Yesterday afternoon, the stove started cooking on Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ, a quality rental starter in whom many teams – including the Cubs – have interest. It only made sense, given that another quality rental option (Nathan Eovaldi) had just gone off the board.
Still, the day passed without Happ being dealt, so let’s reset things, and also update the Cubs’ efforts with respect to the Blue Jays.
Yankees still appear to be the leader in the race for J.A. Happ, but other teams remain engaged with Blue Jays. Brewers & Cubs still in play, though 1-2 more may also be in the mix. Toronto may not get its initial high asking price, but the heavy competition should benefit Jays.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 26, 2018
Status of Happ trade tonight, per sources: Yankees are trying and in strong position but nothing done. Cubs, Brewers and Rockies three other teams who have been on him. Nite nite unless something further Happ-ens har har har
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) July 26, 2018
Yanks and Jays still seem to have work to do on Happ. Yanks have said no on Sheffield and also on Frazier. Jays have shown some interest in Drury. Brewers, others could still be in play. Yanks also talking to other teams (though doubtful mets would trade wheeler to NYY)
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 26, 2018
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 26, 2018
So, then, it sounds like – just as it was last night – the Yankees are the most likely landing spot for Happ, but a few other teams, including the Cubs and Brewers, could still be in the mix. Patrick Mooney has reported that the Cubs may not be super high on Happ, so, given the limited farm system, they probably aren’t a good bet to get the deal done.
We’ll keep tabs on this today, as it sounds like it could be wrapping up.
Interestingly, Joel Sherman – who hears the Yankees and Brewers are the leaders for Happ – says the Cubs might also still be in play, but “were said to have checked in on fellow Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman.”
Well how about that.
Stroman, 27, is another one of those guys whose been at the periphery of the trade market for years, despite being under team control through 2020. With the Blue Jays in a transitional phase and lots of teams looking for starting pitching, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them finally receptive to teams’ entreaties.
Moreover, if the Cubs were talking to the Jays about Happ, and perhaps not finding a prospect fit – maybe the Jays keep asking about big league pieces – it wouldn’t be a shock to learn that the Cubs shifted the conversation to Stroman. Might as well at least check in, right?
Stroman was very solid in 2016 and 2017, but currently sports a 5.42 ERA, dealt with “shoulder fatigue” earlier this year, and has seen a pretty clear 1 mph drop in velocity. There are also some clear signals in his peripherals that he’s dealing with some bad luck in the results department, and he remains an elite groundball guy, but it should be clearly noted that dealing for Stroman at this point comes with a lot of risk. The upside is that you get a 3-4 WAR pitcher still in arbitration for two and a half years, but the downside is that his results keep trending downward with his velocity and stuff.
If the rumors pick up any steam, we can dig in a little deeper on Stroman’s 2018 season.
Usually in these situations, the team with the player doesn’t want to sell low, and would rather roll their own dice on the player bouncing back, rather than accept a smaller return. So I wouldn’t bet on a trade, but it is apparently something to keep an eye on.
Even if the Blue Jays were keen on dealing Stroman right now, the Cubs would also be up against many other bidders that might have slightly more incentive to want to go after a controllable guy. Like I said last night with respect to Chris Archer, it’s not that the Cubs affirmatively wouldn’t want a controllable starting pitcher, but with upwards of six to seven starting options already in-house for 2019, they may have less incentive to go nuts for a controllable guy than other bidders.