Tampa Bay free agent lefty J.P Howell would be at the top of my off-season shopping list if i was Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak.
Howell, who missed all of the 2010 season due to a torn labrum an then struggled to regain his form in a terrible 2011, proved last season he's back in top form with stellar work in the Rays bullpen.
In 50 1/3 innings pitched over 55 innings, Howell allowed only 39 hits. He struck out 42 while walking 22 with two intentional passes preventing him from reaching a 2:1 strikeouts to walks ratio.
While Howell's numbers were very solid last year, it's reasonable to think that he will continue to get better with a full year of work under his belt. Before his shoulder injury, he struck out a batter per inning pitched.
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While I'd like to see the Redbirds add some middle infield help and improve their bench, a second bullpen lefty could go a long way toward solidifying the team. Especially since Howell is also decent against righties. Hopefully Marc Rzepczynski can get things turned around in 2013. But I've lost faith in him in key situations and the Cardinals would be wise to take some of the pressure off.
Howell might also be a good choice because of a couple of other reasons. First, he's a career American League player which will help him be more of a mystery to National League batters. And his injury history might make Howell a bit more affordable than he might have otherwise be.