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Reports: Blue Jays close to moving J.A. Happ, Brewers believed to be “in” on talks

He’d be a rental starter who is a free agent as season’s end.

MLB: All Star Game-Workouts Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The hot stove continues to cook along during the 2018 summer trade season as another couple of names swapped teams today. The Toronto Blue Jays were particularly active sellers, with a deal to send Seung-hwan Oh to the Rockies reportedly about to be finalized and another hurler also believed to be on his way out the door soon:

J.A. Happ was Toronto’s lone All-Star representative this year and has been a solid performer in their starting rotation during since signing a three-year deal with the Blue Jays prior to the 2016 season. Now in the final year of that contract, Happ has put together a 4.18 ERA through 20 starts and 114.0 innings so far in 2018. His fastball velocity has stayed steady even at age 35 (his 92.9 MPH average this year is actually a whole mile-per-hour higher than his career mark) and an increased reliance on his four-seamer at the expense of his sinker has helped him miss more bats than ever. The left-hander’s 10.5% swinging strike rate and 10.3 K/9 rate are both the highest marks of his career. Happ’s 2.8 BB/9 rate is right in line with his numbers from the last four seasons, and he’s allowing hard contact at a rate below the league average. He has had some issues with home runs, though, coughing them up at a frequency of 1.34 HR/9. That would be the highest rate of dingers he’s allowed in parts of 12 MLB seasons.

Both FIP- (91) and DRA- (93) feel that Happ has been an above-average starter this season while pitching in the tough American League East. But with the Blue Jays sitting at 46-55 and 14.5 games out of a playoff spot, Happ makes for a logical trade candidate before the July 31st deadline. This summer’s market for starters isn’t exactly strong, making Happ one of the more desirable rentals available. There’s no shortage of reported interest, of course, with the Milwaukee Brewers listed as one of the possible suitors. Because of the widespread desire for his services, the Jays have reportedly set a pretty high price tag:

Happ wouldn’t be a controllable starter or the “rotation leader” that David Stearns covets, but recent events have thinned out Milwaukee’s depth quite a bit. Brent Suter is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery soon and will miss the rest of this season (and possibly most of next year). Zach Davies was on the comeback trail from back and shoulder maladies and had been scheduled to begin a rehab assignment this week, but another setback in his recovery from what’s proving to be a troublesome back ailment has him ticketed for the MRI table instead. At this point, it doesn’t sound like Jimmy Nelson will be able to return from his shoulder surgery anytime before September if he even pitches at all this season.

With that trio essentially out of the picture, Milwaukee’s starting five consists of Junior Guerra, Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson, Wade Miley, and Freddy Peralta. Beyond that group, Brandon Woodruff and Aaron Wilkerson stand ready as the first line of defense in AAA, while Alec Asher and Adrian Houser could also get some consideration for starts in an emergency. Corbin Burnes will continue pitching from the bullpen and there are no plans to move him back to the rotation this season, though he’ll report to camp to compete as a starter in 2019.

Milwaukee has gotten impressive results from their less-than-intimidating group of “initial out-getters” this season, entering the day ranked t-8th in baseball with a 3.79 ERA from their rotation. But the depth of the group is being severely tested while the team continues to compete in both the division and Wild Card races, which could prompt Slingin’ Stearns to make a move in the coming days.


Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus