Last November, the Los Angeles Dodgers had nine players become free agents. Included in the group was four relief pitchers, headlined by Kenley Jansen. He was joined by bullpen mates Joe Blanton, Jesse Chavez and J.P. Howell.
Blanton and Chavez were newcomers to the Dodgers’ bullpen last season, while Howell and Jansen had played integral roles in the club’s four consecutive National League West titles. The Dodgers were clearly interested in re-signing Jansen and have maintained contact with Blanton.
However, Chavez and Howell always appeared as long shots to return this season. Chavez signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last November and is projected to compete for a spot in the rotation.
Now Howell no longer appears to be available, as he agreed to a one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, per ESPN’s Buster Olney:
The Jays have a one-year agreement with left-handed reliever J.P. Howell, pending a physical.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 31, 2017
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Howell’s deal is worth $3 million:
Source: Howell deal with #BlueJays is indeed one year, $3M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 31, 2017
Howell went 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA, 3.50 FIP and 1.40 WHIP in 64 appearances (50.2 innings) with the Dodgers last season. He recorded 44 strikeouts in 15 walks in what was his fourth year with the club.
Howell rebounded from a subpar start to the season, allowing five runs over 21 appearances throughout May and June. He carried that success into July and was among the relievers who all the embraced the extent to which manager Dave Roberts leaned on his bullpen.
In 10 innings pitched across 12 appearances in July, Howell allowed one run (solo homer), seven hits, and had nine strikeouts. However, August was a different story. In 11.2 innings, Howell permitted 10 runs on 21 hits, though did manage to collect 13 strikeouts.
Howell exercised his $6.25 million player option to remain with Los Angeles in 2016. The 33-year-old was marred inconsistency last season and largely lost his role.
One aspect Howell can hang his hat on is durability, as he appeared in at least 64 games in each of the past four seasons. From 2013-16, Howell sported ERAs of 2.03, 2.39 and 1.43, while appearing in a minimum of 64 games each year and a combined 264 games.
Prior to signing a one-year contract with the Dodgers in January 2013, Howell spent parts of seven seasons in the American League, pitching for the Kansas City Royals (2005) and Tampa Bay Rays (2006-12).