Wow, this is a shocker. As first reported by Bleacher Nation’s Michael Cerami, the Cubs have reached an extension agreement with left fielder Ian Happ. The deal is for three years and $61 million starting in 2024, so Happ will earn just over $20 million AAV through his age-31 season. That’s right in line with where we had projected him in terms of average value, but, just like Nico Hoerner, the Cubs were able to get a much shorter term.
Source: The Chicago Cubs have extended All-Star outfielder Ian Happ: 3 years, $61 million. No options. Deal starts in 2024.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) April 12, 2023
I whiffed on this one for sure, really believed the Cubs had more or less washed their hands and moved on.
Given the thin upcoming free agent market and the fact that the Cubs hadn’t worked anything out prior to the regular season, it looked like Happ’s departure was a certainty. He had spoken several times about wanting to stay with the organization that drafted him, though, and this extension backs up those words. It’s a good thing I didn’t lay a bet on his future because I’d have lost that money quickly.
This new deal falls well short of the Happ template of the five years and $75 million Andrew Benintendi got on the South Side, but you can see where it makes more sense for both sides. The Cubs aren’t locked into their left fielder beyond his very early 30s and Happ can hit the market again with plenty of productive years ahead of him. What’s more, he’ll earn $5+ million more per year over the next three years than his counterpart.
Assuming Happ plays well over the next four seasons, he should be in line to secure well over $40 million in a new deal to push him past $100 million following the conclusion of his rookie contract. This extension will have a good bit of downstream impact as well now that the Cubs have both corner outfield spots secured through 2026 with Pete Crow-Armstrong presumably handling center starting next season.
The most likely solution involves a trade or trades including one or more of Christopher Morel, Brennen Davis, Owen Caissie, Nelson Velázquez, and Alexander Canario. The latter seemed like an obvious trade chip prior to a freak tumble at first base during Dominican Winter League play that left him with a broken ankle and dislocated shoulder, so now it may just be a matter of proving he’s healthy.
Kevin Alcántara could also be in play, though he’s further from the bigs than most of the others and has a little more runway to develop. Velázquez needs a spot to play every day and won’t have that once Seiya Suzuki — who homered for the Iowa Cubs Wednesday — returns, and boy, did he ever showcase his potential Tuesday night. Hell, the kid can’t even get into the lineup a day after going 3-for-4 with a grand slam.
Morel was squeezed out of a roster spot because he likewise needs regular at-bats, but his future with the Cubs is just as limited given their current roster construction. He could serve as a super-utility player during or after this season when vets on one-year deals move on, it’s just a matter of what the Cubs see in terms of value.
There’s a whole lot we could continue to unpack when it comes to the future and I suspect we’ll be doing just that as the trade deadline approaches. For now, I would just like to offer Jed Hoyer a little golf clap for pulling off what seemed impossible right up until it wasn’t.