J.P. Howell Rumors

Dodgers To Sign J.P. Howell

DEC. 24: The Dodgers officially announced the signing.

DEC. 20: Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter links) that Howell will receive a $3MM signing bonus and be paid $4MM in both guaranteed years of the deal. The option is a $6.25MM club option with a $250K buyout, but Howell can void the option when exercised, if he's willing to forfeit the buyout. The option becomes a player option if he pitches 65 games in 2015 or totals 120 games between 2014-15 and is not on the disabled list at the end of the season.

DEC. 17: The Dodgers have agreed to re-sign left-handed reliever J.P. Howell, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The deal includes two years at a guaranteed $11.25MM, plus a mutual option for 2016 that would convert to a player option if it is "triggered," Heyman reports. (Twitter links.)

Howell

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported earlier this evening that Howell was close to a two-year deal for $11.25MM with a $6.25MM third year option that would vest with 120 appearances over 2014-15. Though final details on the option remain unknown, it could be that the mutual option would vest to become a player option at an appearance threshold.

Howell, 30, gets a significant raise on last year's $2.85MM salary. His $11.25MM guarantee falls shy of those received by Javier Lopez (Giants, $13MM) and Boone Logan (Rockies, $16.5MM), but Howell's representatives at the Legacy Agency secured their client a higher average annual value on his deal. And, if he makes good on the contract, Howell will presumably either trigger the vesting option, have the club pick it up anyway, or hit the market at 32 in good position to land another payday.

Last year, Howell registered a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings for the Dodgers, including 7.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 and just 6.1 hits per nine innings. Advanced metrics were a fan of his work in 2013 as well, with his FIP landing at 2.89 and xFIP at 3.48. 

In spite of Howell's excellent 2013 campaign, there were issues that may have held down his value to some extent. Low HR/9 and BABIP numbers last year drove his stellar results to some extent, and anticipated regression in those areas lead Steamer and Oliver (via Fangraphs) to project Howell's ERA in the mid-3.00 range for 2014. Going further back, moreover, though he managed a 3.04 ERA in 2012, it was accompanied by a 4.78 FIP and 4.17 xFIP. And in 2011, similarly unfavorable analytical marks resulted in a 6.16 ERA. 

MLB.com's Ken Gurnick first reported that the sides were closing in on a two-year, $11.25MM deal with a third-year option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Dodgers Close To Multi-Year Deal With J.P. Howell

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.


Rockies Close To Deal With Logan, Talking To Howell

6:59pm: The Rockies are "moving towards [the] finish line" with Logan, Renck reports (Twitter link).  The club still likes Howell, Renck notes, and "talks can shift."

12:21pm: The Rockies have also had "serious" talks with Boone Logan, Renck reports (via Sulia). However, Howell is their "slight" preference between the two. Howell wants a three-year deal, adds Renck, which is likely slowing the negotiation process.

10:12am: The Rockies are targeting left-hander J.P. Howell and have "made real progress" in negotiations, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post (on Twitter).

Colorado has been set on adding at least one more arm to the back of its bullpen over the course of the Winter Meetings. Reports have indicated that they showed interest in Joaquin Benoit before backing off due to his price tag, and they were said to be aggressively pursuing a trade for Reds left-hander Sean Marshall earlier in the week. Renck reported yesterday that their preference is to add a left-handed arm, so the focus on Howell makes sense.



Relief Rumors: Lefties, Axford, Papelbon, Benoit, Guerrier, Rays

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the top left-handed relievers on the market — J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty and Scott Downs — should begin to start coming off the board in the next 24 to 48 hours. It's already been reported that O'Flaherty is in talks with the Braves about a return to Atlanta. Here's the latest on the market for relievers…

  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that there's a sense that the Nationals will land a left-handed reliever today.
  • The Orioles have had talks with John Axford, tweets Morosi. They're also said to be the current favorites for Grant Balfour.
  • A rival executive estimated that the Phillies would have to eat about 40 to 50 percent of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining salary to trade him, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Papelbon is owed $13MM in each of the next two seasons and has a vesting option for a fifth year.
  • The Rockies have had discussions with Joaquin Benoit but are a ways apart in terms of salary, Morosi reports. Talks between the two sides are fading, as Benoit appears likely to seek a more lucrative deal elsewhere (Twitter links).
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday that when the dust settles from the Winter Meetings, Matt Guerrier's name could be a of interest to the Indians.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that even after re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo and acquiring Heath Bell, the Rays are still looking to improve their bullpen. One option could be injured lefty Jordan Norberto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season.

Nationals Eyeing J.P. Howell, Scott Downs

J.P. Howell and Scott Downs have both been mentioned as possible targets for the Nationals within the last few days, and it appears that Washington may be narrowing its focus on the pair of southpaws. According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (Twitter link), if the Nats sign a free agent left-handed reliever, it will likely be either Howell or Downs.

