The Blue Jays need to trade J.A. Happ and they need to do it now

Jun 21 2018, 2:43 am

Buy low – sell high. That philosophy doesn’t just apply to the stock market, it also pertains to players on a Major League Baseball roster. Knowing when to cash in is critical to maximizing return on an asset.

The Toronto Blue Jays should take note.

Coming off a stellar start against the Atlanta Braves where he pitched into the ninth inning, J.A. Happ boosted his trade value during what was essentially a showcase start for potential buyers.

The veteran lefty’s trade value has never been higher.

Trade him now

Given where the Blue Jays are in the standings – 16 games back of first in the AL East and 11.5 games back of the final Wild Card spot – they need trade Happ, and they ought to do it as soon as possible.

Happ is a free agent at the end of the year and with the Jays nowhere close to contention, it makes no sense for them to hang onto him. It benefits all parties involved to send Happ to a contending team, while at the same time, bolstering the farm system and adding a prospect or two in return.

He’s one of the most coveted arms on the trade market and it’s time for the Jays’ front office to strike a deal to maximize the return on one of their most valuable assets ahead of the trade deadline.

Since his career renaissance in the second half of 2015 and his return to the Blue Jays shortly thereafter, Happ has been one of the most reliable and unsung starters in the American League.

With aces┬álike Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, and Corey Kluber dominating most of the discussion, Happ often gets forgotten when naming the best starting pitchers in the AL. But he’s been a top-20 starting pitcher since the beginning of the 2016 season.

There’s no denying the talent he could bring to a playoff contender, but the question is whether vying teams are willing to match the Blue Jays’ asking price. The benefit of acquiring Happ now as opposed to July 31st is that contending team gets him potentially for seven-to-eight additional starts for their playoff push.

That invariably drives up the asking price a little bit, but prospective teams would be wise to jump the market now, as would the Blue Jays to trade him sooner rather than later.

The market

The only thing working against the Blue Jays in this scenario is it’s a buyer’s market entering this year’s trade deadline. One year ago, 13 of 15 teams in the American League were within five games of a playoff spot. This year, every team that’s within five games of a playoff spot already has one locked up. There are 10 American League teams on the outside looking in, 7.5 games back or more.

That leaves only six potential suitors for Happ in the American League, which can almost be whittled down to four. The Astros and Indians have the two best starting rotations in the AL and don’t really have an opening for Happ. The list of candidates opens up a little more in the National League, where 13 of 17 teams are within five games of a playoff spot.

More than anything, contending teams are almost always in the market for starting pitching. The Blue Jays have a few trade candidates on the roster, but Happ is the most desirable. He’s everything a playoff team wants; a solid, reliable left-hander who can chew up innings and strikes out a lot of batters. Happ easily fits in as a No. 2 or even No. 3 starter on any contender right now.

Best of both worlds

If the Blue Jays were to turn around tomorrow and trade Happ, the fan base wouldn’t be critical of that move. If anything, they’d welcome it with open arms because trading Happ means the Blue Jays net something in return; whether it’s prospects or Major League talent.

Just because they deal him away leading up to the trade deadline, doesn’t mean Happ’s time as a Blue Jay is over forever. Some have suggested the Jays may recruit the lefty to re-sign with the club following the 2018 season. The Blue Jays could use the stability for their starting rotation in 2019 and bringing back Happ would be a safe play. But if they send him elsewhere, that’s assuming Happ wants to return to Toronto after playing for a contending team down the stretch.

Although Happ’s three-year, $36 million deal was met with criticism at the time of the signing, he’s more than lived up to that contract in a Blue Jays uniform. In fact, Happ’s been a bargain starting pitcher for the Blue Jays.

So, will another team be willing to take on the remainder of Happ’s $13 million salary for 2018? Without question; the Blue Jays might even be willing to cover some of the cost if it helps them get a better prospect in return.

That’s essentially what they did last year when they traded Francisco Liriano for Teoscar Hernandez and Nori Aoki. Aoki was a salary dump by the Astros, but by picking up the rest of the tab on Aoki’s salary, it allowed the Jays to pry a top-10 prospect from the Astros’ farm system.

He may not fetch the haul the Detroit Tigers got from the Blue Jays for David Price in 2015, but Happ offers great stability and value for any contending team in 2018.

See also
Ian HunterIan Hunter

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