Dodgers relief pitcher J.P. Howell has exercised his 2016 player option worth $6.25 million, per Buster Olney of ESPN and Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times. Howell opted to return rather than seek a multi-year deal on the open market.
The 32-year-old left-hander was 6-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 65 games in 2015, with 39 strikeouts, 14 walks and a 3.34 FIP in 44 innings. Howell did not allow an extra-base hit to a left-handed batter all season, holding them to hitting .224/.295/.224 in 95 plate appearances.
Howell earned $4 million in 2015 in the second season of a two-year, $11 million deal. His 2016 option was originally a mutual option but with 120 games combined in 2014-2015 the option converted to a player option, putting the ball squarely in Howell's court.
It had to be a tough choice for Howell, if only because there had has been money and multi-year deals available for setup relief pitchers in the last two winters.
The ideal recent comp for Howell to shoot for is the three-year, $15 million deal signed by fellow southpaw Zach Duke with the White Sox before the 2015 campaign.
There were other deals signed last offseason by relief pitchers with limited closing experience. Luke Gregerson signed a three-year deal with the Astros worth $18.5 million, and Houston signed Pat Neshek, too, for two years, $12.5 million plus a club option in 2017.
Luke Hochevar signed a two-year contract with a mutual option worth $10 million guaranteed with Kansas City last winter after missing all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery.
Before the 2014 season, Boone Logan got $16.5 million over three years with the Rockies, and fellow southpaw Javier Lopez signed a three-year deal with San Francisco worth $13 million. The Angels signed right-hander Joe Smith for three years and $15.75 million.
Howell is one of 16 relief pitchers with at least 65 games pitched in each of the past three seasons, and his 200 games pitched from 2013-2015 ranks sixth among major league left-handed pitchers during that span.
In three seasons with the Dodgers, Howell is 13-5 with a 1.97 ERA, with 141 strikeouts, 62 walks and a 3.14 FIP in 155 innings. He has held left-handers to just .184/.265/.226 from 2013-2015, with 81 strikeouts and 29 walks in 320 plate appearances.