FEB. 9: The Blue Jays announced the signing of Howell to a one-year deal and confirmed that he’ll earn $3MM in 2017.
JAN. 31, 5:25pm: FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that Howell’s deal with the Blue Jays will guarantee him $3MM.
4:40pm: The Blue Jays have reached a one-year deal with left-handed reliever J.P. Howell, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). The Legacy Agency client’s contract is pending a physical, Olney notes.
[Related: Updated Toronto Blue Jays Depth Chart]
Howell, 34 in April, has spent the past four seasons as a member of the Dodgers’ bullpen, working to a collective 2.49 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a hefty 58.5 percent ground-ball rate across 205 2/3 innings of relief. In that four-year stretch, left-handed opponents have been stymied by Howell, batting a collective .210/.283/.274 in 423 plate appearances. While Howell carries some degree of a platoon split, right-handers have batted a relatively unimpressive .246/.329/.351 against him over the life of that same four-year term.
Howell is coming his worst ERA (4.09) since 2011, but the rest of his stats were fairly consistent with his 2015 marks. The veteran southpaw averaged 7.8 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 in last season’s 50 2/3 innings, and his 59.1 percent ground-ball rate was again one of the best in all of Major League Baseball (15th among pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown, per Fangraphs). Among Howell’s other most appealing traits is durability. While he did undergo surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder back in 2010. Howell hasn’t landed on the Major League disabled list since the 2011 season.
One somewhat concerning element of Howell’s 2016 campaign was the .302/.343/.417 batting line that he surrendered against left-handed opponents. However, that figure seems largely attributable to a .375 BABIP against lefty hitters. He still managed to strikeout out 21.4 percent of the lefties he faced in 2016, and while that number represents a slight dip from the 23.2 percent mark he tallied in 2015, Howell’s control against lefties was improved last season (3.9 percent walk rate versus 7.3 percent in 2015). Howell also saw his fastball velocity dip to an average of 85.3 mph in 2016, which could also have caused some clubs to shy away.
For the Blue Jays, left-handed relief has been a glaring area of need all offseason. Toronto watched bullpen mainstay Brett Cecil hit free agency and sign a still-surprising four-year, $30.5MM deal with the Cardinals, leaving Aaron Loup as the most experienced left-hander in manager John Gibbons’ bullpen. While much of the chatter surrounding the market for lefty relievers has centered around Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan in recent weeks, Howell more quietly remained available as an alternative with a lengthy track record of quality innings.
As it stands, he figures to join Loup as a second lefty in support of closer Roberto Osuna, veteran setup man Jason Grilli and sophomore righty Joe Biagini in Toronto. The remaining spots in the Toronto bullpen could go a number of ways, as the Blue Jays will have Bo Schultz, Ryan Tepera, Dominic Leone, Danny Barnes, Glenn Sparkman, Mike Bolsinger and Matt Dermody all in the mix for jobs. It also seems highly plausible that Toronto president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins could continue to pursue relief help and look to add one of the many right-handers remaining on the market.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Interested to see the money involved but he was slightly below average last year but was quite good the previous 4 before that.
Jays sign Howell. Needed addition. I wish they went for younger and better. Hopefully the Jays have caught lightning in a bottle like they did with Grilli and Benoit. But I doubt it.
I don’t see why he can’t succeed in Toronto? Apart from last year’s blip, he’s been an extremely effective reliever the past several years, posting some of the best groundball rates in the league. That should pair nicely with the Jays’ incredible infield defence. Look for Howell to have bounce-back year on the cheap, à la Grilli and Benoit.
Very good. I was hoping they’d go and sign him. I know that he’s not in his prime anymore but despite last season’s blip, he’s had four straight very good years. Still going to need at least one other lefty for the pen, however.
People get worse with age.
Tell that to David Ortiz
Good for J.P. he was nails for the Dodgers for three years. Hopefully last year isn’t his new norm. Good luck in TO!!!!! Thanks from Dodger fans.
Yeah I was kind of hoping we’d bring him back
You won’t miss his 1..40 WHIP and 85 mph fastball. Much better options already on the roster anyway – Liberatore, Dayton, Avilan, Wood, Nuno, etc.
Oh boy as you include Nuño in that list.
They probably got him very inexpensively, I am looking forward to hearing the financials…
He didn’t look good in 2016 and it seemed Dave Roberts lost faith in him fairly quickly. He might rediscover his slingy sidewinder, but wouldn’t count on it.
Reliable mop up guy. That’s about it. Not to be used in high leverage situations anymore.
Stats over last 4 years seem very comparable to Cecil. 1 year @ 3 mill sounds a lot better than 4/30.5.
Hmmmm, which would I rather have….Brett Cecil 92MPH fb, devastating curve or Howell with a 85MPH fb and a slurve that may not be slurving anymore?
Last year they both kinda sucked…but ya I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Cecil’s better. I just find it interesting how different their pay checks are when comparing results.
*sorry…I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Howell is better.
I think that’s where the financials come in. One comes with a significant 30 million dollar commitment and the other comes in at 10% if that. Basically if they resign Cecil I’d imagine they don’t resign Bautista
You can’t compare someone who got $30 mil to someone who got $3 mil…
Yes you can.
The AL East was all over Cecil, curve or FB, they crushed it. Not saying Howell is better though
He was good after he got caught up to speed after missing spring training. His stats also showed he was getting unlucky
The year before he was good after he got caught up. Last year Cecil didn’t have a lot working for him, maybe I’m wrong but I don’t remember seeing it.
The speed of a man’s pitches does not necessarily dictate his effectiveness. Are you telling me that Marco Estrada is no good because he has an 89mph fastball?
Yes, Howell had a terrible year in 2016, but he was wildly effective before that. This is a solid signing. low-risk, high reward. Worst case scenario, we use him as a LOOGY.
Not to mention, last I checked, but Cecil’s curveball wasn’t curving very well last year, either. And Howell sure as heck didn’t run us $30MM over 4 years haha.
This is a great deal if he regains his form from 2012-2015 and still not an awful deal if he pitches like he did last year.
Just keep rolling th dice, I assume at least one of Grilli, Howell and Biagini is going to be a flop this year
Outside of closer if you take three names out of most every bullpen one will be a flop this year.
That’s fair and you usually have some unknown emerge
The baseball kid
Who’s roster spot does he get?
My guess will be Bo Schultz. If they’re really as desperate as people think, possibly Ryan Goins
Desperate as in relievers
legit he can take anyone’s roster spot in this bullpen heck if they really need someone to go down goins or smoak could go down (honestly have no clue why they signed smoak great player love him but there’s 0 spots for his barely over .200 average) either way we need a lefty and i still think this teams still needs another elite lefty and another good righty, but still howell was must needed especailly a guy with experience for such a young bullpen other than grilli and loup.
Experience in Loup? The guy can’t stick on an MLB roster
for what reason do you ” love smoak” and he is most certainly not a “great player” . and the only think loup is experienced in is the walk of shame back to the dugout after blowing a game.
“great player” and “barely over .200 average” what.
Good deal, that’s not much risk to take on for 3mil. I doubt he needs to throw more than 86 to be effective and get ground balls.
This is good, only if they still make a decent effort to get Blevins or 1 of those top 3 lefties remaining. The head office can’t really expect Howell and Loup to be their best lefties let alone their only lefties can they?
Jays are out of money and trying to buy a reliever on the cheap. If they catch lightning in a bottle like they did with Benoit and Grilli, or it could turn out like Bill Caudill. lol.
Impressive career ground ball rate (GO/AO 1.68) and it was 2.19 last year, great for the rogers centre