The Dodgers are nearing agreement on a multi-year deal with southpaw reliever J.P. Howell, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. According to Gurnick, the deal contemplates a $11.25MM guarantee for two seasons. It would also contain a $6.25MM vesting option for a third year that will become guaranteed with 120 appearances over 2014-15.
Howell, 30, is represented by the Legacy Agency. He played in Los Angeles last year after inking a one-year, $2.85MM deal that included $1.2MM in achievable incentives. He was among the best left-handed relief options on the market this time around. Two other top lefties landed three-year deals, with Javier Lopez obtaining a $13MM guarantee from the Giants and Boone Logan netting $16.5MM from the Rockies. But Howell's deal betters those two in average annual value, and easily eclipses the two-year, $5.5MM commitment that Manny Parra received from the Reds.
Though Howell is slightly older than Logan, he is coming off of a better season. Howell registered a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings for the Dodgers in 2013, striking out 7.8 batters per nine innings while allowing 3.3 walks and 6.1 hits per nine. Advanced metrics were a fan of his work last year as well, with an FIP landing at 2.89 and an xFIP at 3.48.
On the other hand, those same measures were much less pleased by Howell's 2011-12 campaigns, leaving at least some cause to wonder whether he can repeat his 2013 results. Steamer and Oliver projections, via Fangraphs, both see Howell as likely to regress. Predicting a bump up in his low HR/9 and BABIP numbers from last year, those systems peg him as a mid-3.00 ERA hurler next year.