J.A. Happ Rumors

Anthopoulos On Payroll, Cabrera, Pitching, Gibbons

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (Twitter links) and the National Post’s John Lott, for 50 minutes today before Toronto’s season finale against Baltimore. Here are the highlights:

  • Anthopoulos declined to put a figure on the team’s 2015 payroll, but expects to have the financial flexibility to make moves and has “some ideas on trades and free agents.”
  • The Blue Jays will make a competitive offer to Melky Cabrera, but Anthopoulos reiterated the club’s policy of limiting contracts to five years “is still firmly in place. That’s not going to change.” 
  • On the Jays’ starting rotation, I wouldn’t feel good going into the season with five,Anthopoulos said. “Philosophically speaking, you want to hoard as much as you can, keep as much depth as you can.” To that end, Anthopoulos hinted J.A. Happ‘s $6.7MM option will be exercised and Aaron Sanchez (“frontline starter potential“) will be stretched out in Spring Training. He will, however, at least consider trade offers for established arms.
  • The Blue Jays will eschew big-name relievers and focus on set-up arms in an effort to rebuild their bullpen. Sanchez may pitch in relief sometime during the course of 2015, but only to manage his innings.
  • Yes,” was Anthopoulos’ reply when asked would he hire John Gibbons if he had a managerial opening next season.
  • Brett Lawrie is slated to play third base next year, but could be moved to second if an impact third baseman is acquired. As for evaluating the other position players, Anthopoulos will place a premium on durability.
  • Nicholson-Smith opines bench upgrades will most likely be accomplished through trades rather than free agency.

Quick Hits: Astros, Papelbon, Happ, Betancourt

As we wind up one of the busiest weeks in the history of baseball transactions, here are a few more notes as we head into the weekend…

  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is happy to have acquired Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman before the Winter Meetings, but Luhnow tells reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that his club has more on its to-do list.  “To have them both done before the Winter Meetings is a bonus," Luhnow said.  "So now that we can focus on the bullpen and focus on potentially another position player somewhere….We may not be done with starting pitching either.  We’re still actively talking to some other folks.”
  • With the Phillies reportedly shopping closer Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the team will have a tough time given Papelbon's large salary, signs of decline and his possible attitude issues.
  • J.A. Happ could be a trade chip for the Blue Jays if the team needed to free up some payroll space, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith writes.  Happ is set to earn $5.2MM in 2014 with a $6.7MM team option for 2015.  The southpaw was limited to 18 starts in 2013 due to head injuries suffered when he was hit in the head with a line drive, as well as a knee injury also stemming from the incident.
  • Also from Nicholson-Smith, nothing is imminent with Yuniesky Betancourt, though a number of teams are still interested in the veteran as infield depth.  The Marlins were linked to Betancourt last month.
  • Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has a good glove at shortstop, is lacking at the plate and is overall not going to provide the impact of recent Cuban signings, a scout tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.  "This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop," the scout said.  Arruebarruena will showcase his skills for teams this weekend, and the Mets have been identified as one of the attending clubs.

AL Notes: Yankees, Happ, Indians

The Yankees made some last minute moves this week when they traded for Vernon Wells and picked up the recently-released Lyle Overbay.  Both Wells and Overbay have made the club along with Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch, leaving Juan Rivera as the odd man out.  Tbe first baseman/outfielder was cut loose, though he did cash in on a $100K retention bonus for staying on the roster beyond Tuesday's Article XX(B) deadline.  Here's more from the Junior Circuit..

  • It's time for the Yankees to start looking for a replacement for Derek Jeter, Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com writes. Eduardo Nunez, who is manning shortstop in Jeter's absence, is not a good solution for the long haul, Matthews argues, and Jeter's age and injury status are both worrisome. Matthews also suggests that the Yankees should have acquired Jose Reyes or Yunel Escobar in the offseason.
  • Having gone in just days from being ticketed for Triple-A to being in the big-league rotation with a new contract extension, Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ is thrilled with his recent streak of good fortune, reports MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm. "It certainly has been a great few days," says Happ. "There was a long time before that where it wasn't quite as easy, but this kind of makes it all worth it."
  • After his team's signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, GM Chris Antonetti hopes the Indians will snag a playoff spot, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The organization felt it needed a splashy offseason to maintain the attention of its fanbase, Pluto writes. "There is risk whenever you make substantial investment," says Antonetti. "But for us, there was even more risk if we didn't."


