Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dodgers should re-sign J.P. Howell, even if it requires a 3-year deal

When the Dodgers signed J.P. Howell to be the primary left-handed option out of the bullpen, some folks were skeptical. I, on the other hand, was pretty happy about the deal.

He signed for $2.85 million. This winter, he's going to hit the jackpot.

The Angels just signed Joe Smith to a 3-year, $15-plus million deal. You're probably saying, "Who?" You're not wrong for doing so. Smith is a solid right-handed reliever who isn't an elite reliever by any means. In this day, apparently non-elite relievers get 3-year deals at questionable average annual values. Remember when the Dodgers signed Brandon League to a 3-year, $22 million deal? Oof.

Howell was a big part of the Dodger bullpen in 2013, and it'd be great to have him back. He posted a 2.18 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 7.8 K/9 and a 0.3 HR/9 in 62 innings. He's effective against right-handers, too.

vs. LHB

vs. RHB

His .452 OPS against lefties was fifth-best in the majors this season. He did this without anywhere near elite stuff. His fastball averaged 85.2 MPH before the 2013 season.

What's interesting to note is his velocity ticked up a bit this season on all his pitches. His fastball checked in at 87.4 MPH, his curveball at 80 MPH and his changeup at 81.2 MPH. His fastball and changeup were career-bests, while his curveball velocity was the third-best of his career.

As a result of the increased velocity, his fastball and curveball rated the best of his career at age 30. FanGraphs rated his fastball at 9.9 (previous high 4.2) and his curveball at 6.5 (previous high 3.8).

There's no sign of his stuff regressing, as his stuff doesn't put a lot of stress on his arm. While giving 3-year deals to non-elite relievers is a risky proposition, I'd be for giving it to Howell if it means he sticks around.

I did an informal Twitter poll yesterday asking the question. Here are some of the results.

Pretty split. At this rate, it seems Howell will easily get a 3-year deal on the open market. If Scott Elbert were healthy or the Dodgers had another lefty they could trust outside Paco Rodriguez, I'd say let Howell walk. But a 3-year, $12-15 million deal shouldn't be out of the question.

One way or another, Howell is going to get lots of money this winter, and should have job security for quite awhile.

Photo credit: Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons


  1. Howell was an integral part of the bullpen, no more so than when Rodriguez faltered late in the season and he was stellar against left-handers, no doubt. That being said, Carlos Marmol and Brian Wilson were both even better overall. If the Dodgers have been guilty of one weakness consistently throughout the years, it's been a lack of solid bullpen pitching to transition to their closer. They need these guys, especially with a manager who hooks his starters after 90 pitches. The bullpen will be overtaxed again and if LA shorts it's relief corps, they're asking for trouble.

  2. Agree Howell was integral, but don't agree Marmol and Wilson were better. Marmol was surprisingly solid and Wilson was great in limited time. Howell was great for the entire season.

    I'd like to see Wilson return, but think he'll get a closer job elsewhere.