J.A. Happ’s final noteworthy contract could come with the team he began his career with – the Philadelphia Phillies. And it could come relatively soon.
According to George A. King III of The New York Post, the Phillies are making progress with the 36-year-old free-agent:
A person with knowledge of the situation used the phrase “getting closer’’ to describe the discussions between Happ and the Phillies.
The Athletic‘s Jayson Stark had reported Monday that the Phillies had an “ongoing dialogue” with the left-hander’s representatives.
Even at 36, Happ is coming off of perhaps the finest season of his career. An All-Star for the first time in 2018, Happ went 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA and 3.98 FIP in a season that he split with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. After the Yankees acquired him in July, Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA – though he did have a 4.21 FIP over that same stretch – helping the Yankees to win 100 games.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, 100 games was only good enough to win the first Wild Card spot, as the eventual World Series Champion Red Sox won the American League East with 108 wins. Happ’s lone postseason start came in Game 1 of the ALDS when the Yankees met the Red Sox. Happ lasted just two innings, allowing five earned runs in a 5-4 loss.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday morning that Happ was seeking a three-year deal, but thus far had only received two year offers. It’s unclear if the Phillies have warmed up to the idea of offering Happ a third year or not. It’s possible they could front-load a potential free-agent contract for him so that any third year would see him making less money than he did in his first two seasons. It’s also possible that just guaranteeing him more money in the first two years will be enough to land him. A club option for a third year – potentially one that could vest if Happ pitches a certain amount of innings in his first two years of the contract – could also entice Happ.
Happ was a third-round pick of the Phillies in the 2004 MLB Draft. Though he did pitch in one game for the 2007 Phillies and eight for the the World Champion 2008 Phillies, Happ established himself in 2009. In his age-26 season, Happ went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA, 4.33 FIP and a 1.7 fWAR in 35 games, 23 of which were starts. He finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2009, with Chris Coghlan taking home the award. The Phillies would trade Happ to the Houston Astros in July of 2010 as part of the deal that netted them Roy Oswalt.
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