J.P. Howell Exercises Player Option With Los Angeles Dodgers

Surprisingly enough, reliever J.P. Howell has exercised his $6.25 million player option for the 2016 season to remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers and avoid free agency, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. 

The choice from Howell comes as a serious surprise, due to the fact that he could have found himself with a two-or-three-year deal worth more than $6.25 million per year on the market because of his dominant 2015 resume. 

Howell, 32, is coming off a career-best 1.43 ERA with a 1.386 WHIP and 39 strikeouts over 65 games, in which he threw 44.0 innings. Along with all the impressive stats in 2015, he logged 6-1 record as a reliever. 

He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals as the 31st overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft. Howell started with the Royals as a started and then moved on and threw for the Tampa Bay Rays, which he was a starter until 2008. The starter, who eventually became a reliever, stayed in Tampa for six years before making his way to Hollywood for the next three seasons. 

Howell signed a two-year, $11 million deal before the 2014 season that included a player option for 2016, which was activated when he hit the 120 games pitched mark over the two seasons combined. 

Over three seasons in Los Angeles, Howell is 13-5 with a 1.97 ERA over 155.0 innings and 200 appearances. He has had dominant success with the Dodgers, which is a main reason why he will be staying around town. 

Howell will return for the 2016 season as a main piece of the bullpen. He will anchor the bullpen with Joel Peralta, if the Dodgers exercise his club option, and closer Kenley Jansen. He is also in search of his first ever All-Star appearance. 

The Dodgers have 11 players under contract for 2016: Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero, Jose Tabata, Erisbel Arrubearrena and Howell. Those players are worth a total of $135.25 million. 

The Dodgers have until 5:00 PM ET on Friday to decide the club options for Peralta, righty Bronson Arroyo and infielder Chase Utley. 

At this point, Peralta will probably stay with the club, but Arroyo and Utley should receive a buyout and become free agents.