The Washington Nationals went after relief pitcher J.P. Howell last offseason. Unfortunately, he turned them down to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Obviously, it was a great decision on his part because he is in the playoffs while the Nationals will watch from home. Howell will be a free agent again this winter, which means Washington will have another shot at signing him. It is imperative the organization make it work this time considering their desperate need for a left-handed reliever.
The Nationals struggled to find any consistency from the left-handers in their bullpen this year, which ultimately cost them in several games. Clearly, it is a big need going forward if the team wants to get back to the postseason, which means signing Howell would be an immediate upgrade.
The 30-year-old posted a 4-1 record, 2.03 earned run average, 54 strikeouts and 11 holds in 67 appearances for the Dodgers during the regular season.
Considering Washington was in the running for a National League Wild Card berth down the stretch, one has to wonder if Howell’s presence would have made a difference. Even if he did not produce the same quality numbers as he did with Los Angeles, there is no question his veteran voice could have done wonders for the team.
There will certainly be several options for the Nationals to look at in free agency. With that being said, Howell needs to be the team’s top priority in the offseason as far as improving the bullpen is concerned.