Left-hander J.P. Howell has decided to remain with the Dodgers in 2016, exercising his $6.25 million player option.
Howell is often overlooked because of his modest velocity, but he posted a 1.43 ERA in 44 innings this year and has a combined 2.64 ERA in 434 appearances dating back to 2008.
However, rather than test the open market in search of a multi-year contract at age 33 he’ll take the guaranteed payday and stay with the Dodgers for a fourth season. And if any team can afford to pay $6.25 million for a middle reliever it’s certainly Los Angeles.
Ryan Raburn is a free agent, as the Indians declined his $3 million option and paid him a $100,000 buyout instead.
Raburn is a solid role player with some defensive versatility and a good platoon bat versus left-handed pitching, but his performance has varied wildly from year-to-year and he’s now 35 years old.
This year he hit .301 with eight homers and a career-best .936 OPS in 82 games for the Indians and he also posted a .901 OPS for Cleveland in 2013. However, in between he hit just .200 with a .547 OPS in 2014 and Raburn was even worse in 2012.
He should find a part-time role somewhere, but may have to settle for a minor-league contract.
Last week pitching coach Mike Maddux told the Rangers he wanted to shop around rather than re-signing for an eighth season in Texas and now we know why, as Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that Maddux is “likely” to be hired by the Nationals.
Maddux has long been considered one of the game’s best pitching coaches and during his seven-season run in Texas the Rangers ranked sixth among American League teams in ERA despite playing in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
Now he’ll work under new manager Dusty Baker and try to get the most out of a star-studded pitching staff that includes Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jonathan Papelbon. Baker’s reputation for handling pitchers is shaky, but given Maddux’s track record it seems likely he’ll have most of the control over the staff.
Texas is expected to replace Maddux with Doug Brocail, who spent this year as a Double-A pitching coach in the Astros’ farm system.
In one of the few option calls that could have gone either way, the White Sox have declined their $10 million option on shortstop Alexei Ramirez and will instead buy him out for $1 million.
Ramirez was really bad this season, hitting just .249 with 10 homers and a career-worst .642 OPS in 154 games and at age 34 it’s tough to count on his defense being an asset. With that said, he posted a decent .713 OPS with 15 homers in 2014 and it’s tough to find shortstop upgrades on the open market. He’s been Chicago’s starter since 2008.
Ramirez may not get $10 million for 2016 as a free agent, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a multi-year deal for more overall money simply because the position is always so tough to fill. If a contending team thinks he’s still a plus on defense Ramirez has generally been an average or better hitter compared to other shortstops.
David Murphy was acquired at the trade deadline by the Angels’ old front office regime and now he’s been let go by the Angels’ new front office regime, who decided to decline the veteran outfielder’s $7 million option for 2016.
Murphy lacks ideal power for a corner outfielder, but he’s a career .274 hitter with a solid .765 OPS and can be particularly useful if spotted mostly versus right-handed pitching. A left-handed hitter, his lifetime OPS is .795 against righties and .655 against lefties.
He’ll get a $500,000 buyout and should be able to land a decent-sized one- or two-year deal on the open market.