We’ve heard JA Happ’s name floating around as a very likely trade candidate as the deadline nears, but not until now has anything concrete come out regarding a connection to the Cubs. Okay, this recent report is actually not concrete at all. It is, however, something more than just tying together a name with a team that could be looking for pitchers.
Bob Elliot of the Canadian Baseball Network tweeted out Sunday afternoon that the Cubs “may have interest in” Happ. Which is barely more than supposition, I guess, but it does at least lend credence to what several people have been supposing for a while now.
Hearing Chicago Cubs may have interest in LHP JA Happ @Jays
— bob elliott (@elliottbaseball) July 8, 2018
The 35-year-old lefty isn’t putting up incredible numbers by any stretch, but he’s consistently solid and he averages around 5.8 innings per start. His 4.44 ERA will play, especially when you figure that his 3.97 FIP and 3.78 xFIP indicate that he’s pitching around half a run better than that. And how about that career-high 9.83 K/9, which is actually kind of incredible?
Happ’s also in the last year of a contract that would see the team that acquires him on the hook for only the balance of his $13 million for this season. Not bad given the going rate for pitching.
This doesn’t factor in the slightest, but Happ is a Peru, IL native who played his college ball up the street from Wrigley at Northwestern. That hometown stuff would play more if we were talking about a free agent pursuit, since it might impact Happ’s choice. All that matters in this case is that the Jays find the best offer.
With the Cubs still unsure of Yu Darvish’s return — they remain optimistic he can come back by late July, but that’s a stretch at this point — and of what Tyler Chatwood can give them every fifth day, they could certainly be in the market for a starter. They are far from alone, though, as pretty much every contending team is going to be looking for a little rotation help come deadline time. And the same things that make Happ attractive to the Cubs make him look good to all those other teams.
Given the sheer obviousness of this connection, I’m really hesitant to buy in to the Cubs’ desire to pursue Happ in a big way. Theo Epstein said recently that, contrary to what we’ve seen from them in the past, the Cubs weren’t planning to jump out ahead of the market. And with so many teams probably in on Happ, said market is likely to escalate pretty quickly.
Besides, they already have one Happ and making a move to add another would cause confusion.
I can already hear a few people out there like, “But Theo never shows his cards.” And that’s true, to an extent. While he’s not going to come out and tell you exactly what the Cubs are doing, he’s pretty transparent about the general direction in which they’re headed. And with all the sharks in the water, maybe the Cubs can take another tack while everyone’s distracted by this chum.
What exactly that might be, I haven’t a clue. Just know that this isn’t the last you’re going to hear about either JA Happ or the Cubs’ pursuit of pitching.