The Blue Jays are receiving interest from the Brewers and other teams in left-hander J.A. Happ, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links), though it is “highly unlikely” that the Jays will trade the southpaw since Toronto plans to compete in 2018.
Milwaukee has been aggressive in pursuing deadline upgrades, as the team has been linked to such names as Sonny Gray, Brad Hand and (the since-traded) Jose Quintana in recent days. GM David Stearns recently stated that his club’s strong preference is to obtain players who are under contract beyond just this season, and Happ fits that bill, owed $13MM in 2018 as well as roughly $4.7MM remaining on his 2017 salary. While a controllable pitcher of Happ’s ability is naturally of interest to many teams in general, Rosenthal notes that teams are particularly looking at Happ in part because this winter’s free agent class is thin on front-of-the-rotation starters.
Happ was seen as more of a reliable innings-eater than as a possible ace when he signed a three-year, $36MM deal with Toronto in the 2015-16 offseason, though the left-handed enjoyed the best season of his 11-year career in 2016, posting a 3.18 ERA over 195 innings and finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award voting. Elbow inflammation has limited to Happ to just 11 starts and 61 innings this year, though he has been on pace for even better numbers than in 2016, delivering a 3.54 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 4.29 K/BB rate.
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro suggested earlier this month that the Jays weren’t planning a major sell-off at the deadline, nor were they going to pursue rental players in an attempt at a postseason berth that is looking increasingly unlikely (the Jays took a 42-48 record into action today). Recent reports suggest that Toronto will be open to moving pending free agents like Joe Smith, Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano or J.P. Howell, but perhaps not any notable pieces who are under contract beyond this season.