Blue Jays finalize Howell deal, sign Elmore

By: Jay Blue

Blue Jays From Away

The Toronto Blue Jays finally announced one of their two free-agent pitcher signings, designating a player for assignment in the process of adding him to the 40-man roster while also announcing a minor-league free agent signing.

After more than a week of waiting, the Blue Jays finally announced signing left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year deal worth $3 million. Howell, a “crafty” lefty who spent the last four years with the Los Angeles Dodgers will likely take the role of the Blue Jays’ top left-handed reliever, vacated by Brett Cecil this offseason.

Howell, an 11-year-veteran, has a cumulative 2.49 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 205 2/3 innings with the Dodgers, hit a bit of a bump last year, with an ERA at 4.01 and a WHIP at 1.40 but his strikeout rates and walk rate were fairly stable overall. Still, Howell’s splits against lefties weren’t the greatest last year, against whom he had worse numbers with a .302/343/.417 slash line against.

That said, he struck out just as many batters (in fewer plate appearances) and walked less than half than he did against righties. Over the course of his career, however, Howell has been tough on hitters from both sides and has given up an OPS about 100 points lower against lefties than righties.

To make room for Howell on the 40-man roster, the Toronto Blue Jays designated left-handed reliever Chad Girodo for assignment. The 26-year-old made his major league debut last year and had a 4.35 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 10 1/3 innings, striking out only five and walking two. Marc Hulet seems to think that Girodo won’t survive the waiver process and will get claimed, but we’ll see what happens over the coming days. Girodo is a side-arming lefty whose velocity tops out in the high-80s and features a frisbee-like slider and a fastball that has very heavy sink to it.

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The final piece of news in today’s “News and Notes” is that the Blue Jays have bolstered their minor league depth by adding 29-year-old Jake Elmore. Elmore has played in parts of five MLB seasons, getting into 59 games with the Milwaukee Brewers last year.

His cumulative MLB slash line is .215/.297/.280 but Elmore was no slouch with the bat in Triple-A Colorado Springs last year, hitting .320/.428/.380, although those numbers should be taken with several grains of salt as Colorado Springs plays at an even higher elevation that the Colorado Rockies and offensive numbers are often inflated. In 2015, he hit just .247/.377/.268 for the Tampa Bay Rays’ top farm club in Durham, North Carolina.

Elmore is probably best known for his defensive versatility, having played every position on the field as a pro. He has pitched 5 1/3 innings in the minors and two in the majors and, in 2013, both pitched and caught in the same game, throwing a perfect inning from the mound.

Last season, Elmore played most at second base in Triple-a but also played parts of four games at third and 17 in the outfield (mostly in left). For Milwaukee, he played in three games at second, four at third, 14 in left field, four in right field and two in centre.

Jay Blue

A lifelong Toronto Blue Jays fan, Jay Blue started blogging about the Jays when he was living in Berlin, Germany. He founded his own blog, Blue Jays from Away, to write about developments with his home town team, focusing on the Jays' minor league system. When he's not watching baseball, he is usually on the diamond umpiring or he's pursuing his research interests in the field of ethnomusicology.