After many months of rumors and speculation, the Cubs finally pulled the ripcord on their rebuild in earnest at last year’s trade deadline. In quick succession, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, Jake Marisnick and Trevor Williams were all given opportunities elsewhere.
Now the roster mostly consists of new faces, a combination of players with limited big league resumes and more experienced players acquired since the offseason began. That leaves five-year veteran Ian Happ as one of the longer tenured Cubs remaining, despite having just turned 27 in August. Assuming there are no drastic changes to the service time structure in the upcoming CBA, the Cubs can keep Happ around for two more seasons via arbitration. That makes him an interesting trade chip if the Cubs don’t return to being competitive in the next two years.
How hard they intend to try to compete in the short-term is an open question at this point. After such an aggressive selloff, it stands to reason that they will take some time executing the standard rebuild playbook of focusing on loading the farm system with prospects and using the big league team to evaluate younger talent. Going into the offseason, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said that the club would be “really active in free agency” but “spend money intelligently.” Since then, the club has been more active than some expected, adding Wade Miley, Yan Gomes and Marcus Stroman. However, the team still has flaws. It’s just one metric, but FanGraphs’ Depth Charts currently peg the Cubs 27th in the league in projected WAR for 2022.
The team could certainly still pursue upgrades, as their projected $114MM payroll, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, would be almost $90MM shy of their franchise record, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. However, they have mostly eschewed lengthy commitments recently, meaning that their books open up even more after 2023. Willson Contreras and Wade Miley are set to reach free agency after this year, Jason Heyward after 2023. Kyle Hendricks and Yan Gomes have two guaranteed years remaining, with the Cubs holding club options over both for 2024. That means that the only guarantees for 2024 are the $21MM for the last year of Marcus Stroman’s deal, which he has the ability to opt out of, and the last guaranteed year of David Bote’s extension, which is just $5.5MM. (There are also opt-outs of $1MM and $500K on Bote’s options for 2025 and 2026.)
Perhaps the most logical course for the Cubs from here is to spend two years figuring out which young players are part of the future and then using those empty books to decide how to spend money building around them. They could then spend wildly on their areas of greatest need, as the Tigers and Rangers have done this offseason.
Coming out of the lockout, it’s widely expected that there will be a mad flurry of transactions, perhaps rivalling or even surpassing the frenzy that occurred prior to the lockout. The Cubs would be able to be patient, as Happ would likely have just as much appeal at the trade deadline. He can fit on just about any club’s roster as he has versatility in more ways than one. For starters, he’s a switch hitter, although he does have a significant platoon split. (Career wRC+ of 121 from the left side but just 85 from the right.) Secondly, he’s can play most positions on the diamond. Although he’s played more outfield than infield in the past couple seasons, he still saw time at first, second and third base in 2021. The last time he played more than 20 games in a season at any one infield position was the 44 games he played at second base back in 2017, but teams still love a player with versatility, even if they hope not to need it.
Even if most teams don’t view Happ as a realistic infield target, he will still have appeal for his bat. In each of his five seasons, he’s posted above-average numbers by measure of wRC+, despite also racking up strikeouts at a rate above the league average. His career line thus far is .241/.338/.467, wRC+ of 112, strikeout rate of 30.8%. In 2021, he slumped slightly to a line of .226/.323/.434, but that was still good enough for a wRC+ of 103. There’s also room for optimism when one considers that Happ spent time on the IL in May for a rib contusion and improved as he distanced himself from that. His wRC+ in June was 32, followed by a 59 in July, 124 in August and 167 in September/October. He’s also projected to make a salary of $6.5MM this year through arbitration, as per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, which is affordable for even the lighter spending teams in the league.
As mentioned, there’s no hurry to move Happ. He has two years of club control and maybe the Cubs can even surprise some people by surpassing expectations in the meantime. After all, it’s widely expected that the new CBA will include an expanded postseason field of some kind. Even hovering around .500 might be good enough to sneak in. Or if not, he could be flipped for younger players with the potential to be part of the next great Cubs team. Whichever way it works out, Happ could be useful to the team, whether he continues wearing their uniform or not.
