It’s starting to feel like all I ever talk about is pitching with the Cubs these days….
But I digress.
J.P. Howell is now on the Cubs’ radar in order to help bolster the otherwise lackluster bullpen. Howell, a lefty reliever, would be essentially the only other lefty in the pen other than James Russell.
Epstein has always hinted at the fact that he wanted more lefties in his arsenal and Howell would match that target quite well. He mustered up 50.1 total innings of work in 2012 and posted a respectable 3.02 ERA and a 1.212 WHIP. Howell also displays good control and strikes out a fair number of batters, backed up by his 7.51 K/9.
Howell fits the roll of “crafty lefty” almost perfectly as he doesn’t have a whole lot of power in his arm. His fastball tends to hit the mid to high 80’s which wont blow anyone away, but when it’s complimented by a very solid changeup and a slider, it’s effective in keeping hitters off balance. As much as he relies on his fastball, his changeup and slider mix have similar delivery points which helps deceive batters even further. Both these offspeed pitches hover around the high 70’s which masks which pitch is being delivered even further.
Sneaky stuff. Gotta love a lefty on the mound right?
Funnily enough, a lot of teams have their sights set on Howell. The Nationals, Phillies, Mariners, and Rangers have been rumored to have interest in the 29 year old as well. Will it be an all out bidding war? It’s hard to tell as of this point, but Howell is coming off shoulder surgery in 2010 which could help keep his cost slightly lower than market rate. It still wouldn’t be much of a discount considering the amount of teams in pursuit.
The Cubs do have a strong chance of obtaining Howell’s services but would likely ink him up long term because of his youthful nature and overall performance. Epstein may try to capitalize on Howell now in order to satisfy his taste for lefties but considering that this is prime rumor season, I’m not holding my breath on anything.