Blue Jays reportedly ink left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to MLB deal
TORONTO — The Blue Jays addressed a critical area of need by reportedly inking left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year, $3M contract on Tuesday.
Howell, 33, is a veteran of 531 career games at the major league level and has pitched to a cumulative ERA of 3.77 with a WHIP of 1.332 complimented by a K/9 of 8.3 across 608 and two-thirds innings of work dating back to his rookie campaign with the Kansas City Royals in 2005.
After finding limited success as a starter over his first three years in the Show, the 6'0" product of Modesto, CA was relegated to a relief role in 2008 and responded by posting a breakout season while under the tutelage of pitching guru Jim Hickey with the arm heavy Tampa Bay Rays.
Since that point, the former first rounder has appeared as a full-time reliever and contributed heavily to five playoff teams, the most recent coming in 2015 after establishing a career-best ERA of 1.43 over 44 frames on the year.
Inked to a major league deal, Howell now joins Aaron Loup as the teams two lefties out of the bullpen. Although Loup earned a raise in arbitration earlier this offseason, he’s no longer a lock to make Toronto’s 25-man roster out of spring training as the addition of Howell, a recent string of inconsistencies and the emergence of fellow left-handed relievers Matt Dermody and Tim Mayza in the minor leagues last season has left his once guaranteed spot on the big league club in jeopardy.
After having his $6.25M club option picked up by the Dodgers in 2016, the soft-tossing Howell scuffled out of the gate and ended up allowing an overall opponents batting average of .281 for the season, his highest figure since switching to full-time relief.
Still, despite a marginal drop in velocity, the Blue Jays brass saw enough in his performance to justify issuing Howell one-year deal for 2017. After all, he is left-handed and, following the Brett Cecil deal in November, it almost feels as if south pawed relievers are the only ones making money this winter.
Had Howell recorded numbers similar to the ones posted between ’08 and ’15 in his last season out west, Toronto would have had to shell out a lot more in order to acquire his services.
Considering the inflated market, Howell’s deal could turn into an absolute steal for the Blue Jays.
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