According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the Rays have re-signed left-hander J.P. Howell.
Howell was non-tendered earlier this month, primarily in an effort to avoid paying him through the arbitration process, but Rays VP Andrew Friedman said last week that the club was making progress towards keeping him in the fold. He made $1.8 million this past season.
Howell, 27, posted a 2.48 ERA and averaged 9.9 K/9 for the Rays from 2008-09, but missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in May. While Howell told Topkin earlier this month that he was optimistic about his chances of being ready for the early part of the 2011 season, the southpaw is a real wild card for what is expected to be a new-look bullpen in Tampa Bay.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.