Dodgers sign J.P. Howell to 1-year/$2.75 million contract

JPHowell

The Dodgers have agreed to sign left-handed reliever J.P. Howell on a one-year deal worth $2.75 million, with performance bonuses that can take that salary higher, according to Dylan Hernandez and Buster Olney.

After missing the end of 2009, all of 2010, and parts of 2011 with a shoulder injury, Howell remains a bit of a mystery, but one with upside. From 2008 to 2009, he was a ~2 WAR reliever annually, which is rather remarkable for a reliever who was generally not a closer. He always struggled with control a bit, but his success was powered by his ability to miss bats.

That segues perfectly into my concerns about his performance going forward. Since he has returned from injury, his strikeout rate his plummeted, which is understandable in 2011, but there wasn’t any significant improvement in that area in 2012. Thus, while his ERA improved significantly from 2011 to 2012 (6.16/3.04), his FIP didn’t (5.41/4.78), resulting in a replacement-level player WAR (-0.75/0.25).

His fit with the Dodgers doesn’t make a ton of sense on the surface, as the team does have Scott Elbert, Paco Rodriguez, and probably Ted Lilly, but the Dodgers can afford to spend money on a veteran and use one of Elbert/Paco as depth in the minors. As such, there’s little risk here, and some upside if he ever gets back to his previous healthy state. However, projection-wise, it’s hard to imagine him providing a significant upgrade over the demoted options, so this is a move that’s made more for depth than anything else.

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