East Notes: Happ, Romero, Mets, Nationals

The Yankees will finish in last place, predicts Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Predicting the AL East is no easy task, that's for sure.  The latest from baseball's eastern division teams:

  • The Yankees need another Aaron Small-type hidden gem this year, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  The team is facing some derision for recent veteran pickups like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, but Sherman feels the front office has earned the benefit of the doubt given its success with these types of additions.
  • The Blue Jays and starter J.A. Happ first discussed an extension in the offseason when they were doing his arbitration case, GM Alex Anthopoulos told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star.  The agreement was reached before Happ found out he'd made the Opening Day rotation, said the pitcher.  The Jays guaranteed Happ's final arbitration year in 2014 and also snagged a club option for '15.
  • Happ beat out Ricky Romero for the Jays' fifth starter job, even though Romero is owed $7.5MM this year.  Romero, who was optioned to High-A, told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, "I don’t belong here to be honest with you. This is not for me."
  • The Mets are not yet convinced Ruben Tejada is their shortstop of the future, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.  Gavin Cecchini is Baseball America's top-rated shortstop in the Mets' farm system, but he was drafted out of high school last summer.
  • The Nationals are a scouting-first organization, but GM Mike Rizzo is open-minded to suggestions from their two top analytics people, Adam Cromie and Samuel Mondry-Cohen, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  The team has its own formula to evaluate defense and its own version of wins above replacement.

Blue Jays Extend J.A. Happ

The Blue Jays have agreed to extend recently-named fifth starter J.A. Happ, reports Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com on Twitter. Happ will receive $5.2MM for 2014, his final arbitration-eligible year, in addition to the $3.7MM he was already owed for this season. Chisholm also tweets that the Jays obtained an option for the 2015 season at $6.7MM.

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It has been a quick change of events for Happ, a client of Jay Fee Sports Group. Not long ago, he was reportedly the "odd man out" and unhappy with the prospect of a bullpen role or trip to the minors. Now, with Toronto's decision to keep Ricky Romero off of the Opening Day roster, Happ finds himself with both a rotation spot and a new deal.

Happ, a 30-year-old lefty, joined Toronto last season in a mid-season trade with the Astros. He pitched to a 4.79 ERA over 144 2/3 innings split between Toronto and Houston last year, along with 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. For his career, Happ has registered a 4.19 ERA and averaged 7.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.

Interestingly, MLBTR's Extension Tracker reveals no recent starters who agreed to an extension with the structure of Happ's deal. Happ, who has over four years of MLB service time, gave up control over his first season of free agent eligibility in exchange for guaranteed money in his final year of arbitration. 

In sum and substance, in return for locking in $5.2MM in new money for 2014, Happ has given up a chance at a larger payday down the line. This offseason, comparable starters like Jeremy Guthrie (three years, $25MM) and Joe Blanton (two years, $15MM) managed to land multi-year deals with better annual value than Happ would be looking at if Toronto exercises his option. While Guthrie and Blanton have longer track records of logging 190+ inning seasons, Happ is younger than both and appears to have an opportunity to showcase himself over the next two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL Notes: Royals, Happ, Matsuzaka, Longoria

The Royals will approach their upcoming roster decisions with the goal of preserving "inventory," Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes. That means keeping as many players in the system as possible, which in turn means that players who are out of options will have a better chance of making the team, so the Royals don't risk losing them. The following players are out of options: Bruce Chen, Jarrod Dyson, Jeremy Guthrie, J.C. Gutierrez, Brett Hayes, Luke Hochevar, Elliot Johnson, George Kottaras, Luis Mendoza and Felipe Paulino. Hayes, Kottaras and Adam Moore are battling to back up Salvador Perez at catcher. Since Moore has an option, he will likely return to the minor leagues, and the Royals will choose between Hayes and Kottaras, keeping one while potentially trading or losing the other. The many teams currently on the lookout for catching help will presumably be watching the Royals' situation closely. Here are more notes from the American League.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/03/16/4125791/inventory-is-key-element-for-royals.html#storylink=cpy

AL East Notes: Yankees, Happ, Thole

The Red Sox and Yankees are among the teams that will take a look at recently released outfielder Brennan Boesch. The left-handed hitter could provide power in a complementary role for a club like Boston or New York. Here are the latest AL East notes…

  • Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera are beloved members of the Yankees organization but, more importantly, they're playing significant roles on the 2013 team, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. “We have always felt the same responsibility, that never changes,” Jeter said.
  • Though J.A. Happ would draw some trade interest, the Blue Jays prefer to keep him in the organization, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News notes. The 30-year-old left-hander adds more value as injury insurance than he would bring in a trade. The Blue Jays will keep him, even though that could mean stashing him at Triple-A for a while.
  • The Blue Jays expect catcher Josh Thole to contribute over the next few years, according to Martino. Even so, Thole could start the season at Triple-A Buffalo with Henry Blanco catching at the MLB level.

