Blue Jays: The Brad Hand trade should help J.A. Happ’s market value
After the Padres dealt Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to Cleveland for top prospect Francisco Mejia, J.A. Happ’s trade market value should have improved in Toronto’s favour.
The trade market is a very tricky thing, and it’s really hard to predict just how aggressive one GM might be as opposed to another. For example, we had grown accustomed to a conservative approach from the Blue Jays for years, and then Alex Anthopoulos went nuts in July of 2015 and brought in all kinds of premium upgrades to spark an exciting playoff run.
The latest example of an unpredictable market is the price the Cleveland Indians had to pay in order to acquire two relief pitchers. Granted, they’re very good arms, but Cleveland ended up sending back one of the top prospects in baseball in catcher Francisco Mejia. If you told me five years ago that it would take a top five catching prospect to get significant relief help, it would have been borderline laughable, and now it’s pretty normal.
The game has changed though, and there seems to be more emphasis on pitching value than ever before. I don’t know that there’s ever been a time when starting pitching wasn’t at the top of the list of priorities for GMs, but the bullpen has certainly moved up the list. That said, I don’t know that it’s moved beyond the value of a good starting pitcher, and that’s why the Cleveland-San Diego trade could and even should work in the Blue Jays’ favour, at least a little bit.
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As Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins continue to survey the trade market, two of their top moveable assets are starting pitchers. Marco Estrada looks like he’ll be able to take the mound again before the end of the month, and will hopefully show enough to reassure GMs that he’s healthy and able to contribute to a contender. However, the top trade piece the front office is working with is definitely J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays only All-Star this year.
The rumours around Happ have been plentiful, and you can bet there is a lot of interest from the teams that are still realistically in the playoff hunt. Even within the AL East, there have been plenty of rumours connecting him to the New York Yankees, who could badly use a rotation upgrade. If the Yankees were reluctant to part with someone like Clint Frazier before, the pressure is only going to increase with the Hand-Mejia trade going down, as the value of the pitching market gets impacted with every move. Granted that Hand and Adam Cimber are both relievers, but they’re still pitching assets, and arguably less than valuable than a starting pitcher.
It’s all relative to the needs of the market, but don’t be surprised if Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro were smiling after reading about the latest trade featuring some premium pitching. In this case, maybe it’ll pay off to have waited a few weeks to deal Happ, as there is still a little more than a week and a half before the non-waiver deadline.
While they’re missing a few guys they’d like to be shopping on the trade market right now (ie. Josh Donaldson), the front office still has arms like Happ, Estrada, Seunghwan Oh, John Axford, Tyler Clippard and more on expiring contracts, and they could go further than that depending on how they want to approach a potential rebuild.
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There’s a good chance things will look a lot different in John Gibbons‘ clubhouse in a couple weeks time, and especially with the pitching staff. Hopefully, the players that depart will bring back an even better return as a result of Thursday’s mini-blockbuster. It certainly wouldn’t hurt the Blue Jays cause, that’s for sure.