More good news for the Dodgers' bullpen, as J.P. Howell has signed for two years and $11.25 million, with a vesting option for 2016.
The option would be triggered if he makes 120 appearances in the next two seasons. Will that happen? It's possible, as 55 appearances with the Rays in 2011 led to 67 with the Dodgers last season, which adds up to 122. He's made 60+ appearances two other times with the Rays in 2008 and 2009.
Last season was his first in LA, and it was a good one. He pitched in 67 games, which was good for fourth on the club behind Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen, and the legendary Ronald Belisario (not). Primarily as a middle-late inning reliever, he collected 11 holds while going 4-1 with a sparkling 2.03 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
In addition, left-handed batters hit a mere .164 against him, and right-handed ones weren't much better at .222. He only surrendered two home runs in 62 innings, and struck out 54.
All in all, he was more than effective in getting the job done, and teamed with Rodriguez to form a pretty deadly duo from the left side. Now that same combination will be back to get the ball to Brian Wilson and Jansen in the late innings. It's a win-win.
Not surprisingly, Howell was originally seeking a three-year deal after his big season. Ned Colletti was reluctant to do so, and Howell can blame the awful Matt Guerrier and Brandon League for that. Much like Juan Uribe, Colletti was able to find a common ground by settling at two years. The only difference is that Howell got a $6.25 million option for a third year, and Uribe only has two years.
There's still more work to be done if you're Colletti, as a bullpen that relies on guys like Chris Withrow, Javy Guerra, Jose Dominguez, and League are either inexperience, bad, or both. There's four good relievers in Rodriguez, Howell, Wilson, and Jansen, no doubt, but putting in a right-handed pitcher to get out of a sticky situation in the earlier innings is still important.