Tick Tock Clock
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
He was pretty awful last season. I think the smartest move for the Cubs would be to sign guys to 2 or 3 year deals and try to contend by just doing that for now. That way they can back out if any contract they want by the time Hendrix and Heyward are free agents. Once Heyward is off the books that will allow them to jump into the market after 2023 and sign as many free agents as they want. I don’t know who is expected to hit the market at that time but the 23-24 offseason could be huge for the Cubs. With everyone but Stroman leaving they could go bonkers. If I were a Cubs fan I would definitely NOT want them to sign Correa. That could just turn into another albatross contract like Heyward. It would be a shame to have Heyward finally leave but still have an even worse contract to be stuck with from a guy who is injury prone and has inconsistent power. If they really want a star shortstop just hold off a year and go after Trea Turner. That guy is way better than Correa in my view. It seems like MLBTR has been doing a lot of Cubs stuff recently. This is what… the 3rd Cubs article this week?
Wasted #1 pick with a healthy dose of jerk face. Trade him for anything-Good riddance.
I’m not sure I can comprehend what you’re trying to say
Ian Happ has had some good seasons, and he tore it up for the last 2 months, could still be worth it.
Ian Happ should do a chat here. He could talk about his coffee.
I didn’t realize Ian Happ was so unpopular with Cubs fans. Miami seems ideal for him.
Happ was on billboards in Chicago for a hair replacement system; people started shaving their heads in response.
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
I didn’t really watch Happ play last season but I kept up with his daily hitting stats. They were pretty awful. He’s not the worst player but he’s definitely nothing special. I don’t think any fan should be excited about their team acquiring him. He might have a good streak or two but it seems like he mostly just sucked. I prefer players who mostly don’t suck but I guess everyone likes different things. I’m not sure why anyone would choose to like suckiness though. Maybe it’s some moneyball thing and suckiness is undervalued on the market so you can get it for cheap like OBP used to be.
I don’t understand why either, he’s a legit left handed power bat. Well I always see him facing the Cardinals, whom he has historically dominated
Indeed. Please trade him out of the NL Central.
Don’t be fooled by negative comments made on this sight against Cub players like Happ. Ian Happ is a quality person as well as a good player and competitor on the diamond. There are numerous immature fans of the White Sox who comment here. That partially explains ignorance.
Happ is a defensive liability no matter where he plays and strikes out arounde 30% of his AB’s, and has little to no speed. He’s another of the high Epstein picks, along with Albert Almora who should have been key players for this team and turned out to be popcorn farts
Him and Almora don’t belong in the same sentence, Happ can actually hit – albeit the K’s are a problem, but he’s also missed a good amount of time with injuries and demotions – I could see him taking off like Schwarber if he can stay healthy and get the K’s down even 5%. Stupid to trade low on him esp with his versatility.
“Happ is a defensive liability no matter where he plays and strikes out arounde 30% of his AB’s, and has little to no speed.”
So he’s pretty much the same as about 70 percent of the MLB recently?
According to statcast he is in the 85th percentile for running speed. He is indeed quite fast.
He doesn’t steal; bases even if he does have the speed to do so. And this speed of his diesn’t translate to defense either, there isn’t a position he played where he’s doesn’t have negative numbers in terms of runs saved.
70% of the league wasn’t drafted with the 9th overall pick in the draft.
I thought the same! I’ll gladly support him in DET.
Whom would the Seattle Mariners need to trade to the Cubs for two years each of Ian Happ and Kyle Hendricks (with their projected combined 2022 salaries of $20.75 million)?
Julio Rodriguez, Jered Kelenic, and the Mariner Moose
Don’t get greedy, the can keep the Moose
As a Cardinals fan I’d love to see Ian Happ Play somewhere else other than the national league central. He has slaughtered Cardinals pitching
Here’s his splits vs cardinals: .204/.333/.407/.741
I wouldn’t say that’s a cardinals killer. Cubs fans (myself included) are bitter because he was one of the many “top” prospects that didn’t pan out for the ws winning cubs. Happ, addison, almora, schwarber (I would say this one is close to panning out). KB & Willy are about it and I don’t think willy was ever super high on the list. Additionally, the cubs have virtually no top players close to making an impact at the major league level. A lot of their top prospects are below AA (Davis notwithstanding).
