According to reports, the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees are reportedly interested in Toronto Blue Jays starter JA Happ. The veteran starting pitcher is in the middle of, arguably, the best season of his career and will be a free agent heading into next year.
In 82.2 innings pitched, Happ has earned a slash line of 3.48/3.41/3.43 and already been worth 1.9 wins to a team that is already on the fringes of the playoff race. What’s most impressive about his performance this season is that Happ is striking out 28.1% of his batters he’s faced — that’s a career high — while walking 7.5% — that’s around his career norm. The major reason he’s been so successful this season is his new found ability to limit hard contact and his decreased reliance on his cutter.
His strikeout rate feels unsustainable. But his hard hit rate is in line with what he did last season — which means it’s a trend, not a small sample size — so it seems like the 35-year old should be able to sustain a similar level of performance after any potential trade.
Happ is currently in the last season of his three-year $36-million contract extension he signed with Toronto; there is still $7.3 million owed to the veteran pitcher through the rest of this season. While $7.3 million isn’t a huge, bank breaking, sum for the two franchises reportedly interested in acquiring Happ, it could handicap what the Blue Jays are going to be able to recoup in any potential trade. But if Toronto is unable to make a run at a wildcard spot, then they should honestly look at dealing the starter in order to get some value back from him.
Both the Yankees and Seattle need more starting pitching depth, so talking with Toronto about the 35-year old makes sense. New York’s farm system looks like it’s in the best shape to acquire Happ near or at the deadline. But the Mariners have some more financial flexibility, thanks to Robinson Cano’s suspension, and could offer more salary relief to Toronto…even if it means taking on a pitcher that struggled mightily during his half season stint with Seattle in 2015.
If I’m the Blue Jays, I take the prospects from New York because they need some more depth in their farm and it could help them jump start a rebuild that will actually give Toronto the depth to make a real run in the playoffs down the road. While cash is nice, it doesn’t help me build a younger, more competitive baseball team that can win in the near future.