(Cool photoshop pic created by the awesome @JAHappster)
It was the fall of 2015, the Blue Jays were unable to get past the ALCS rain delay in Kansas City, the dream of a third World Series flag flying forever was over, and Alex Anthopoulos rejected the offer of a contract extension from newly appointed Blue Jays’ CEO and President, Mark Shapiro. It was believed to be because of a difference in philosophies. The Mark Shapiro cronyism era was about to begin and they were about to destroy everything that was 2015-awesome. The Rogers plan was set in place.
So, at that time – after Alex walked - the fickle fans and doomsayers in Blue Jays land predicted the end of the franchise; the end of the Blue Jays; the end of winning, and the end of all things fun.
During that offseason, Blue Jays fans hoped so desperately for the new Toronto FO to try and ink a long-term deal with David Price, who had arguably become the most loved ‘rental’ player in Blue Jays’ history, but Mark Shapiro and Rogers were ‘too cheap’ to make this happen.
Most sensible fans knew that the Blue Jays weren’t about to back up a big rig full of cash into Price’s driveway and give him what the shitty Red Sox ended up forking over, which was a seven-year, $217 million dollar deal, confirming that cash-rules-everything-around MLB. And instead Shapiro signed J.A. Happ to a three-year contract worth $36 million… ugh. And cue the noise:
But, since then, J. A. Happ – or maybe I should just call him ‘K’ Happ - has been one of the most durable and hard-working pitchers on the staff. If you add up his numbers in 2016 and ‘17, he went 30 – 15 and posted a 3.35 ERA – not bad at all.
And for some reason as he gets older, his K/9 just gets better. According to FanGraphs, in 2016 ‘K’ Happ averaged 7.52 K’s per nine innings and in 2017 8.79 K’s per nine, and I know the 2018 season is fresh and young, but to date Happ is averaging 12.94 Ks per nine innings. Whoa…whoa…whoa…whoa…whoa… 12.94 – wow. Maybe, it’s his 95 mph heater. Maybe it’s his control. Maybe Happ is actually really good – just like this Jays team.
When I interviewed Ross Atkins earlier in the year for Blue Jays Nation, he did not hold back on how highly he regards Happ as a pitcher, as a human, and as a competitor. Ross and I were talking about his baseball time in the minors – Ross was a pitcher for all you who don’t know - and I had asked him who he looked up to and he said guys like Charles Nagy and Orel Hershiser.
(Ed. I effing loved Charles Nagy growing up as a kid. Anyway…)
He admired their work ethic and routine. And then I asked him if he saw any similarities in pitchers on the Blue Jays staff and those guys he admired as a young pitcher:
Yeah, J.A. Happ is the guy that jumps out at me. He’s unbelievably hard-working and focused. He has minimal distractions in his life, in his approach to professional baseball and is in my opinion, one of the more underrated starting pitchers in professional baseball.
Atkins has been vocal all offseason about how highly he values Happ and I’ve listened to him gush over him in a couple different interviews this offseason.
As of now, the Blue Jays only have Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez returning for the 2019 season. And the truth is that the future of players like Happ, Estrada, and Donaldson is going to depend on whether or not the team wins games in the first 3-months of the season. So, I can’t say the Blue Jays will most definitely re-sign Happ to an extension because there is no such thing as for sure in the dogs days of life.
If the season does end up going sideways-to-hell and the team is long out of it come the trade deadline, the FO will be all ears when the calls start coming in from other GMs around the league. But the thing is, if the season does go sideways (I don’t think it will), that means that the players who are supposed to perform are not performing, which would mean that their 'stock' won’t be as high as fans might think, so it’s kind of shit to hope that the Jays play like shit, so they can ‘rebuild’ – or something. I don’t know why anyone would think like this. Anyway…
Now, if the Blue Jays are in it, which I believe they will be, the team will not be unloading players and they might even add a little piece to help push them past the pesky, kind-of-good Halos for that final Wild Card spot.
So, next season the Blue Jays are going to need some proven MLB pitchers in their starting rotation and not just a bunch of young, promising Bisons. And if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Happ returning on a two-year deal with an option. And I’d probably bet that the deal gets done in September - kind of like how the FO re-signed Estrada last year to mark the early beginning of their offseason.
I totally understand that anything can happen and the shit winds could come hard and the season might end up being ugly because this is baseball and baseball just does what baseball does when baseball wants to do it, but I think the Blue Jays are actually good this year. And I think that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins really, really like JA Happ. And I think that they will end up offering him an extension because why wouldn’t they?
The team is going to have to add at least one proven starting pitcher into their rotation for next season that’s for damn sure. And heck, while I’m thinking up baseball scenarios that probably mean absolutely nothing, but are fun to think up regardless of what any holier-than-thou baseball thinker thinks – let’s re-sign Estrada to another one-year deal for next season, too.