In one of the very few arbitration cases that the Cubs actually took to trial over the past couple decades, Ian Happ had a strong case for the requested bump to $4.1 million after his huge year in 2020, which itself came after he was showing significant developmental signs late in 2019.
So, then, maybe it’s no surprise that when the decision came down, the arbitration panel chose Happ’s $4.1 million request for 2021 over the Cubs’ $3.25 million offer:
Ian Happ has won his arbitration hearing against the Cubs, per source. Happ will earn $4.1 million in 2021; the Cubs had filed at $3.25 million.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 19, 2021
The win is huge for Happ not only because he gets a salary 26% higher than what the Cubs requested, but because it’ll set him up for an even better payday in subsequent arbitration years. These things build on themselves.
I suspect Happ is also pleased about the win today for altruistic reasons, knowing that the bigger bumps players can pull out in their arbitration years, the better comps they set up for future players. Happ is the Cubs’ players association rep, so you know he cares about these things.
As for the Cubs, they’re on the hook for about a fringe reliever’s salary extra, but I doubt it makes TOO much of a difference this year, even in tight times. And even in future years, if Happ keeps on breaking out, then he was going to set himself up for a significant raise in Year Two of arbitration in 2022 in any case. Hey, who knows? Maybe the Cubs get REALLY crazy and actually put together an extension for a player!
Happ, 26, has worked hard to adjust his game – including a long stint back at Iowa in 2019 – but the one thing he’s always done at the big league level is hit:
Happ figures to be the Cubs’ nearly-every-day center fielder this year, as well as the leadoff man. If he can hit just a bit more against lefties, then he’s really going to explode.