After missing out on top free agent starter Patrick Corbin to the Washington Nationals, the Philadelphia Phillies will have to look elsewhere for a left-handed starter. It appears they have someone in mind.
Per The Athletic‘s Jayson Stark, the Phillies have had “ongoing dialogue” with J.A. Happ over the past several days, who is still seeking a three-year deal in any contract he signs.
The Phillies interest in Happ isn’t new, as shortly after Corbin signed, MLB.com‘s Jon Morosi reported that the Phillies would be turning their focus to the veteran pitcher.
Happ, 36, went 17-8 with a 3.65 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 9.8 SO/9 and a 2.1 bWAR in 2018 with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. Happ also earned his first All-Star bid in 2018. For his career, Happ has a record of 109-82 with a 3.90 ERA, with 47 of those wins coming since 2016.
If Happ were to sign with the Phillies, it would be a reunion that has been eight years in the making. Happ spent the first four years of his career in Philadelphia, where he went 14-5 with a 3.11 ERA in 47 games. Happ was then traded in a package to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt in 2010.
Coming back to the present, Happ would give the Phillies a left-handed pitcher, a need that has been repeatedly stressed throughout the offseason thus far. It would also provide a solid, reliable starter to a rotation that struggled heavily down the stretch. After the All-Star break, four of the five main starters in the Phillies rotation had ERAs above five, with Aaron Nola being the lone exception. Meanwhile, Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA after being traded to the Yankees in July.
In their “Top 50 free agents” list, Tim Dierkes and the MLB Trade Rumors crew predicted Happ to come away from free agency with a contract of three years and $48 million. That number is easily doable for the Phillies.
However, they might face some competition for Happ’s services. The Yankees have been said to be interested in retaining Happ, per Morosi (also shortly after Corbin signed). However, The New York Post‘s George A. King III reported that the Yankees would prefer to sign Happ to a two-year deal instead of a three-year deal. That could very well be the difference maker in where Happ signs, as both the Yankees and Phillies offered Corbin a five-year deal, while the Nationals were the only team to offer a six-year deal to Corbin, per Fancred‘s Jon Heyman.
Beyond J.A. Happ, the other notable free agent left-handed starter would be Dallas Keuchel. Earlier today, Heyman referred to the Phillies as being one of the “prime teams,” ready to jump on Keuchel. The former American League Cy Young Award winner would likely cost much more in terms of the amount of years and money. The Phillies could be better off paying less for a starter who has produced just as well as Keuchel recently.
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