Blue Jays: Howell experiment a swing and miss

TORONTO, ON - MAY 15: J.P. Howell
TORONTO, ON - MAY 15: J.P. Howell /

The Blue Jays made a couple roster moves before their game on Wednesday, re-calling Dominic Leone and Miguel Montero, while also designating Mike Ohlman and J.P. Howell for assignment.

The Blue Jays continue to make things interesting lately, taking another game from the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday to move within one game of the AL East rivals in the standings, and 3.5 back of the 2nd Wild Card spot. With a win on Thursday and a Baltimore loss, the Blue Jays could be in third place in the AL East by the end of the day.

With that in mind, the current roster could be just as important to the front office as the one they’ll field next year. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins continue to make tweaks, some necessitated by injuries to the likes of Russell Martin, and Troy Tulowitzki, and others because of underperformance.

One of those examples of underperformance was from J.P. Howell, the left-handed reliever that was signed in the offseason to a one year deal. Howell has had an abysmal season, struggling to stay healthy and getting hit very hard whenever he did take the mound for the Blue Jays. He’ll finish his tenure in Toronto with a 7.36 ERA over just 11 innings, never finding a groove with his new club.

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Howell has had a history of success in the majors, which is why the Blue Jays felt he might be a worthwhile risk when they signed him in the offseason. He was brought in for the low cost of three million, and has roughly $750,000 left on his contract.

The Blue Jays elected not to spend big money on their bullpen this past offseason, which is part of the reason Howell was brought in. The hope was that he would take over Brett Cecil‘s role as the high leverage lefty out of the bullpen after Cecil signed a pricey deal in St. Louis. While they tried to put him into that role, he wasn’t able to get healthy enough to have any consistent opportunities, and was unable to earn any trust from the management staff in his limited opportunities.

However, at the same time they signed Howell, they also signed Joe Smith, which obviously worked out better for the team. That’s often the case with the reliever market, especially when you’re looking for a “bargain”, which is what both Howell and Smith’s contracts represented.

It remains to be seen if another club will take a chance on Howell, or if this could be the end of his MLB career. Still just 34 years old, it’s possible that someone else views him as a worthwhile look, but it’s more likely that opportunity comes next season in spring training.

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He did pitch to a 4.09 ERA in 64 games in 2016, and a 1.43 in 65 games in 2015 with the Dodgers, so he’s not that far removed from being effective at the big league level.