4. J.A. Happ: 2012-2014, 2016-2018
Perhaps this is another surprising choice, but J.A. Happ was quietly and maturely one of the best Blue Jays pitchers of the last decade. In two stints with the team, one considerably better than the other, he was a consistent and reliable starter for the Jays, including being a part of the playoff team in 2016. Happ was traded to the Blue Jays in July 2012 for a raft of players who weren’t particularly valuable and fought for a starting role, which he ultimately achieved due to injuries.
Happ was one of those pitchers/players who came into their own later in their career rather than earlier. When he came to the Blue Jays for the first time, he hadn’t really established himself as a consistently strong pitcher. By that time, he had amassed a 5.2 WAR, a total he nearly surpassed in 2016 alone when he returned to Toronto via a three-year, $36-million contract. He showed a very different side in his second stint, proving that some players do get better with age. In 2016, Happ was among the best pitchers in the league, becoming the sixth Blue Jays pitcher in history to win 20 games in a season. He finished that year sixth in AL Cy Young voting. The 195 innings pitched and 163 strikeouts were both career highs for the left-hander, as was his 3.18 ERA in a full season as a starter. The Illinois native also was strong in the playoffs, giving up three earned runs in 10 innings pitched over two starts, with a 1-1 record.
Happ battled injuries in 2017 but still posted a strong season through 25 starts. In 2018, Happ was named an All-Star for the first time in his career but with the Blue Jays rebuilding, he was traded in the final year of his contract to the New York Yankees in exchange for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. Happ went on to finish a great year in New York and spent two more years there. In 2021, the pitcher struggled and is currently a free agent.
Overall, it’s hard to see what pitcher contributed more the last decade than Happ, as quietly as he seemed to do it. The Blue Jays certainly hadn’t had a season like Happ’s 2016 for a while, until, well Robbie Ray in 2021.