Gurnick reports the deal is worth $11.25 million guaranteed, with a 2016 mutual option worth $6.25 million that would vest if Howell appears in 120 games in 2014-2015 combined. There are performance bonuses in the contract as well.
Howell had shoulder surgery that wiped out his 2010 season and most of the first two months of 2011. But he appeared in 46 of 117 games with Tampa Bay in 2011, a 64-game pace over a full season, and has pitched in 122 games in 2012-2013 combined. The left-hander also appeared in 133 games in 2008-2009 combined.
Three relief pitchers have signed three-year contracts this offseason: Joe Smith ($15.75 million with Angels), and left-handers Boone Logan ($16.5 million with Rockies) and Javier Lopez ($13 million with Giants). Howell's average annual salary tops those deals but is one year shorter, though the 120 games are a reachable goal to guarantee Howell that third year, which would reportedly push his total deal to $17.5 million.
Just before the winter meetings, general manager Ned Colletti said he kept in contact with Howell at least once a week since the season ended.
"[I] had a lot of conversations with J.P. Howell. I would like us to add another lefty," Colletti said. "I like who J.P. is a lot. I like what he brought to the club in all facets."
Howell was 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 67 games in relief for the Dodgers in 2013, with 54 strikeouts and 23 walks (three intentional) in 62 innings. He held lefties to hitting just .164/.225/.227 against him, and in his career the southpaw has limited left-handed batters to .227/.306/.328.
He fared well against right-handed batters as well, limiting them to .222/.312/.296 in 2013.
Howell's ground ball rate of 57.2% in 2013 was the highest of his career, and ranked 24th among the 216 major league relief pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched. His eight ground ball double plays induced was second on the team among relievers to Ronald Belisario's nine.
Howell made $3.55 million in 2013, including a $2.85 million base salary on his one-year deal plus $700,000 more in bonuses based on games pitched and innings pitched.
With his average just over $5.6 million per season, Howell joins what will be the most expensive bullpen in Dodgers history, along with Brian Wilson ($10 million in 2014), Brandon League ($7.5 million) and closer Kenley Jansen (arbitration eligible for the first time).
The left-hander will turn 31 in April.