Ian Happ Extension Notes: Why Now, Deal Structure, Offensive Core, Projections, More
When a long-time Chicago Cub signs a multi-year extension, there’s a lot to get into. I offered my thoughts on the three-year, $61 million Ian Happ extension yesterday, but there are a lot of other things to share …
- First, a little housekeeping on the contract. Joel Sherman reports that the deal, which starts next year, comes with a full no-trade clause. The structure is a $3 million signing bonus, $20 million in 2024, $20 million in 2025, and $18 million in 2026. And you already know that it’s $20.3 million in AAV for luxury tax purposes.
- Part of why this deal happened is as simple as it gets: Ian Happ loves being in Chicago on the Cubs. He’s said it a million times. And this was the deal the two sides could agree on, so all is well that ends well.
- It sounds like Happ would’ve preferred a longer deal, but that’s where the Cubs preferred to preserve flexibility (understandable on both sides). So Happ maybe got a higher AAV than you’d otherwise expect, and that was the compromise. “That’s part of an extension, there is compromise,” Happ said, per The Athletic. “For me, it’s compromising on structure, it’s compromising on terms. Taking something that is three years and runs through (my) baseball prime, (I’ll have) to go back on the market at 32. But that was my concession to be here. I really, really wanted to continue to wear this uniform. I really wanted to play with this group of guys. With Nico, Seiya, Taillon, Dansby and the guys that are going to be here.”
- I thought this was particularly awesome. As Ian Happ took the field yesterday, the Cubs announced the deal on the video board – so he got to run out to the left field bleachers as fans were being informed he was there to stay:
- Nico Hoerner told the Tribune that he was “incredibly happy” that Happ got this deal from the Cubs. “It’s significant extending players that started in this organization,” he said. “I think it means more here, and Ian is someone who was here for the last great teams, has had incredible highs in this game and struggled, like we all have, and found himself in a place now that’s as consistent as I’ve ever seen mentally from a player I’ve played with.”
- A fun exchange between former teammates and current left fielders:
- Part of the importance here for the Cubs is in having four key offensive players locked in through at least 2026, in Happ, Hoerner, Seiya Suzuki, and Dansby Swanson. From Jed Hoyer (The Athletic): “I really wanted to get both these deals done. As people, as players, I feel really great about — I don’t know exactly how Rossy’s going to make out the lineup card, but you can see a situation where those top four guys in the lineup are all prime age, they’re all signed through at least 2026. I’m really thrilled to have that stability. This was certainly a priority to get these deals done.”
- If you were curious about the projections, ZiPS likes Happ to decline from a 2.5 WAR player in 2024 to a 1.7 WAR player in 2026, as the bat drops from above average to just about average. I think the Cubs would probably gladly take a version of this deal where Happ is, overall, an above average player in 2024 and 2025, and then a complementary guy in 2026. That’s not what you’d ROOT for, of course, as you’d like to believe Happ has one more step forward in him this year (which would raise that ZiPS baseline for next year). But that wouldn’t really be a terrible outcome on a shorter-term extension like this.
- Happ also provides that clubhouse value, which is always harder to quantify, but is not zero. From Hoyer (ESPN): “I’ve seen such a change in him over the last year in terms of stepping into a leadership role. His preparation to play is outstanding, both from a physical preparation, and also he does everything he can think of to win a game.”
- More from Hoyer on why he wanted Happ to stay:
- Kerry Wood with the congrats:
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