The Phillies are at least internally weighing pursuit of Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. The southpaw has emerged as one of the best rental starters available on this summer’s trade market.
Of course, there are also a few other names we’ve seen connected to the Phillies of late, and it’s not clear that Happ is a particular priority for the rising organization. While there’s “definite interest,” per Salisbury’s source, two particular players from another division rival remain bigger targets.
Multiple other contenders have been tied to Happ of late, as well, and it stands to reason that the Jays will let the market develop unless they’re bowled over by an offer. Happ’s recent malaise has certainly dinged his stock, though, and it seems that all involved have reason to see how his next few outings go before a deal is struck.
The 35-year-old Happ got his start with the Phillies but spent only one full season at the MLB level with the organization. He has been quite productive in recent campaigns, but has allowed a few more home runs (1.40 per nine) thus far in 2018 than he ever has before in the big leagues.
Ultimately, there’s value in Happ’s 109 innings of 4.29 ERA pitching this year. Looking forward, too, teams will be intrigued by the fact that he’s sporting 10.0 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9. Those numbers are backed by a career-high 10.1% swinging-strike rate and average fastball velocity that has trended up a bit over the course of the season.
With $13MM in salary this year, Happ isn’t particularly cheap, though there are no future entanglements since he is a rental player. That’s ultimately a reasonable sum for a pitcher who carries his recent track record. Some suitors may ask the Jays to keep some of the contractual obligation, though it seems reasonable to guess that the Phils would prefer to take on the remaining salary rather than upping the prospect return. Toronto’s preferences are not really clear at this stage.
The Phillies’ rotation has had some strong overall performances and is not exactly begging for an upgrade — particularly if Zach Eflin is able to return quickly from the DL with no ill effects, as seems to be the expectation. But depth is always key down the stretch and every game will count in a tight division race. Adding a multi-inning lefty to a possible postseason roster would surely also hold appeal.