Dodgers left-hander J.P. Howell made his 52nd appearance of the season in tonight’s game with the Cubs, and also his 120th appearance since the start of the 2014 season. By reaching this milestone, the $6.5MM option the Dodgers held on Howell’s services for 2016 has now been converted into a player option. (Hat tip to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.) Howell’s option will become official provided he doesn’t end the season on the disabled list.
The veteran southpaw signed a two-year, $11.25MM deal with Los Angeles in December 2013 that paid him a $3MM signing bonus and $4MM salaries in each of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The $6.25MM team option carried a $250K buyout, though Howell did have some agency if the Dodgers exercised it; Howell would’ve been allowed to opt out of the option if he forfeited the $250K. Given how well Howell has pitched this season, he likely would’ve given up that $250K anyway in search of a longer-term contract, and the 32-year-old will get plenty of offseason attention from teams looking for bullpen help.
Howell has been a bright spot in a shaky Dodgers bullpen, posting a 1.46 ERA, 2.75 K/BB rate, 59.3% ground ball rate and 33 strikeouts over 37 innings. Left-handed batters have only managed a .225/.309/.225 batting line against Howell this year. The lefty has a 2.27 ERA in 198 1/3 innings from 2012-15, and while the peripheral stats indicate that he’s gotten some significant BABIP and strand-rate help over that stretch, Howell’s 2.9 BB/9 this season is on pace to be the lowest of his 10-year career.