The more interesting question becomes where Happ will end up, and with contenders in both leagues seeking starting pitching, lots of possibilities still exist. A closer look at the market for pitching reveals a wide range of potential destinations for Happ.
Chances are, he’s playing for one of these teams this time next month…
At first the fit seems a little clunky, since the Blue Jays and Yankees are division rivals who rarely complete significant trades. But the Blue Jays are too pragmatic to overlook a legitimate fit, as they showed last month when they sent Steve Pearce to Boston for prospect Santiago Espinal.
The more you look at this possibility, the more it makes sense. The Yankees need pitching, and as talented as Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Michael Fulmer are, will they really be available? Zack Wheeler’s pitching well and controllable through 2019, but even he’s an awkward fit because he plays across town for the Mets. If the Yankees are limited to more realistic options, Happ’s likely the best available.
As for the Blue Jays, there are plenty of high-impact prospects in the Yankees’ system, including two – Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield – who were first-round picks in Cleveland when Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins were there.
Obtaining either of those players for Happ would be a clear win for the Blue Jays, even if they had to include other big-leaguers to complete a deal. Still, the Yankees should probably refuse to include that level of talent in a deal for a 35-year-old rental.
In that case, other names could come up. Perhaps Chance Adams (a top prospect who has struggled at triple-A) or Domingo German (a right-hander with an inflated ERA but impressive strikeout potential) would represent middle ground.
The Mariners are the one team on this list that has already traded for Happ. Seattle first acquired the left-hander for Michael Saunders in December of 2014 under former GM Jack Zduriencik.
Now Jerry Dipoto’s the one running the show, and he could certainly use Happ to help the Mariners reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Here’s the problem, though: Seattle’s farm system is thin–likely so thin that the Blue Jays would prefer to talk trade with other contenders.
The Braves have the prospects to acquire just about any player, with one of the best farm systems in baseball. They have a need with starters Mike Soroka and Brandon McCarthy on the disabled list. And they have a GM, Alex Anthopoulos, who once acquired Happ in a 10-player deal while running the Blue Jays in 2012.
Read into that deal at your own risk, though, as Anthopoulos also traded Happ away two years later. More realistically, the Braves look like a fit for an infielder (Josh Donaldson and Yangervis Solarte come to mind) or a reliever (Seung-hwan Oh would bolster an Atlanta bullpen in need of help). Worth noting: these teams did talk trade last winter and again during spring training.
The suddenly-vulnerable Nationals have both Stephen Strasburg and Erick Fedde on the disabled list and a record right around .500. That makes them a potential fit for Happ, who would represent an upgrade over Jeremy Hellickson.
This would be a storybook homecoming for Happ, who broke in with the Phillies in 2007 and pitched for them in the 2009 World Series. The Philadelphia rotation has held its own so far, but it drops off after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta even if Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta all have potential.
That said, the Phillies are reportedly in the market for top infielders and could direct their resources there instead. Whatever the case, they’re well positioned to be buyers this summer; they began the year with the fifth-ranked farm system in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.
The Brewers are reportedly one of the more aggressive suitors for Manny Machado, but they also need arms with starters Zach Davies, Brent Suter and Jimmy Nelson on the disabled list. Plus, adding the best starter on the market would keep him away from their division rivals to the south…
Darvish had a 4.95 ERA when he hit the disabled list in late May and there’s still no clear timetable for his return. Chatwood, meanwhile, has walked 70 batters in 79 innings and owns an ERA over 5.00.
So if you’re GM Jed Hoyer and you’re still looking up at the Brewers in the standings, you’ll surely place a call to the Blue Jays, right? (More realistically, it’ll be a text or email, but you get the idea). Hall of Fame writer Bob Elliott has heard the Cubs may indeed have interest.
While the Diamondbacks may simply upgrade their bullpen, you could at least make the case for adding Happ to support a rotation with a higher-than-average 4.18 ERA. Even taking his recent struggles into account, Happ would be a considerable upgrade over Shelby Miller, who has allowed 21 runs in 15 innings since returning from the disabled list.