The cubs have payroll flexibility. I am hopeful they use it on Correa or try to bring back the boys (Rizz, Bryant, Schwarber). Don’t see option #2 happening, so I guess all in on Correa??
Almora showed the Mets how bad he can be. I forgot about Addison Russell. Schwarbs has his moments….. but Ian Happ to the Yankees for Deivi Garcia would be an Ok deal. maybe the Cubs can coax major league performance from Garcia and the Yanks could use some outfield flexibility in place of Brett Gardner. And the short RF fence should help Happ, too.
Happ need to ditch the switch hitting, because, well, he’s really just a decently left handed bat, masquerading as a switch hitter. He’s brutal from the right side. I have no idea why the Cubs continue to allow the is charade ♂️
Correra is way to much money. I rather them go for Schwarbs, Story and might even pick up Rodon for the same price.
They would rather play Hoerner in outfield for the 40 games he will be healthy enough to play in. Cubs looking for a SS.
Just leave Ian Happ alone and let him play LF until someone can replace him or he plays well enough to sign him to an extension. His comp during the draft was Kole Calhoun and whoever made that comp was spot on at this point in his career.
He’s either really good or really bad. The bad seems to last longer than the good. Very inconsistent, hopefully he turns the corner as he matures as a hitter.
I like the fact that Happ is a switch hitter to help balance the Yankees lineup. Would Cubs take Gleyber back?
Yes but the Yankees wouldn’t offer him
Deivi Garcia, not Gleyber. Deivi has some stuff but shows he can’t control it. Let the Cubs take him to see if they can u lock the talent, and the Yankees can try the same with happ. ( Brett Gardner needs to hang them up. )
I’d say no. For most rebuilding teams, I’d say an automatic yes, but with the Cubs financial resources, I’d say they were better off signing Story & a closer, and keeping Happ. They have 5 mediocre+ SPs, and that’s generally all you need to play .500.
I don’t expect them to make the playoffs this year, but they also aren’t like Cincy, where they need to cash every asset they have.
And if the RS fall short of their pursuit of Suzuki, Happ would be a decent second option.
But the RS want a RH bat and that’s not Happ’s good side.
A lot of the hate for Ian Happ has to do with where he was drafted and the hype around him after Bryant and Schwabs…
Personally I agree with some posters Happ should be strictly left handed bat but also he should be worked at first base to see what he can do there.
The Cubs need to move J-Hey and even Wilson C. and if possible package them together and get something for the Rotation but keep Happ seeing he can play more than one position and has legit power.
Never expect him to be high contact or on base type of guy but utility wise he is serviceable for the outfield and corner spots, well more than Bote!
I agree that Happ should only hit from the left side of the plate (or at least experiment with it) but he is a plus defender in LF and more than passable in CF (assuming he is hitting). RF in Chicago is just extremely tricky with the wind patterns and cut ins.
Ian Happ for Nick Senzel. Both players need a new lease on life. Winker, Happ and Naquin would be the Reds outfield going forward. Happ loves Great American ballpark.
I’d do that if I were running the Cubs.
I don’t think so. I get Senzel’s upside but Happ is producing at a ML level and NS only comes with one extra year of control I believe.
Happ shouldn’t quit his day job with Jomboy.
The Cubs are not trading Ian Happ, he was WAY more upside than a trade value which was evident by his second half success.
Happ is crazy to figure out because his swing is so simple (unlike Javy) but he goes on dramatic hot and cold streaks.
2020 Happ played like a MVP half the season and was favored for a bit. Then he went ice cold for a month. 2021 was more of the same, finished the year with what? 4 straight NL player of week awards? The guy was a beast! 15 home runs and 40 RBI’s in 55 games?!?!
Well said drascoo.
He was good from 1st part of August to end of the year. He was horrible (4 months) before that. He has to be more consistent.
He’s way too inconsistent to ever be considered good, and he crumbles under pressures. Guy is a whiff machine. For the life of me, I absolutely cannot see what guys that defend him see in him.
I would trade Happ, Stroman, Contreras, Hendricks and Others at the 2022 deadline!
That way, they get some prospects and start building forwards that spending year of 2024-25.
Seems like a Reds kind of OF..
Trade him, if only to make dom cry about it.
2 more years!! Omg, get this dude OFF the team, PLEASE.