The Yankees and Mariners are among the clubs interested in Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Happ figures to be one of the top rentals available on the starting pitching market this summer, if not the top rental, so it’s hardly a surprise to see a pair of contending clubs with some rotation question marks eyeing the 35-year-old southpaw. Presumably, most contending clubs have at least considered making a run.
Happ is in the final season of a three-year, $36MM contract that has proven to be a bargain for the Jays. In 423 innings since signing that deal, he’s worked to a 3.36 ERA, averaging 8.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9 with slightly above-average ground-ball tendencies. Happ’s 2018 season is among his best yet, as he’s sporting a career-best 10.2 K/9 mark and a 10.4 percent swinging-strike rate. Lefties haven’t stood a chance against him (.159/.188/.246), while the efforts of right-handed opponents have been relatively futile in their own right (.217/.294/.346). Cole Hamels may have Happ topped in name value, but Happ is the better pitcher and this point and looks like one of the clear prizes of the summer trade market.
Happ is earning $13MM this season, and there’s still about $7.3MM of that sum remaining to be paid out before season’s end. That’s hardly an insignificant sum, but it’s not a backbreaking total for most contending clubs, either. And, of course, the Blue Jays could help to facilitate the trade by agreeing to pay down a portion of Happ’s remaining salary as a means of helping to extract the best possible return.
Both New York and Seattle have had some issues in their rotation, even though both clubs have received above-average results from their starting pitching. The Yankees, for instance, recently lost left-hander Jordan Montgomery to Tommy John surgery and have received inconsistent contributions from Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka. Domingo German has not seized the fifth spot in the rotation in Montgomery’s absence.
The Mariners, meanwhile, have received just 9 2/3 innings from Erasmo Ramirez in 2018. Felix Hernandez has been hammered for a 5.44 ERA, and while Wade LeBlanc has been terrific in the fifth starter’s role, there are questions about the 33-year-old’s ability to sustain his current level of production.
As for the Blue Jays, despite the fact that they just completed sweeps of the Nationals and Orioles, it still seems likely that they’ll be open to selling off veteran assets this summer. Even after going 7-3 in their past 10 games, the Jays are sitting at 33-38 on the season, placing them 15 games out of first place in the American League East and a similarly daunting 12.5 games back of a Wild Card spot in the American League. Toronto also has just six games against sub-.500 teams remaining between now and the All-Star break, so their upcoming schedule doesn’t present an easy road back to contention.