According to a tweet from Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times, the Dodgers have signed left handed reliever J.P. Howell. According to the reports, the contract is for one year, and 2.85 million dollars, which also includes performance bonuses. (Apparently Howell will earn 2.85 million and can earn up to 1.2 million in performance bonuses.)
Source: #Dodgers moving toward a one-year deal with left-hander J.P. Howell. Contract still hasn’t been finalized.
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) January 5, 2013
As you know solidifying the bullpen has been one of the Dodgers priorities this winter. They began the process by signing Brandon League earlier this off-season. The club has been looking for a second lefty to pair in the bullpen with mainstay Scott Elbert. Left handed relief pitching depth has been thin for the Dodgers because Elbert’s health is in question. Elbert is coming off of elbow surgery, and the only other left handed reliever the Dodgers have available is rookie Paco Rodriguez, who only has 6.2 innings of major league experience under his belt.
J.P. Howell is a 29 year old left hander from Modesto, California. The veteran reliever was originally drafted by Kansas City in the first round of the 2004 amateur draft. Howell only pitched one season in Kansas City before he was traded to Tampa Bay after the 2006 season. Howell has been pitching for the Rays since then. Howell was originally a starter up until 2007. After the Rays moved Howell into the bullpen, he began to flourish.
In 2008 Howell pitched in 64 games, recording 89.1 innings of work. That season he posted a 6-1 record in relief, with a 2.22 ERA, 39 walks, 92 whiffs, and three saves. That year Howell pitched in the World Series for the rays. In 2009, Howell pitched in 69 games, while recording a 7-5 record, 2.84 ERA, 17 saves, in 64 innings pitched. That season he had 33 walks, and 79 whiffs.
In 2010, Howell suffered a shoulder injury, and had to miss the entire season to Have surgery. Howell struggled after coming back from his shoulder surgery in 2011. He was 2-3 that season with a 6.16 ERA, in 46 games. He walked 18 and whiffed only 26. In 2012, Howell somewhat returned to form. Last season for Tampa Bay he pitched in 55 games, posting a 1-0 record, 3.04 ERA, 22 walks, 42 whiffs, in 50.1 innings pitched. All total, Howell has a career 4.42 ERA, 21-23 record, 21 saves, an 8.4 whiff per nine rate, and a 4.2 walks per nine rate. Howell’s splits are his strength. Last season, Howell held lefties to a .200 batting average.
Despite being known as a finesse pitcher, Howell has put up very good strikeout numbers. During his best year in 2009, he posted a 10.7 whiff per nine rate, and followed that up even after his surgery, with solid 7.5-7.6 whiff rates during his 2011-2012 seasons. Howell throws a sinker which can reach up to 90 MPH+. He has a knuckle-curve that reportedly breaks downward, and a change-up that breaks away from righties. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him pitch before, but according to the scouting reports, he is supposed to be one of the better lefty relievers in the American League, and on the free agent market. He’ll be replacing Randy Choate as the team loogy, after Choate signed a free agent deal with the Cardinals. The veteran left hander also attended and graduated from USC. The Dodgers bullpen is going to be very good next season. Can anyone say shutdown pen? According to Buster Olney it’s a done deal.
J.P. Howell agreed to terms with the Dodgers. A left-hander for a very deep bullpen.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 5, 2013
Howell made 1.35 million dollars last season as part of a one year deal with Tampa Bay.