FanPost

Dodgers Signing of Howell Shows Weird Relief Market

Al Messerschmidt

I understand that there is no shortage of analysis on the fungible nature of relief pitchers or on the deep pockets of the Dodgers, so this might not quite be the explosive return to baseball writing that I had imagined. But the Dodgers’ recent signing of J.P. Howell caught my eye. For one, it illustrates the extremely polarized market for relief pitchers, and secondly: What the hell, Dodgers?

See, signing J.P. Howell, a functional, even (dare I say) good, reliever (when healthy) for one year at short money is a tremendous deal. Especially considering the man he’s replacing, the comparable Randy Choate, got about three times as much from the Cardinals. It’s tremendous in all the ways the signing of Brandon League was not. We knew the franchise and their newly-found treasure chest of money was a little odd, but it’s interesting to see that they’re capable of making poor decisions and great decisions side by side.

In one deal, a veteran reliever who’s pretty solid for a few million dollars on a one year deal. In the other, a very good but inconsistent reliever for three years and $22 million. They let Choate walk in favor of Howell, who demanded less and will likely produce about the same, but felt the need to lock up League before he hit the open market altogether.

They aren’t the only money to fork over that much money to a closer this offseason. The Reds spent a similar amount on former LA closer Jonathan Broxton, who comes with a few question marks of his own.

The Howell signing juxtaposed with the Broxton and League deals shows a weird trend. There’s a very fine line in the reliever market. On one side, good relievers are valued little, and on the other, slightly better relievers are valued enormously. Howell, Mike Adams, Jason Grilli, Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria, and Koji Uehara all signed for much less than Broxton, League, or even Jeremy Affeldt. The Red Sox seemingly placed very little value on Andrew Bailey, who they dangled to Toronto as compensation for John Farrell, or Mark Melancon, whom they traded for Joel Hanrahan, yet another relief option.

As some teams spend huge amounts on their bullpen, teams like the Rays, Padres, and Orioles maintain success with the unheralded minor options.

Nice fanpost here, Josh. Adding to the front page, adding a picture, and made some presentational edits. -jbopp

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