Ian Happ won his arbitration hearing over the Cubs and will earn the $4.1MM salary for which he and his reps at Excel Sports filed rather than the team’s proposed $3.25MM figure, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (via Twitter).
Happ, 26, has played all three outfield spots, second base, third base and a little bit of first base through his first four seasons as a Cub, batting a combined .248/.344/.481 along the way. He’s connected on 62 homers, 54 doubles and seven triples through 1262 plate appearances, adding in 19 steals on the bases (albeit with a questionable success rate, as he’s also been caught 11 times).
Happ succeeded in spite of one of the game’s highest strikeout rates in his first two seasons, but he’s lowered that mark from 33.8 percent in 2017-18 to a more tolerable 26.4 percent in 2019-20. He could certainly still stand to further pare back that punchout rate, but for a player with his well above-average power and walk rates, the strikeouts are a little easier to overlook.
Over the past two seasons, Happ has made some offensive gains at the plate, hitting at a combined .260/.350/.530 through a relatively small sample of 387 plate appearances. That’s good for 30 percent better than the league average overall, by measure of wRC+, and if it’s a sign of things to come then Happ ought to be positioned quite nicely from a financial standpoint. His subsequent raises next winter and in the 2022-23 offseason will now be based upon a higher starting point thanks to today’s ruling. He’ll be a free agent following the 2023 season.
With Happ’s salary now set in stone, the Cubs’ 2021 payroll is set at about $157.8MM, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. It’s possible that they’ll make another late addition or two — the Cubs inked Brandon Workman to a $1MM deal earlier in the week — but substantial changes appear unlikely. President of baseball ops Jed Hoyer stated early in the week that he’s not engaged in any trade talks and generally expects the current core group to remain intact come Opening Day.