J.P. Howell signs with the Dodgers
Long-time Rays lefthander J.P. Howell has signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers.
Howell, a key part of Tampa Bay's bullpen since the 2008 season, will receive $2.85 million plus incentives according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
Ever since the season ended, both Howell and the Rays kept the door open on him returning.
"That's my No. 1 choice, ever," Howell said in October. "If I financially had $100 million dollars I'd come back here in one second, and I would not care when I played. I'd pitch the fourth inning if they needed it. This is the place to be hands down. This is the No. 1 place to be. It used to be the Yankees, Red, Sox. But the freedom you have here, and the team chemistry, and the guys and the front office and (Joe Maddon) and the coaching staff, hands down the best. I don't know how you can surpass it.
"Someday when this place gets a new building, and they get a little more revenue, it's going to be the Yankees at some point. It's going to be legit."
While Tampa Bay had interest in Howell coming back, it's unclear if it made an offer. With Howell's departure, along with CF B.J. Upton and RHP James Shields this offseason, that leaves Ben Zobrist as the last remaining Devil Ray on the current team.
Howell has been with the Rays since a 2006 trade with the Royals that sent Joey Gathright to Kansas City. He was converted from a starter to a reliever in the 2008 season, when he and RHP Grant Balfour were key set-up men in the Rays World Series run.
Howell, one of the more upbeat and colorful members of the Rays, had to overcome a 2010 surgery on his left shoulder, forcing him to miss that season. But Howell bounced back and returned to form last year, when he set a franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings (27 1/3).
Without Howell, the Rays will still have likely two left-handers in their bullpen next season, with LHP Jake McGee and LHP Cesar Ramos, who is out of options.
-- JOE SMITH