Blue Jays should trade and then re-sign J.A. Happ, a la Aroldis Chapman

ST PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 13: J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch in the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 13, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 1-0. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 13: J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch in the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 13, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 1-0. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

If the Blue Jays are going to trade J.A. Happ this summer (and they should), they should try to try to re-sign him this winter, a la the Yankees and Aroldis Chapman a couple years ago.

Another series sweep at the hands of the division rival Tampa Bay Rays has put the Blue Jays yet another step back in their quest to get back in the playoff picture. I’m been uncharacteristically negative with my last couple of articles, but the mounting losses have a way on bringing down even the most optimistic of fans.

That didn’t change a whole lot after the Blue Jays wasted yet another quality outing from J.A. Happ on Wednesday, who threw five shutout innings only to see his team lose another close game. The game was a pitcher’s duel until the bottom of the ninth when the Rays finally scored and won the game 1-0.

For Happ, it was another reminder that he has quietly become one of the best left-handed starters in baseball, and could arguably be the best pitcher available this summer when trade talks start to swirl. There are others that could hit the trade block, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that Happ will be there, especially considering the status of his expiring contract.

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It’s been said many times that he is happy and comfortable in Toronto, and the Blue Jays have no reason not to reciprocate the feelings. He’s been an absolute bargain while earning just 36 million over the life of the three year contract he signed before the 2016 season, returning to the Blue Jays for a second go-around. He won’t be 36 until October, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down in 2018. In fact, he’s having of one, if not his best season yet.

It’s hard to say what they could get in return for Happ in a deadline deal, especially because he’s just a rental with his contract expiring at season’s end. That said, and this has been pointed out many times, the Blue Jays managed to get Teoscar Hernandez back for Francisco Liriano last year in a deal that also included Nori Aoki, and Happ is a much better pitcher than Liriano.

If they haven’t already been getting calls about the lanky lefty, then chances are the phone lines are going to heat up sooner than later. There’s also a very good chance that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro will be looking to sell off some veterans, especially those on expiring contracts. However in Happ’s case, there has been an argument for the Blue Jays extending him for awhile now. In a weird way, maybe it’s good they haven’t yet, because they could have the best of both worlds, like the Yankees pulled off with Aroldis Chapman.

The Bronx Bombers sent their powerful closer to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Gleybor Torres, Adam Warren, and two others. They promptly re-signed Chapman after his postseason run (and World Series ring) with the Cubs, and were way further ahead as a result of the way things played out.

There’s no guarantee that Happ would come back to Toronto after being traded, but the rotation definitely looks like it could use his help going forward. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez figure to be a part of the 2019 rotation if they’re not traded, and it’s looking like Sam Gaviglio could force his way into the picture as well. Marco Estrada will be a free agent at the end of the season as well, and the Blue Jays have an option on the struggling Jaime Garcia, so it’s hard to say what the rotation will look like by then. Re-signing Happ would certainly give them some stability, especially if they did end up dealing someone else from the group this summer.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t trade him first, and add to the stable of minor league talent that they’ve already got in place. There should be plenty of pitching needy teams by the time the deadline rolls around, and someone with Happ’s pedigree should be hard to sell. At 35, I’m sure he’s not opposed to being a rental and taking a shot at a postseason run either.

Things don’t always work out as you hope they will (see: the 2018 season for the Blue Jays), but in this case, I think there’s a chance it could be pulled off. If the front office is open with Happ and maybe even grants him one of the destinations he’d like to end up, that might not hurt either. It’s an idea, and I hope the front office is exploring it at the very least.

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