For the Philadelphia Phillies, the All-Star Break may serve as the calm before the storm.
According to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Phillies are interested in a reunion with current Toronto Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ:
Happ ranks behind Machado and his Baltimore teammate, Zach Britton, on the Phillies’ wish list, but there is definite interest, according to a league source.
In fact, the Blue Jays have spent much time scouting the Phillies’ minor-league system recently, according to a league source.
Happ, who will be 36 in October, broke into the league with the Phillies in 2007. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Happ saw extended time at the major league level. In 35 games for Charlie Manuel’s squad, 23 of which were starts, Happ went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA. He finished runner-up to Chris Coghlan of the *Florida* Marlins in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
In July of 2010, Happ was traded to the Houston Astros as part of the deal that netted the Phillies Roy Oswalt. Arguably the finest two seasons of Happ’s career came between 2015 and 2016, when he was worth a combined 6.6 fWAR. He’s no stranger to trades, as he was of course dealt in the aforementioned Oswalt trade and again from the Seattle Mariners to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015.
Now in his second stint north of the border, Happ is currently 10-6 with a 4.29 ERA, a 4.02 FIP and a 1.7 fWAR. Despite posting a 9.75 ERA in his first three starts in July, Happ was elected to his first All-Star Game this season.
Happ will be a free-agent at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
Another former Phillies that there’s been speculation about a potential reunion with is Texas Rangers starter Cole Hamels. Hamels, who is actually over a year younger than Happ, isn’t someone that the Phillies appear to be targeting, per Salisbury:
However, there has been no evidence to date that the Phils are pursuing Hamels, who has a $20 million contract option for next season that can be bought out for $6 million.
Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported earlier this month that there had been some “chatter” about Hamels potentially returning to Philadelphia, though he admitted he was unsure how substantive the chatter was. He’s since added that Hamels’ friends think he would love to return to the place that he spent the first nine plus seasons of his career. Heck, even Hamels publicly sounded interested about the idea in a discussion he had with Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
But between the expensive option for 2019 or the $6 million buyout, Hamels isn’t a true rental. He also hasn’t had an effective season on the mound. In 19 starts this season, Hamels has a 4.36 ERA. He has a 5.05 FIP, which is the ninth worst mark among qualified starting pitchers. His 1.73 HR/9 is the fourth worst mark in baseball. He’s hit 11 batters this season, which is tied for a career-high.
Despite a rough start to July, it’s understandable then that the Phillies are more interested in the man whose nickname is actually pronounced “Jay.”
And as Salisbury said, discussions to add a starting pitcher seem to be third on the Phillies agenda; behind looking for an impact bat and a top-end reliever. Buckle up, it could be a busy two weeks.