There’s not a more perfect fit out there in free agency right now than the Nationals and J.P. Howell. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
“Personally speaking, I would be a great fit,” Howell told Ladson. “I think the leader on that team, Jayson Werth, is a great guy. I know Davey Johnson from the [World Baseball Classic]. It was a pleasure to be around a guy like that. … If I could fit on the ride, that would be amazing.”
Howell just might get his wish.
With Sean Burnett‘s time with the Nationals all but over, the Nats find themselves with just one left-handed bullpen option in the recently-signed Zach Duke. Duke figures to be a long reliever which means the Nationals currently have no left-handed specialists.
Enter J.P. Howell.
Howell is as solid an option as the Nationals are going to find. He pitched 50.1 innings across 55 games last year, so he fits the profile of a “specialist,” logged a solid 7.5 K/9 ratio to add to his impressive 3.04 ERA pitching against a difficult AL East division, and wants to play for D.C. What better fit is there?
I personally had a chance to watch Howell pitch when I took a visit down to Tampa Bay’s Spring Training facility last March, and let me say this – From what I observed, he’s a great clubhouse guy, he’s great with fans and his pitching mechanics are quite solid. He seemed very receptive to coaching and that’s what you look for on a contending ball club.
This guy is already as battle-tested as they come. At just 25 years old, Howell was thrown into a playoff chase as his Tampa Bay Rays were Cinderella American League champions. In what is still today his most-worked season, Howell had career bests in ERA (2.22), innings pitched (89.1), strikeouts (92) and HR/9 (0.6). He’s been to two more playoffs since, and he’s ready to go another round.
All things being equal, there really isn’t a more perfect fit out there. The Nationals need him, and he really wants to play for the Nationals. Will he? We’ll have to wait and see.