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Wednesday Bantering: Howell, Diaz, Johan Santana

Your morning update for everything Blue Jays.

Los Angeles Dodgers v New York Mets
Johan Santana signed the then largest contract for a pitcher ever on this day in 2008.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

24 days until the first spring training game, and the Blue Jays have filled all of their largest holes. Here’s the latest news:

The Blue Jays signed left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to a one year, $3M deal pending a physical yesterday, as first reported by Buster Olney of ESPN. Howell, who turned 33 in 2016, fills the last major hole in Toronto’s bullpen. An 11-year veteran formerly of the Royals, Rays and Dodgers, Howell collected a 4.09 ERA and 1.401 WHIP in 64 games last season. Although left-handed opponents had a .303 batting average against him in 2016, his 2015 season provides more hope. He had a 1.43 ERA and 1.386 WHIP.

As Shi Davidi of Sportsnet phrases it, Howell is “Mark Buehrle out of the bullpen.” He averaged 85.3 MPH on his fastball last season, slightly below his career average, but he is a classic soft-tossing reliever.

The Blue Jays also signed former prospect Jonathan Diaz to a minor league deal, as the team announced early Tuesday afternoon. Diaz, a defensive specialist, was drafted by the Blue Jays, before joining the Red Sox in free agency. He briefly returned to Toronto, signed with the Yankees, and is now in his third stint with the Blue Jays.

Diaz has played 35 games at the major league level, hitting .154 with a .267 OBP in 65 plate appearances. He predominantly plays shortstop, although he has seen time at second base. Barring any major injuries, Diaz won’t see major league playing time this season.

On this day in 2008, Johan Santana signed a $137.5M deal, spread over six years, with the Mets, then the largest contract for a pitcher ever. Santana would miss the entire 2011 with a shoulder injury, before throwing a no-hitter in 2012. His 2013 season was marred by injuries, again, and in the 2013-2014 offseason, the Mets exercised their buyout, making Santana a free agent. After a brief stint with the Orioles, Santana signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays on February 26th, 2015. His comeback was stalled due to an infected toe, and Santana is currently a free agent.

There are only 13 days until Blue Jays pitchers and catchers report to spring training, and 16 days until the full squad reports. The first spring training game, on February 25th against the Braves, is 24 days away. Opening Day sits at 61 days away. Hurry up!