The Wildly Underwhelming J.A. Happ

He’s James Anthony Happ; he currently owns a 40.50 ERA in two Spring Training games, and he isn’t going anywhere, folks.

After a second consecutive poor outing yesterday, J.A. Happ is beginning to look more and more like a man who’s pitching his way out of the Blue Jays starting rotation. But like him or not, J.A. Happ will break camp as the Blue Jays fourth or fifth starter (barring an injury).

Happ is not a proven commodity by any means, but frankly the Blue Jays know more about his potential than they do that of other guys competing for the fifth starter spot in the rotation.


Now that I think of it, J.A. Happ’s Spring Training is beginning to look eerily similar to Ricky
Romero’s last year. Romero looked shaky early on, then the coaching staff suddenly altered with his mechanics, and then the wheels completely fell off.

Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays coaching staff also tinkered with Happ’s mechanics as well, experimenting with a new arm slot. However, the early results aren’t proving to be much better, and J.A. Happ is almost destined to repeat the same fate as Ricky Romero.

J.A. Happ will likely turn a lot of heads this spring … and by that I
mean the Blue Jays outfielder’s heads, as they watch the ball sail past

Yes, it’s still early on – two outings in Spring Training camp usually isn’t much cause for concern, but the Blue Jays don’t have the benefit of time on their side when it comes to pitching. There are other guys out there who might be much more attractive options to give innings to.

Are they just going to wait it out and hope that Happ magically figures it out, or are they going to let Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek have a shot at starting games?

Due to Bluebird Banter’s handy new Options and Status page, we can see Happ still has an option left, but since he has five years plus of service time, he’d have to agree to be sent down at the minors. At this point in his career, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

$5.2 million dollars isn’t a great deal of money to have tied up in one pitcher, but it wouldn’t make sense to just cut bait with J.A. Happ unless Alex Anthopoulos and John Gibbons were confident one of Hutchison, Drabek or Stroman could take his place.

And considering how many pitchers the Blue Jays went through last year, I don’t think letting go guys who can pitch (albeit not extremely well) in the Majors is something that benefits the Blue Jays.

For a team that went through as many pitchers as Toronto did last year, it would be counter-productive move to just let go of J.A. Happ.


Believe it or not, there are worse options out there when it comes to back-end starters. And some of them exist in the American League East, so it’s not necessarily imperative the Blue Jays employ five aces in their rotation.

If given the choice, would you rather have J.A. Happ or Bronson Arroyo? I’d give the slight edge to Arroyo simply because he can rack up innings, but at $9.5 million a year for Arroyo, the Diamondbacks are definitely overpaying for a back-end starter.

Fourth and fifth starter spots are typically reserved for mediocre pitchers, and J.A. Happ is exactly that – a middle of the road arm.

It frustrated me at the State of the Franchise when Alex Anthopoulos
cherry-picked stats that made J.A. Happ sound like a Cy Young calibre
pitcher, but this is obviously a guy the Blue Jays are committed to,
simply because they don’t really have a choice.

I’ll don’t think I’ll ever quite understand what Alex Anthopoulos seemingly moved heaven and earth to acquire J.A. Happ in the first place, but he’s still under contract this season and therefore Happ will pitch for the Blue Jays.

Richard Griffin pegged the Happ trade as the worst deal ever by Alex Anthpoulos, and after witnessing the results since that 2012 mid-season trade with the Astros, I’d tend to agree. Mostly because the Blue Jays have received nearly no production in return from that trade.


Let’s face it; if by some miraculous feat the Blue Jays make the playoffs this year, J.A. Happ will not be starting in the postseason. He just does not seem like a big-game pitcher.

But the good thing is in the postseason, you only go with your top three starters anyway. So fans need not worry about Happ getting the ball in a pivotal Game 3 in the ALDS.

At this point, I’ve basically reserved that J.A. Happ will be in the Blue Jays starting rotation this year. I guess that just means we’ll have to hold our collective breaths every five days when he takes the mound.

Image courtesy of AP/Charlie Neibergall

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

3 thoughts on “The Wildly Underwhelming J.A. Happ

  • March 4, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    I may be wrong here but I thought that if a player refused his assignment to the minors that it would void his contract and he would become a free agent, therefore there is little chance that Happ would refuse an assignment to triple A. I'm too lasy to look this up though.

    Also it's early and Happ's biggest issue has been command, which could easily be explained by trying out a new arm slaught.

    On a side note, I always found it a bit funny that Anthoupolus went on to acquire almost every player that was discussed in the Roy Halladay to the Phillies trade. If you remember Happ and Gose were rumoured pieces to that deal before it ultimately was decided the return would be Drabek, D'Arnaud and Taylor…which I think will ultimately be AA's worst deal ever.

    • March 5, 2014 at 1:36 am

      Yepp, eventually AA got every player in that deal. I guess just further proof that once he becomes fixated on getting a player, he eventually gets his man.

  • March 5, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Here's the rule:

    Per Article XX-D of the CBA, a player on an MLB 40-man roster who has been outrighted previously in his career and/or who has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time can elect to be a free-agent if he is sent outright to the minors. The outrighted Article XX-D player can elect to be a free-agent immediately upon being outrighted, or he can accept the Outright Assignment and defer his option to elect free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. However, a player eligible to be a free-agent if outrighted who accepts an Outright Assignment and defers his option to elect free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season forfeits his right to elect free-agency if he is added back to an MLB 40-man roster prior to the conclusion of the MLB regular season.

    "If a player eligible to be a free-agent if outrighted elects to be a free-agent immediately, his contract is terminated and he receives no termination pay. But if the Article XX-D player accepts the Outright Assignment and defers his right to be a free-agent until the conclusion of the MLB regular season, the player continues to get paid, receiving the balance of his salary through to the end of the season."

    Knowing this, the Jays shouldn't have any trouble outrighting Happ to the minors.

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