Blue Jays: Give J.A. Happ the three year deal he’s seeking

BOSTON, MA - JULY 12: J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at Fenway Park on July 12, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 12: J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at Fenway Park on July 12, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

It’s rumoured that J.A. Happ is looking for three years on his next contract, and I think the Blue Jays shouldn’t bat at eye at the idea at all.

It’s no secret that the Blue Jays could use some help for their starting rotation going forward, and there are several tantalizing options on the free agent market. On the weekend we heard news that the Jays are at least interested in Dallas Keuchel, although it remains to be seen how serious they want to dive into the bidding for one of the top pitchers on the free agent market.

A more realistic option might be a familiar face in J.A. Happ. For those who have forgotten, Happ was traded to the Yankees last year before the July 31st deadline, and brought Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney back in return. He went on to perform well in New York, just as he had for the last couple seasons as a Blue Jay, and it looks like the lanky lefty has quite a bit left in the tank at this late stage of his career. In total he was 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA, and a 1.131 WHIP, tossing 177.2 innings, striking out 193, and earning 3.4 bWAR.

He’s now 36 years old, and typically pitchers slow down quite a bit by their mid to late thirties. There exceptions though of course, and it looks like Happ could continue as an above-average rotation option. According to Jon Heyman of Fan Cred Sports there are at least 10 teams that are interested in him, and it’s possible he’ll wait out the market on other options like Patrick Corbin, or perhaps rumoured trade candidates like Corey Kluber.

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One other key piece of information Heyman mentioned is that Happ and his agents are looking for a three year deal. Because of his age it’s understandable that some GM’s would pause at the idea, but I think the Blue Jays shouldn’t balk at all. In fact, I argued several months back that the Blue Jay should do a repeat of his three year, 36 million dollar deal and call it a day, assuming that would be enough to get it done.

Because of the uncertain future of the Blue Jays rotation, Happ would be a welcome veteran leader among what should be a young group. The Jays have Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez under control for two more years each, but it’s hard to say if either will be extended beyond that. Otherwise the group is pretty young at this point, and someone like Happ would be a great mentor for fellow lefties like Ryan Borucki and Thomas Pannone.

Ross Atkins and company should also have plenty of payroll room to play with, especially after the 2019 season when Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales are off the books. They’ll have a young and inexpensive core pretty much all around their 25 man roster, and there’s no reason they can’t give Happ a third year, even if they don’t believe that he’ll be worth his contract by 2021. Much like the Martin contract signed in 2015, sometimes you agree to a contract knowing that it’s a great idea for the short term, but it won’t look as good in a few years. However, with the way Happ’s going, it’s entirely possible he’s still a useful piece as a 38 or 39 year old.

Maybe he would rather chase a ring at this point of his career, and it’s likely that someone like the Yankees will make him a strong offer. However, it’s also been reported that he was a big fan of playing for the Blue Jays and living in Toronto, and comfort is also a big thing for a player in the latter stages of his career.

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The Blue Jays might not be the only team willing to go to three years, but if that’s what it takes to get a contract signed then I say Atkins shouldn’t even blink. He was fantastic in his second stint with the team from 2016-2018 before being traded, and he’s exactly the type of reliable arm the front office should be interested in. If he’s serious about coming to Toronto for a third time, I say the Jays should get it done as soon as they can.