In a shocking development, the Los Angeles Dodgers have decided to spend money — albeit a much smaller amount in this instance — by signing left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year deal worth $2.85 million (details per Buster Olney of ESPN). In addition to the guaranteed base salary, Howell has a chance to earn another $1.2 million in incentives, potentially bringing the total amount to as much as $4.05 million.
It’s never easy to be too down on a one-year deal, but the fact is that Howell hasn’t been very good the last few seasons. According to FanGraphs, he’s produced a combined negative 0.8 WAR in 2011-12 while seeing his K/9 rate drop noticeably from his best seasons a few years prior. Even last season’s 3.04 ERA was hugely misleading, as his 4.78 FIP clearly reveals.
Still, Howell is just 29, and there are never very many quality southpaws to be had, on the free market or anywhere else. If he returns to his 2008-09 form, the Dodgers have a shut-down reliever from the left side, and if he continues on his recent path of being worse than replacement level, the team has to face the fact that it essentially threw away $2.85 million. For an organization that clearly doesn’t view money as an object, the potential reward would seem to outweigh the risk.