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Blue Jays sign left-handed reliever J.P. Howell

The most glaring hole in the Toronto bullpen has been filled.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays have signed left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year contract, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.

Howell spent the last four years with the Dodgers after donning a Rays uniform from 2006 through 2012. During his four year stint in Dodger blue, Howell was key in suppressing production from opposing left-handed batters, posting a 2.49 ERA during his time there. However, 2016 was his worst season out west as his ERA ballooned to 4.09.

That’s not the end of the story when it comes to Howell’s 2016 though. The lefty surrendered six runs before collecting four outs in early April, and it killed his ERA all year. After April 10, Howell had a more typical 3.08 ERA while holding opponents to a .697 OPS.

In addition to Howell improving after a rough opening week, he also posted a positive Winning Percentage Added (WPA) for the fourth time in the last five years - A good sign that a reliever is still a positive asset. Not only that, but Howell accomplished this feat while opposing left-handed hitters enjoyed a .375 BABIP off him, which is 86 points higher than the BABIP lefties typically see against Howell.

The exact details of the contract haven’t been released yet, but Ken Rosenthal is reporting it’s around $3 million, while also noting that the club is still looking to another right handed reliever.

Either way, it’s fair to say that the Blu Jays finally have their response to the Cardinals snatching away Brett Cecil.

Meanwhile, in a separate transaction, the Blue Jays have signed utility infielder Jonathan Diaz to a minor league contract. Hopefully he’ll spend most if not all of his season down in Buffalo, as he’s mostly insurance if Troy Tulowitzki or Devon Travis go down.