Stroman vs. Happ: Does it Make Sense for the Jays to Part with a Starter?
I can’t tell if this is simply teams performing due diligence or whether there is genuine interest, but teams around baseball are sensing the Blue Jays may be motivated to move one of their starting pitchers.
In all likelihood, there are probably clubs out there trying to low-ball the Jays for the services of Marco Estrada, or for some reason, the recently injured Francisco Liriano.
But with their ERA’s at 5.33 and 6.04 respectively and several million dollars left on their deals, the likelihood of dealing Estrada or Liriano decreases every time they take the mound.
Apparently, the Chicago Cubs did exactly that, as Peter Gammons reports the Chicago Cubs checked in on the availability of Stroman, only to learn the Blue Jays wanted a Major League piece in return
When it comes to Happ, Ken Rosenthal says the Milwaukee Brewers have kicked the tires on the Blue Jays’ veteran lefty.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 16, 2017
The Stroman thing isn’t all that surprising. Although the Cubs settled on Jose Quintana and his team-friendly deal which extends until the end of 2019, Stroman would also be under team control for three more years at the going rate of arbitration.
But much like a Josh Donaldson trade, a Stroman deal would signify a major rebuild, something I’m not convinced the Blue Jays want or are ready to do at this very moment.
Happ on the other hand, is a little more intriguing. Because he’s under control through 2018, any potential team which acquires Happ would get him for two potential playoff drives; this year and next.
And unlike Estrada and Liriano, Happ actually has some value out there on the trade market. He’s a veteran lefty starter who’s coming off a career year in 2016 and has bounced back after missing a month-and-a-half due to injury.
In eight games coming off the DL, Happ owns a 3.20 ERA, is striking out eight batters per nine innings and he does a pretty decent job at limiting hard contact.
If I’m a team looking to upgrade my starting rotation (especially in the National League), I’m taking a good, long look at J.A. Happ and asking the Blue Jays what they’d be willing to part with him for.
It may be a non-starter if the Jays are asking for big league talent back in return (like they reportedly did with Stroman when the Cubs came calling), but the Blue Jays could get a pretty decent return for Happ.
He wouldn’t fetch nearly as much as Stroman would on the trade market, but Happ is still a serviceable, solid starter; and the market for half-decent starters is dwindling each day for buyers in the trade market.
In my eyes, Happ is the most likely player to be dealt by the Blue Jays ahead of the trade deadline. Not that Estrada, Liriano, Jose Bautista and Joe Smith won’t be traded, but the pool of buyers for Happ is vaster than that for Estrada or Liriano.
Besides … Estrada and Liriano could clear waivers anyway; mostly due to the dollar figure attached to the remainder of their contract.
If the Blue Jays ultimately decided to trade Happ, I’d probably be okay with it. After all, he is 34 years old and he’s only signed for one more season.
But looking ahead, then the front office has a tremendous amount of work to do this winter to plug the holes in the starting five if both Liriano and Estrada walk as free agents and Happ is potentially traded. That leaves Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini and that’s it.
The FO’s willingness to trade Happ may hinge on how they feel about the current starting rotation depth, this winter’s free agent class or the upcoming trade market. Because things look pretty bleak right now for starters after Stroman and Sanchez.
This is the precarious position the Blue Jays are in right now; if they look at dealing one of their successful starters in Stroman or Happ, they become weaker in the short-term, but does that improve the overall long-term viability of the club?
To me, dealing Stroman now sets the rotation back and removes a solid number two or three starter for the next three-plus years. Those arms are incredibly difficult to replace. Whereas with Happ, the impact of his potential departure would be felt short-term, but only in the short-term.
It’s very likely this is all just talk and the Blue Jays do very little at the non-waiver trade deadline. The Jays just might hang onto all the players that fans love and spare them from the immediate harm.
But standing pat until July 31st won’t help this team get better in the short term or the long term.