J.A. Happ signs with Blue Jays


One free agent target of the Pirates is officially off the table. J.A. Happ, whom many within the Pirates’ organization, as well as experts and media members, figured to be the top free agent target of the Pirates this offseason, signed a 3-year, $36 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night. One of the first to break the news was Tom Singer, former Pirates’ writer for MLB.com:

Happ had previously expressed a desire to return to the Pirates, and we know the Pirates were interested in keeping him. Many speculated that Happ would receive somewhere in the 2-year, $25 million range. We don’t know at the moment if the Pirates made Happ an offer or if they did, what they offer might have been. What we do know is that the Pirates now have to turn their attention elsewhere to bring in a quality number-three starter for the 2016 season. At the moment, the club has Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke in the rotation for next season. Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler were depth options that won’t be available at the start of the season due to injuries, and A.J. Burnett is thought to be retiring sometime this offseason.

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Happ’s contract is close to the 3-year, $39 million deal Liriano received from the Pirates last offseason. Liriano had more of a track record of success before receiving that deal, as opposed to Happ, who had a stellar second half of the 2015 season that earned him his contract. Happ has a career ERA of 4.13, but pitched to a 3.61 ERA in 2015, his best single-season ERA since 2010. That was helped by a 1.85 ERA across 11 starts with the Pirates after he was acquired by the club right before the July 31st trade deadline.

Immediate reaction from twitter was mixed:

Happ is 33 years old, so the Pirates likely didn’t want to sign Happ to a longer-term deal. It’s very likely that the length of the deal, not necessarily the money, was the reason Happ went elsewhere.

There was a lot more reaction across twitter, but there were a couple things I took away. 1) The Pirates clearly need to go out and either sign or trade for starting pitching this offseason. They have a big hole in the rotation that needs to be filled, and not just with any starter, but with a quality number-three starter. 2) If Happ gets $12 million annually, the free agent starting pitching market could be very expensive this offseason. Then again, there’s a lot of pitching to be had out there, and pitching always costs money. It’s also interesting to note that Happ formerly pitched for the Blue Jays from 2012-2014, so he’s returning to a place that’s familiar to him.

The Pirates are going to make moves this offseason. Maybe we’ll look back and be thankful that the Pirates didn’t ink Happ because of one good half of a season. Only time will tell.

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