Should the Phillies Pursue Happ? – Phillies Nation
2013 Spring Training

Should the Phillies Pursue Happ?

Happ is unhappy in Toronto. The Phillies may need a starter. Could they trade for Happ? Would they?

The reports out of Clearwater today regarding Roy Halladay were worrisome at best and troublesome at worst – Halladay threw 82 pitches, staying in the high 80s according to Chris Branch, with limited control (2 BB, 1 HBP) and “plenty of hard hit balls“. Halladay’s struggles are well documented but there is reason for optimism: Rich Dubee believes Halladay will be ready with two more Spring starts (including today) and Doc himself told Jayson Stark he is optimistic about the season.

But what if he’s not?

Five miles up the road from Clearwater, the Blue Jays suddenly have rotation full of capable pitchers. The stable of arms includes high-end talent like Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and the reigning NL Cy Young R.A. Dickey, with younger promising arms like Brandon Morrow and former All-Star Ricky Romero rounding out the back end. The acquisition of Johnson, Buehrle, and Dickey leaves the Jays with a great rotation, but also with a disgruntled 29-year old who is now seemingly out of a job and slated to start the year in Triple-A. Last week, CBS’s Scott Miller reported J.A. Happ was unhappy in Toronto with his situation.

Is a return for Happ a viable option for the Phillies if Halladay is not ready for Opening Day?

Let’s start at the beginning: is it financially possible for Happ to come to the Phillies? The long and short answers are yes – Happ will make $3.7 million in 2013. The real question is: is the best use of seemingly limited resources? Over his career, Happ’s 4.19 ERA compares favorably to John Lannan‘s 4.01 ERA and possess a better WHIP, a lower H/9 IP, and a better K/BB rate. Happ was worth about two wins last season across time with the Astros and Blue Jays, about the same as Kendrick and Lannan are expected to provide. In short, it is financially possible and Happ’s production would be worth acquiring.

The next question is: do the Phillies have the pieces to acquire Happ? The answer to this is a resounding yes. While the Phillies don’t have the farm that other clubs do, let’s take a look at Happ’s historical comparables at age 29. His number one comparable? Mark Redman, who happened to coincidentally be traded right at this same point in his career. Redman was traded for Michael Neu and Bill Murphy, two organizational filler relievers who were good enough to play in the Majors but struggled in two seasons each to stick in their mid-late 20s. The Phillies have a lot of these type arms.

So, if they can afford Happ and they have the pieces to acquire him, what’s the hold up? Well, Halladay is Halladay and he’s going to want to play through this. And if you trade for Happ and Halladay is ready? Well, you now have a $3.4 million long reliever. Ouch. Adam Morgan has had a strong Spring and the Phillies have Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone, and Ethan Martin, not to mention Aaron Cook‘s steady performance. Those five players will cost either the rookie minimum or, in Cook’s case, the veteran minimum. The younger players could benefit from the opportunity to play at the big league level and Cook can keep the Phillies in most games.

Should the Phillies make the call to the Jays to see if they are willing to deal Happ? Absolutely – they should do their due diligence. Happ isn’t cheap and isn’t the best pitcher, but he may be the best pitcher available and may be able to be had a reasonable price. It is unlikely that they would make a deal but Happ could fit the bill if they needed a starter and preferred to go the veteran route.



  1. Ken Bland

    March 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Pass on the part of do the Phils have the piece(s) to acquire Happ, and also the econoics.

    I can think of worse suggestions. A return to his most successful stop might offer a degree of rejuvination and at least offer some degree of quality.

    I’m mildly disppointed in Doc today, but I had limited expectations off the virus. If we don’t see improvement by next Thursday’s start, it’s time to quasi semi worry. Far as I know, he’s been working on his usual repetoire, and can’t locate the vutter. When his fulkl concentration is on getting hitters out with what does work, and pitches poorly, then I’m in full worry mode. The velo is of secondary concern, the location/command is a bitch.

    Better Happ than Lohse. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Cook get plastered today since I find it hard to believe he’d be a plus against real competition. But pitching with a 5-0 lead sure makes it easier to relax..

    • Brooks

      March 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

      I’m with you on the Lohse deal. I think when the dust settles, the success he has been experiencing is delsional at best.

      • Ken Bland

        March 24, 2013 at 11:25 am

        It’s spelled deslional when in the same sentence as Lohse. You know the rules, i before e, except after c, s before h, except when in or around Lohse.

        Other than that, that was a really excellent messge.

  2. Shamus

    March 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    It would be hilarious if they somehow got him or Drabek back.

  3. George

    March 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    If Halladay’s not going to cut it, I don’t see the point in going after anybody because their season would most likely be sunk. And why in the world would they waste even a fringe prospect to gain another fifth starter? Nobody needs two of those.