AL Notes: Ryan, Porcello, Happ, Indians

Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan had dinner with principal owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson Friday night to discuss his future role with the franchise. Simpson called the meeting "productive" while Ryan remained silent until today when he released a statement through the team. "Over the last week, Ray Davis, Bob Simpson, and I have been in discussion and met in-person. The conversations have been productive, and we have discussed my role as CEO of the organization. We agreed these discussions will continue as we go forward. I am very proud of what the Rangers have accomplished over the last several years, and I believe our preparations for upcoming season are what is important." Sources have told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Ryan could leave after he fulfills his two remaining team obligations: in San Antonio for the Rangers' two exhibition games there March 29-30 and in Houston during the Rangers' season-opening series against the Astros. In other news and notes from the American League:


Quick Hits: Trout, Happ, Chavez

The Angels' $510K renewal of Mike Trout's contract for 2013 has made minor news this week. Now FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Trout's agent, Craig Landis, has suggested his client wanted a $1M contract for 2013. Since Trout is a pre-arbitration eligible player and does not have a long-term deal, the Angels were not obligated to pay him any more than the league minimum salary of $490K, despite Trout's exceptional 2012 performance. One source tells Rosenthal the Angels did not negotiate the deal at all. Another tells him that the Angels initially offered Trout a contract of more than $510K, but Trout did not accept it, and the Angels gave him the $510K contract as punishment. In any case, as Rosenthal suggests, the mini-controversy over Trout's 2013 salary will quickly vanish into history if the two sides can agree on a long-term deal. And, of course, salaries near the league minimum are routine for pre-arbitration eligible players, even spectacular ones. Here are more notes from around the majors.

  • The Blue Jays' offseason acquisitions of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey have put the squeeze on several Jays pitchers, including J.A. Happ, who no longer has much of a shot at a rotation job. Nonetheless, Happ continues to prepare for the season as a starter, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. "Right now I'm focused on being a starter, building up and doing what I've done in the past," says Happ. Happ could win a job in the bullpen, or he could wind up in the rotation at Triple-A Buffalo, even though he will earn $3.7MM this year.
  • Third baseman Eric Chavez, now with the Diamondbacks, says he needed to leave the Athletics organization behind after suffering numerous injuries in his last seasons there, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Chavez left the A's after the 2010 season, and signing a minor-league deal with the Yankees gave him a chance to "restart everything" by escaping from expectations established early in his career in Oakland. Chavez hit .281/.348/.496 in a successful 2012 campaign in New York, leading to a one-year, $3MM major-league deal with Arizona for 2013.

AL Notes: Happ, Verlander, Ross

On the same day that he broke Curtis Granderson’s forearm with a wild pitch, J.A. Happ finds himself facing a roster squeeze with the Blue Jays …

  • Happ is “mired in a grey zone” in Toronto, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.  Despite solid credentials, Happ may not even earn a roster spot as a reliever with the new-look Jays.  With another potential lefty long-reliever (Brett Cecil) out of options, Toronto manager John Gibbons admits that Happ is not only “the odd man out” of the rotation, but could find himself “back down in Triple-A.”
  • Justin Verlander was merely stating the obvious when he said he hoped to become the first $200MM pitcher, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports.  Verlander explained: “The question was posed to me: ‘Do you want to be the first $200MM pitcher?’  Well, yeah.  What kind of question is that?  Of course I do.”
  • Cody Ross revealed today that “Texas was wanting to move pretty quick” towards a deal before the outfielder signed with the Diamondbacks, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes.  While it was previously reported that the Rangers had met with Ross, the Arizona-dwelling Ross explained the "crazy timing" that occurred.  Ross sat down with Texas right after learning that Arizona was interested, and by the end of the next day had “basically agreed” to sign with the Diamondbacks.