Relief pitcher J.P. Howell had a player option for 2016 worth $6.25 million, and rather than decline it to hit free agency, Howell has decided to exercise it and remain with the Dodgers, according to tweets from Buster Olney of ESPN and Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
The move is a surprising one because he’s coming off a season in which he posted a 1.43 ERA over 65 games, including a thorough domination of lefties (.518 OPS against). Thus, to settle for only a $2.5 million raise as he’s entering his age-33 season instead of seeking one last long-term deal is a break for the Dodgers.
As Eric Stephen of True Blue LA mentioned, Zach Duke was likely Howell’s best comparison from the recent free agent market (I would argue Howell has a better history), and Duke was able to secure three years and $15 million on an open market that has rising salaries every year.
Regardless of whether his decision was logical or not, Howell’s return is a welcome one. At the very least it ensures one quality left-handed bullpen arm is locked up on the exact type of contract a reliever is fit for: short-term. We’ll see how the rest of the bullpen takes shape, but given the amount of middle relief power arms they have and the potential emergence of Chris Hatcher, Howell’s return probably means the team just needs one setup type to round the pen out.