By Jason Shetler
The Pirates suffered quite a blow in late July when it was discovered that A.J. Burnett was experiencing inflammation in his pitching elbow, and had to be placed on the DL. During the trade deadline, the Pirates made a couple acquisitions. One of those was getting J.A. Happ from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitcher Adrian Sampson. Happ went through a rough stretch prior to the trade, leaving some doubt that he would be a capable replacement in Burnett’s absence. After a mediocre Pirates debut, Happ has been excellent since then. Here are his numbers with the Pirates so far.
1.79 ERA, 217 ERA+, 0.99 WHIP, 9.4 K/9 in seven starts
Not only has Happ pitched extremely well with the Pirates, but he’s been one of the best trade deadline pickups this year. While it may sound obvious, the key to Happ’s success thus far has been cutting down on the walks. Happ currently has a 1.6 BB/9 since coming to Pittsburgh. He had a 3.5 BB/9 in his career prior to joining the Bucs. To give you an idea how good Happ has been with the Pirates thus far, he already has a 1.5 WAR in seven starts. In 21 games (20 starts) with the Mariners, Happ was a replacement level pitcher with a 0.3 WAR.
Happ is set to become a free agent after the season. He’s making $6.7 million this year, and based on the way he’s performed with the Pirates, his value on the open market this offseason should be quite intriguing. Quality left-handed starters are always in high demand, so expect plenty of clubs to be interested in him as a middle of the rotation arm. Last offseason, the Pirates brought back Francisco Liriano on a three-year deal worth $39 million. Given the fact that they were able to re-sign Liriano for that much, money shouldn’t be an issue in trying to bring back Happ. The bigger question is how many years would they be willing to go? – With the number of pitching prospects ready to join the Pirates in 2016 and 2017, a two-year deal for Happ would be the most ideal. Should another club offer a longer deal, the Pirates would probably be best to walk away.