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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: J.P. Howell

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays-Media Day
Ok, the beard has to go.
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

When Brett Cecil signed for 4 years and about $30 million, I was sad, he’s long been one of my favorites. Then, even I didn’t think he was worth that much.

Then many of the other top lefty free agent relievers were grabbed up, also for larger contracts than I would have been happy to pay, I started to wonder who would be replacing Brett as the top lefty in the pen.

Then the Jays came up with J.P. Howell, for just 1 year and $3 million. Howell is a little older, he’ll be 34 this year, Cecil 30. The Blue Jays are JP’s fourth MLB team, he played for the Royals, Rays and Dodgers before joining the good guys.

Over the past 4 years, they have been fairly similar.

  • Howell pitched in 264 games, Cecil 244.
  • Howell 205.2 innings. Cecil 205.
  • Howell 2.49 ERA. Cecil 2.90. (Of course, Cecil’s was pitching in Toronto, in the AL East while Howell was pitching for the Dodgers in the NL West)
  • Howell 185 strikeouts. Cecil 261. (yeah that one isn’t so close).
  • Howell 77 walks. Cecil 71.
  • Howell 4.6 bWAR. Cecil 4.1.
  • Howell gets more ground balls (58.5% to Cecil’s 49.7).

I’d likely rather have Cecil, but I wouldn’t want to spend 10 times as much for him. Howell said that the Jays infield defense was part of the reason he signed with the Jays.

Howell is a soft thrower, averaged about 85 mph on his fastball last year and pretty much relies on his fastball and his curve. Comparisons to Mark Buehrle are all over everything written about him.

Apparently, he is a likable guy. Dodgers VP of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos had this to say:

"He’s a great guy. The first thing that comes to mind is outstanding guy in the clubhouse. Great influence to the guys in the bullpen. One day whenever he’s done playing–which is hopefully a long time–I could see him being a coach and doing some things in the game but great competitor, not afraid at all. I remember seeing him out of the draft [in 2004], so I’ve been familiar with him for quite some time."

I pretty much tune out all that clubhouse chemistry stuff, but I’m glad to hear he is a good guy.

Howell created a bit of a controversy, in LA, talking about how he was bullied in the in clubhouse and how Yasiel Puig was also bullied. I’d imagine there are many MLB players that have been bullied in the clubhouse. It would be very tough to come out and talk about it.

Howell, like Cecil, had a down year in 2016, and, of course, we can worry that he won’t bounce back this year. The good part is that we didn’t invest so much money that we can’t just release him if things go bad. Bad part is we really don’t have a lefty sitting around that could jump into his role.

He hasn’t pitched, in a game, yet this spring. I’m curious to get to see him, not that it really matters how he pitches this spring. He’s got enough years and a long track record, he doesn’t have to impress anyone this spring, just get his work in.

PECOTA projects JP to have a 4.72 ERA this year. I’ll take the under. ZiPS puts him at 3.65. I think that’s a better over/under mark.