Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining How They Failed to Re-Sign J.A. Happ

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Most fans like to blame owner Bob Nutting for the Pittsburgh Pirates failing to re-sign veteran starting pitcher J.A. Happ following the 2015 season, was it really his fault?

At the 2015 trade deadline, general manager Neal Huntington and the Pittsburgh Pirates made a late addition by adding starting pitcher J.A. Happ from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitching prospect Adrian Sampson. At the time it didn’t seem like a worth while addition to the rotation but little did fans know that after the trade Happ would go on a stretch where he was the most dominant National League pitcher the rest of the season. With the Pirates, Happ went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts.

After the season, Happ left the Pittsburgh Pirates and headed to Toronto on a 3-year, $36 million dollar contract. This sparked immediate outrage among Pirates’ fans and rightfully so as losing Happ was a big loss to the team’s rotation coming off of a 98-win season and heading into a big 2016 season with the teams core still in place. Most fans have blamed owner Bob Nutting for not being willing to dish out the money Happ wanted, however, that may have not been the case.

Thanks to a wonderful interview from Andrew Filiponi and Chris Mueller from 93.7 The Fan, Greg Brown talked about the situation with Happ and the Pirates’ former front office. When asked of his thoughts on Neal Huntington, Brown revealed that during off-air conversations between himself and Huntington, the former GM admitted that the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted Happ back for the 2016 season.

According to Brown, Huntington and company had made a 2-year offer to Happ’s agent and told them that if any team offered more for them to call back because the Bucs we’re willing to match it. Happ got the offer from Toronto and ran with it, not calling Pittsburgh back. This is a fantastic bit of news to hear as part of the Pirates faithful, “It’s not about the money” says Brown.

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Now this doesn’t mean that Huntington didn’t fail at trying to replace Happ, because he did. The Jon Niese trade was absolutely awful, and I’m sure he would admit that. However this new information from Brown has put the idea that Happ left because of Nutting’s refusal to spend to rest once and for all.