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.
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.
Twitter poll: If it means keeping him, do you sign J.P. Howell to a 3-year deal? #Dodgers
— Dustin Nosler (@FeelinKindaBlue) November 22, 2013
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) November 22, 2013
@FeelinKindaBlue I didn't like the Javier Lopez contract but I think I'd match that
— purple drank (@purpledrank0) November 22, 2013
@FeelinKindaBlue no. Made that mistake once already. Not again.
— Jon Aviles (@JonAviles) November 22, 2013
@FeelinKindaBlue id save a 3 year deal for wilson. Yes, lefties are valuable but JP is not a power lefty. Give some of the kids a chance.
— josh cameron (@coachcameron21) November 22, 2013
@FeelinKindaBlue yes! #dodgers
— Bluuuu (@thinkazuuuul) November 22, 2013
— silverwidow (@silverwidow99) November 22, 2013
@FeelinKindaBlue Tough call: multiyear deal 4 non-elite reliever is tough, but team has lack of viable LHP. I say yes: can trade him later.
— Tomás Chavez (@trchavez41684) November 22, 2013
@FeelinKindaBlue Dont like 3 yr deals for RPs but that's what it's going to take to get him. He's better than any other 3 yr guy to date.
— ThinkBlueLA (@Think_BlueLA) November 22, 2013
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