  4. William Rennick

    March 23, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    I don’t know your definition of “cutting it” is. If you mean the Roy of 2010/2011, I think it’s safe to say that those days are gone forever. He basically said as much after the game today. He’s in the process of re-inventing himself as his skills diminish. He even evoked the name of our old friend Jamie Moyer.

    • George

      March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am

      My word choice is basically just a reiteration of the premise of Ian’s article: “what if Halladay isn’t ready opening day,” and it’s implied message that if not, he may never be ready.

      If he does perform reasonably, maybe 12-14 wins and a 3.75 ERA, there’d be little reason to even consider Happ, and I doubt that the article would have been written. No one, I’m sure, expects Halladay to suddenly become 3 years younger, but it’s quite possible that he’ll be injured, ineffective, lose too much velocity/location, or any combination of those, and thus won’t “cut it,” not even even winning 7-8 games.

  5. EricL

    March 23, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    No. Happ sucks and if this tea has any minor league depth it’s in 3-4 starters. Cloyd and Pettibone can give you a reasonable facsimile of what you’d get from JA without giving up anything to get them or having to pay them upwards of 3 million bucks.

    Anyway, as George said, picking up a #4 type pitcher to replace what they were hoping to get from a moderately healthy Halladay doesn’t make much sense since their chances of competing will basically be shot anyway.

    • wbramh

      March 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      Happ may suck, but unless Doc starts showing signs of his old self (or new self) I’m ready to bring back Dallas Green as a starter. A bit late in the preseason to find a legitimate replacement for a Roy Halladay – or even a John Lannan for that matter.

    • Chuck A.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:27 am

      I agree completely. I don’t think this would be the answer for many reasons. I keep thinking back to 2008 and our rotation going into that season. Wouldn’t a rotation minus Roy Halladay but including a now seasoned Cole Hamels (who I think is poised to win a Cy Young) and Cliff Lee…still be better than what we had going into that year?

      • Brooks

        March 24, 2013 at 9:34 am


      • Lefty

        March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am

        Diminished Roy Halladay v Diminished Jaime Moyer
        2013 Cole Hamels v 2008 Cole Hamels
        Cliff Lee v Brett Myers
        2013 Kyle Kendrick v 2008 Kyle Kendrick
        John Lannan v Adam Eaton/Joe Blanton

        Overall Chuck I’d say definitely yes. But the trouble as I see it, is that Moyer took a couple of seasons in Seattle to re-invent himself. (2004,05) Doc and the Phils don’t have the luxury of that kind of time.

      • EricL

        March 24, 2013 at 10:50 am

        Yes, this rotation will likely be better than the rotation of 2008, provided Doc isn’t completely horrible, but the 2013 offense is going to be nowhere near as potent as the offense of 2008, so that’s a little concerning.

        Also, every time you hear a Jamie Moyer comparison for a guy whose velocity is declining…be very, very skeptical. There have been tens of thousands of pitchers in baseball history. There’s been one Jamie Moyer. And he was left-handed. Perilously few pitchers have ever been able to get so much out of so little, and to expect that someone else, who has never had to pitch that way, can do at the drop of a hat is, I think, maybe a little misguided.

        For every Jamie Moyer you have the thousands of other pitchers who have lost their velocity and have ended up being poor pitchers, losing their roles, or retiring after a few bad seasons. When Steve Carlton lost his velocity he didn’t turn into Jamie Moyer, he turned into an awful version of Steve Carlton.

      • Ken Bland

        March 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

        Wouldn’t a rotation minus Roy Halladay but including a now seasoned Cole Hamels (who I think is poised to win a Cy Young) and Cliff Lee…still be better than what we had going into that year?”

        You could certainly argue the ’13 rotation is superior, and even forgetting an offense that isn’t as strong this time, maybe the biggest difference between ’08 and ’13 is the competition. Ciourse you have a 2nd wild card now, but both the Braves and Nats, to memory, are better than what was faced in ’08. The Cubs were a terrific regular season club, but the several clubs that figure to contend for the two card seem to make this a more competitive situation that REQUIRES the starting rotation be better. Not to mention how excellent Madson, and especially Lidge were that year.

      • wbramh

        March 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

        I agree, Lefty.
        Halladay can’t reinvent himself much faster than Moyer did the same.

        Plus, I still contend that there’s more wrong with Halladay than just his velocity. He’s also had location problems as well – which is not the Doc we know.
        The sweating, the fatigue, the sicknesses – and I’m talking about last season.
        Losing 10 pounds from a brief virus?
        I suppose it happens, but that’s considerable, even for a big guy.

        If the team was more forthright in general about medical issues with players, maybe I wouldn’t be worrying as much but I fear that there are underlying physical issues that we don’t know about – and perhaps Doc and the team don’t know either.

