At least one of the Rays' free agent relievers is returning to Tampa Bay. The team re-signed left-hander J.P. Howell, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (Twitter links) who reports that the deal is for $1.1MM plus incentives. The Rays non-tendered the 27-year-old earlier this month, but continued working toward a deal with him. Legacy Sports represents Howell.
The 2004 first rounder missed all of 2010 after undergoing left labrum surgery in May. Back in 2009, Howell was effective for 66 2/3 innings, posting a 2.84 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 and picking up 17 saves. He was equally effective in 2008, when he posted a 2.22 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 89 1/3 innings.
The Rays will be able to retain Howell in 2012, since he won't have six years of service time after next season.
Joaquin Benoit already signed elsewhere and Rafael Soriano, Lance Cormier, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls and Randy Choate are all free agents, so Tampa Bay's bullpen will likely look completely different in 2011.