I know the story sounds like a familiar one, but we swear it’s different this time. The Dodgers have signed a relief pitcher, and according to any and all reports we could find, the contract is only for one season! The player in question is J.P. Howell, a left-hander who will be on board for $2.85 million and can earn another $1.2 million depending on how he performs. No, we don’t know the details, but that won’t stop us from being very excited for Ned Colletti. After all, it’s not everyday the guy figures out something as potentially useful as not going three years on every reliever on the free agent market.
Howell, who turns 30 in April, fills a lefty need in the Dodger bullpen, though he hasn’t been on the top of his game over the past two years. Howell sputtered haplessly in 2011, walking over five batters per nine in 30 2/3 IP and getting hit extremely hard. Howell bounced back to some degree in 2012, logging a 3.04 ERA and getting his walk rate back under 4.0/9. He still walked a few too many and continued to keep the lower strikeout rate that began showing itself after he missed the entire 2010 season. Even if Howell can’t be as effective as he was a few years ago, he has still shown he can neutralize lefties (.612 OPS against in 2012).
Howell should be able to do a decent enough job shutting down lefties, which will surely be his primary role for the Dodgers in 2013. His contract is fairly reasonable in value, and perhaps more importantly, it’s an extremely short commitment for the team. The Dodgers have made a rare signing that seems to be a decent enough investment without all of the pesky risk most of their contracts carry.