Detroit Tigers: J.P. Howell is bullpen left-hander team needs
Detroit Tigers relievers haven’t had the best season. Even with the team struggling, Detroit should take a flier on J.P. Howell as a potential setup solution.
Detroit Tigers fans have seen the bullpen struggle mightily at times in 2017.
Just two relievers still on the team has a WAR north of 0.4.
Meanwhile, of the 16 different relievers Detroit has deployed this season, nine have turned in negative WAR numbers.
Only the Marlins, White Sox, Rangers and Twins’ bullpen units have a higher SIERA than the 4.61 number put cumulatively put forth by Detroit relief pitchers this season.
While Detroit will potentially be doing plenty of evaluating down the stretch to see if pitchers are part of the team’s future, the Tigers could use some veteran arms to help take pressure off the inexperienced hurlers.
One veteran who could be a fit is left-hander J.P. Howell.
The Toronto Blue Jays announced a handful of roster moves in a tweet on the team’s official Twitter account. Those moves included Howell being designated for assignment.
The southpaw pitched in just 16 games (11 innings) this season for Toronto due to injury, but has a track record of being one of baseball’s more effective left-handed relievers.
From 2008 through 2016, Howell logged a 2.81 ERA, a 3.66 FIP, a 1.227 WHIP and 8.6 punch outs per nine frames in 442.2 frames of work.
His presence in the bullpen would help Detroit not just in 2017, but potentially in 2018 as well.
Bryan Garcia and Jairo Labourt will likely factor into the Major League bullpen discussion by then. However, both will likely be eased into the Majors. Also, there will likely be growing pains.
The Tigers are already experiencing this with Joe Jimenez and some of the other inexperienced arms in their bullpen this season, so adding Howell would help ease the pressure on some of Detroit’s younger relievers.
A free agent at the end of the 2017 season, the Tigers can always try to re-sign Howell if he’s productive in the Motor City.
The longtime Rays and Dodgers pitcher would give Detroit another setup man to help build a bridge to closer Shane Greene.
Right now, manager Brad Ausmus’ only setup options are Alex Wilson, Daniel Stumpf and Joe Jimenez.
Only Stumpf is left-handed, while the rest of the bullpen is comprised of Jeff Ferrell and a trio of long relievers in Warwick Saupold, Chad Bell and Drew VerHagen.
40-man roster spot
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Detroit already has a free 40-man roster spot to accommodate Howell.
However, if that spot is used for a player like Garcia or Zac Reininger this season, the Tigers could simply designate a veteran for assignment who isn’t a long-term fit in the Motor City.
Anibal Sanchez, who has struggled as of late and can hit free agency if he’s bought out after the season, is a conceivable candidate for this.
If Sanchez is going to be let go in the winter anyways, Detroit could conceivably get a head start and give his innings to someone like Myles Jaye, Buck Farmer or Artie Lewicki.
Next: Candidates for Tigers' final 40-man roster spot
Regardless, the Detroit Tigers have a chance to pick up a quality southpaw reliever, who could develop into a long-term piece.