Brewers’ Hot Stove Radar: J.P. Howell
By Benjamin Orr
The free-agent market is an interesting place for many teams to devote time to in the off-season, but sometimes there’s a player that stands out among the rest. For the Milwaukee Brewers, their bullpen could use a left-handed boost and J.P. Howell might be the reliever to give them just that.
Will the Brewers try to pursue Howell or back away?
J.P. Howell has been extremely effective in his last few seasons. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Howell has been an interesting pitcher through his major league career. He’s run into spectacular seasons out of the bullpen and he’s had seasons in which I’m sure he’d rather forget. Lately for Howell, the trend is that he’s been a consistent and solid left-handed reliever, which makes him a huge commodity in the free-agent market. The Brewers would have to consider looking his way as November and eventually December progress.
During his tenure with the Kansas City Royals and then to the Tampa Bay Rays, Howell began in the starting rotation between 2005 and 2007, which was something by far that would not work out. In those three seasons, Howell never had an ERA under 5.00 and was completely trashed by batters who hit above .300 for two of the years and had a BABIP well over .300 in all three seasons.
When Howell made the switch to relieving during the 2008 season, he clearly found his niche in the majors. That season, Howell pitched in 64 games (89.1 innings) and posted an ERA of 2.22 and a K/9 of 9.27. Easily, he became one of the Rays’ most called upon and trusted relievers after that.
He would miss the entire 2010 season due to shoulder surgery. 2011 was a down year for him as he was tagged for a 6.16 ERA in just 30.2 innings of work. Fortunately for him, Howell responded nicely in 2012 with an ERA of 3.04 in 50.1 innings and hitters only managed a .220 average against him. The biggest increase for Howell was his left on base percentage of 87, which was by far the best of his career.
After spending the last six years with the Rays, Howell would find a new home in 2013 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. As Howell transitioned to the National League he did so without any problems. If anything, Howell would run into trouble during April with an ERA just under 5.00, but other than that he was completely solid. For the 2013 season, he posted an ERA of 2.18, a K/9 of 7.84 and a left on base percentage of 80.7 all in 62 innings (67 games).
Ideally, Howell would be a perfect candidate to fill the void in the bullpen left by Mike Gonzalez‘s departure. Howell is a lefty that has control of his pitches and saw an increase in velocity across the board. He’s only 30-years-old so if the Brewers go after him, they’ll get him in the prime of his career. Plus Howell isn’t exactly expensive as he made $2.85 million last season with the Dodgers, so if the Brew Crew can find the money, Howell should be a no-brainer to sign.
I haven’t read anywhere of Howell being connected to Milwaukee and I have to say I’m rather surprised. Aside from really Tom Gorzelanny, this is a bullpen that lacks multiple years of experience and was just hand crafted last year. Howell would not be a negative addition to the ‘pen and I truly believe the team should pursue him as quickly as they can.