Washington had also been linked to Eric O'Flaherty, but other clubs are getting the sense that O'Flaherty will probably return to the Braves, says Stark. The lefty, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, had indicated earlier today that he'd be open to signing anywhere, including Washington.

Howell, 30, is coming off an excellent season in Los Angeles, where he posted a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings for the Dodgers. Downs, 37, was his usual effective self in 2013 as well, recording a 2.49 ERA in 68 total appearances for the Angels and Braves. It was the seventh straight season that Downs has posted an ERA of 3.15 or better.


Relief Notes: Axford, Downs, O’Flaherty

The market for relievers continues to take shape, as the Tigers yesterday announced a two-year, $20MM contract with Joe Nathan, and the Red Sox and Edward Mujica struck a two-year agreement. Here's the latest on the free agent market for relievers…

  • Agent Dan Horwits received calls from 14 teams regarding client John Axford in the first 36 hours following his non-tender by the Cardinals, he told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. As Nicholson-Smith writes, any team to sign Axford would control him through the 2016 season, making him a potentially more appealing target.
  • One team who figures to be heavily in the mix for Axford is the Orioles, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The O's liked Mujica prior to his signing with the Red Sox, and the fact that he is off the board likely strengthens Baltimore's interest in Axford, Kubatko adds.
  • The Nationals are interested in Scott Downs and have inquired on him at least twice, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. It's not clear what kind of contract Downs is looking for at this time, writes Ladson, who also reports that the Nats are considering using Ross Detwiler out of the bullpen in 2014.
  • The Nationals are also interested in southpaw Eric O'Flaherty, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Though the Nationals have yet to make an offer, they've maintained a constant dialogue with his agent. Washington is one of six teams to have shown interest in O'Flaherty and is also eyeing J.P. Howell and Boone Logan, per Kilgore.

NL East Notes: Logan, Nationals, Mets, Samson

The Braves will be moving into a brand new stadium in time for the 2017 season, the team announced today.  The new ballpark is located in Cobb County, about 14 miles northwest of Turner Field.  The move will end the club's tenure at Turner Field after an even 20 seasons — "the Ted" was originally built as the main venue for the 1996 Olympic Games and then converted into a ballpark for the start of the 1997 season.

Here are some more items from around the NL East…

  • The Nationals are interested in free agent southpaw Boone Logan, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports.  Logan posted strong numbers out of the Yankees bullpen over the last four seasons and is expected to fully recover from recent surgery to remove a bone spur from his throwing elbow. 
  • Kilgore notes that Washington is expected to target left-handed relief this winter and besides Logan, the team could also check in on J.P. Howell or Manny Parra, as the Nats had interest in both pitchers last offseason.
  • Also from Kilgore, an American League executive tells him that the Nationals would likely have to part with Anthony Rendon as the key piece of a David Price trade package.
  • Marlins president David Samson discussed Giancarlo Stanton's contract and the Marlins' policy against no-trade clauses in an appearance on MLB Network Radio's Inside Pitch with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on SiriusXM.  Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel has a partial transcript of Samson's comments.
  • If the Marlins are serious about convincing Stanton to stay over the long term, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro says the club needs more stability in the dugout.  Frisaro notes that in Stanton's short career, he has already played under five different managers and five different hitting coaches.
  • Of their two first base options, the Mets would reportedly prefer to trade Ike Davis over Lucas Duda, though Andy Martino of the New York Daily News thinks Davis is a better option for the team going forward.
  • From earlier today on MLBTR, Zach Links shared some more NL East notes, and we also posted team-centric collections of about the Phillies and the Mets.

Olney On Price, Relievers, Colon, Salaries, Red Sox

David Price's trade value may never be higher than it is right now, ESPN's Buster Olney argues, so the Rays may have to quell their competitive instincts and deal the ace southpaw even if they "aren't completely sold" on offers they receive before the year is out.  Olney covers several other topics in his Insider-only piece, such as how quality relievers such as Joe Smith or J.P. Howell could command three-year contracts worth $12MM-$18MM this winter.  Here's more from Olney…

  • Despite Bartolo Colon's good numbers in 2013, Olney says (in a video blog) that there isn't a strong market for his services since executives simply don't know what to expect from the soft-tossing 40-year-old.  Olney thinks Colon will find a one-year, $10MM-$12MM deal for 2014, similar to what MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts.  Despite the mutual interest between Colon and the Athletics, however, Olney predicts Colon will sign with a big-market team.  
  • Some agents believe there will be "a notable spike in salaries this winter," Olney tweets.
  • In an appearance on WEEI Radio's Mut & Merloni Show on Wednesday (WEEI.com's Jackson Alexander has a partial transcript), Olney said that if the Red Sox make Brian McCann a competitive offer, McCann would consider taking slightly less money since he's a good fit in their clubhouse atmosphere.
  • Also from the radio interview, Olney thinks "the smart play" for Stephen Drew would be to accept Boston's $14.1MM qualifying offer.  I'm not sure I agree with Olney, as while Drew couldn't find a $14.1MM average annual salary on the open market, he'd surely find a multiyear contract.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes thinks Drew can find a four-year, $48MM deal this winter.
  • Olney also thinks the Mariners will try "to change the conversation" about their franchise by making a major offer to Jacoby Ellsbury.

