodgers aren't sold on Paco Rodriguez being the primary lefty out of the 'pen
  2. The Dodgers aren't convinced Scott Elbert is going to be 100 percent to start the season
Depth is not usually a bad thing. Rodriguez has options, so he's likely the odd man out if Elbert is healthy.

If Howell can regain any of that 2008-09 magic, this could be a really good signing for the Dodgers. Until he does (if he does), he's just another lefty who breathes and can throw a baseball adequately well.

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