      • Lefty

        March 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

        kb, My memory is about as long as my……….nose, so I looked it up. In 08, looks like the Mets were 16 games over .500 and the Marlins 7 over, while the Braves were 18 under and the Nats were off the charts bad.

        I completely agree the competition is better, the Mets were the only threat – there are two legit competitors now.

      • Lefty

        March 24, 2013 at 11:45 am

        ericL where have you been man? I’ve been wondering if your opinion of Michael Young’s defense has changed. He looks like he has worked hard to be better to me.

        You are absolutely correct that there are not many Moyer, Livan, Hoyt type of pitchers. I was only pointing to Doc’s comments yesterday that he has to change his game some due to lowered velocity.

      • EricL

        March 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

        The Internet is a big place…I got lost in it elsewhere for a bit.

        I’m not sold on MY’s defense. I don’t put much stock in spring training performances, so while he’s looked okay to this point, I think the preponderance of the evidence we have over the last 5 years says that he’s no good in the field. IMO playing a few good innings over 20+ spring games doesn’t make me think he’s reinvented himself as a good fielder. I hope he has turned over a new defensive leaf, but i remain unconvinced. we’ll see.

      • Lefty

        March 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm

        I appreciate your comments on this board, they are smart and I get a kick out of your stuff, witty and fun.

        That said, I have to disagree with you this time. I’m speculating of course, but I really just think Father time has caught up with Doc as it does with all pro pitchers. It happens at different ages, but it always happens. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.

        As far as losing 10 lbs. from a virus, I used to lose on average, 5 pounds for every start back in High school. (didn’t make my college team) And that was healthy. I don’t think it’s that unusual that he lost ten while pitching sick.

        The team has not been forthright about some injuries, I can’t deny that. But these are prideful guys that don’t want management making excuses for them. I think that’s what happened with Utley, I think he didn’t want the FO to say much. And maybe the same for Doc as well.

  6. Brooks

    March 24, 2013 at 9:37 am

    But is our offense as good? Nope

    • G7

      March 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      Offense will be better this year.

      • EricL

        March 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm

        Better Han 2008? Not likely.

      • G7

        March 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm

        No, better than last year, really can’t compare to 2008..HR numbers are down across the league..current staff is better than 2008 even without Halladay..of course Lidge was perfect in 2008, hard to top that.

  7. TheDipsy

    March 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I’m sold on Michael Young’s defense. Its not going to be good. There is a reason he was taken off of 3B in the first place and its just not because Beltre is a better felder. There was a reason they Rangers went out and got Beltre. When the season rounds out you could see the corners being manned by Delmon Young, Dom Brown, Ryan Howard, and Michael Young. And Ryan is probably in the top two of those four at fielding his position, which is scary. Personally, I like a platoon of Nix/Mayberry a whole lot better than Young. That said, get him healthy and hopefully trade him. At 975K some teams would probably consider him a bargain.

    The Dipsy

  8. TheDipsy

    March 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Why Happ? We have Lannan. They’re the same guy.

    The Dipsy

  9. Manny

    March 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    For all the optimism surrounding our offense this spring (Brown, Howard, Revere, et al doing their parts), Halladay’s disappointing performance is like dropping an ice cold bucket on our playoff hopes. Bottom line is that unless the offense incredibly overperforms, we won’t be winning 86-90 games with a diminished Halladay. Cliff and Cole simply won’t be enough.

    • G7

      March 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Kendrick and Lannan could win 10 games each..

    • G7

      March 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      Kendrick and Lannan could each win 10 games..

  10. TheDipsy

    March 24, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Halladay will be OK. My reasons:

    1) He was touching 90 yesterday after being sick and losing ten pounds while still trying to build arm strength;
    2) In the event that his velocity IS gone, he has enough pitches (curve, cutter, change, split) where he can mix in his fastball without relying on it to set everything else up. He just has to make the adjustment that many other great pitchers have done and learn to pitch a “backwards” a little more when they lose 5 miles off of ther fastball. 14-8, 3.38. Is that OK for a no. 3 starter on a pennant winning team?

    The Dipsy

  11. Lefty

    March 24, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Dipsy, 3.38 is very unrealistic at this point. He was a strike thrower, not a nibbler. No matter what pitch he threw, or more specifically his famous sinker, he always challenged hitters and threw strikes. I’ll be glad if he can keep it the ERA somewhere near 4.

    Once it’s gone, it’s gone, especially if (as he keeps claiming) he has no injury, then it’s just father time. He can work on mixing it up, but even for the guys that can reinvent themselves, it still takes a while to make the adjustment.

  12. Bob in Bucks

    March 25, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    It makes little sense to get Happ at this point. If Halladay is truly done then the Phils have very little chance to make the playoffs. Happ is not that much better than Cook et al and he will not give you Halladay performance. Without that performance Phils are not likely to do well. Keep the money and above all keep the prospects!

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