NL West Notes: Dodgers, Belisle, Crain, Giants

The MLBTR staff extends our condolences to the friends and family of NBA Hall-of-Fame player and coach Bill Sharman, who passed away today at age 87.  Sharman is best known for his legendary basketball career but he also played in the Dodgers' minor system from 1950-55, doing well enough to earn a late-season callup in 1951.  Sharman was a so-called "phantom ballplayer" (a player who spends time on a Major League roster but didn't actually appear in a game) yet his status afforded him a unique spot in baseball history.  The entire Dodgers bench was ejected for arguing a call on September 27, 1951, thus making Sharman the only player to ever be ejected from a Major League game without appearing in one.

Here are some items from around the NL West, starting with Sharman's old team…

  • J.P. Howell and Nick Punto are the only two of the Dodgers' free agents who Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles predicts will be back with the team next season.  Saxon also predicts the Dodgers will decline Mark Ellis' $5.75MM club option and their side of Chris Capuano's $8MM mutual option.
  • Letting that mostly veteran free agent group go is one of Saxon's five ways the Dodgers can reach their stated goal of getting younger in 2014.  Other methods include trading Andre Ethier and acquiring David Price and Elvis Andrus.
  • The Rockies will explore signing Jesse Crain if he's healthy and will look to re-sign Matt Belisle to a longer-term deal, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes.  Colorado has a $4.25MM option on Belisle for 2014 but Renck says the team will look to lower Belisle's base salary for next season in as part of a new contract.
  • Renck also outlines several other Rockies offseason needs and notes that while they couldn't manage to sign Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, the attempt at least showed that the club is trying and is willing to spend this winter.
  • Also from Renck (via Twitter), he is "fascinated" by the Nationals' reported hiring of Matt Williams and notes that the Rockies came close to hiring Williams as manager last year before going with Walt Weiss.
  • Even before their offseason moves have really begun, the Rockies and Giants are two of three teams projected by ESPN's Jared Cross (Insider subscription required) to have the best chance of improving by at least 20 wins in 2014.  Cross also suggests a pair of free agents who could help the two clubs.
  • A number of Padres topics are explored by Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune during a live chat with readers, including whether the Angels' Mark Trumbo would be a realistic trade option for the Friars as they look to add power to their lineup.
  • USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that Dave Duncan is a "perfect fit" as the Diamondbacks' pitching coach and that we should "keep an eye on" him as a candidate for the job.  Duncan took a leave of absence from the Cardinals in 2012 and recently said that he isn't interested in serving as a pitching coach again.
  • In other NL West news from earlier today, the Giants officially announced Tim Lincecum's new contract….Lincecum's feelings about re-signing are included as part of a collection of Giants notes….the Padres designated southpaws Colt Hynes and Tommy Layne for assignment….MLBTR's Steve Adams wrote a Free Agent Profile of Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson.

Dodgers Sign J.P. Howell

The Dodgers' offseason spending continues, as they've officially announced the signing of J.P. Howell to a one-year deal. Howell will reportedly earn $2.85MM with an additional $1.2MM worth of incentives built into the contract. The left-hander is a Legacy Sports Group client.

Uspw_6472630Howell, 29, pitched to a 3.04 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 50 1/3 innings for the Rays last season after missing all of 2010 and part of 2011 due to shoulder surgery. He held left-handed batters to a .200/.306/.306 batting line with a 52.4% ground ball rate in 2012. Howell is a soft-tosser, averaging just 87.1 mph with his fastball last year according to PitchFX.

The Dodgers have not been shy about spending over the last eight months or so. They've re-signed Brandon League while adding Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu this offseason, plus they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and others during the season. Howell replaces the departed Randy Choate, who took a three-year deal with the Cardinals last month.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes did not rank Howell as one of the offseason's Top 50 Free Agents. As our Free Agent Tracker shows, lefty relievers like Will Ohman, J.C. Romero, and Manny Parra remain unsigned.

Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times was the first to report that the two sides were nearing an agreement (on Twitter), and ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the agreement had been reached. Olney also added Howell's base salary (Twitter link), while Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted news of the incentives.

Steve Adams also contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.