Jays Acquire Three Pitchers from Astros in Happ-less Attempt to Save Season
In what can only be called the most underwhelming trade of the baseball season, the Toronto Blue Jays today acquired the services of three pitchers from the Houston Astros in exchange for two major league position players and four minor league players. Heading to Toronto are J.A. Happ, former Blue Jay Brandon Lyon, and David Carpenter. Houston gets backup outfielder Ben Francisco, bullpen gas can Francisco Cordero, and minor league hurlers Joe Musgrove, Asher Wojciechowski, David Rollins and catcher Carlos Perez. The verdict is still out as to which team gets to claim spring training superiority after this trade.
This deal really boils down to Happ and the prospects acquired from Toronto. The rest of the players are basically roster filler. Happ was once a very highly touted pitcher with the Phillies who was rumoured to be part of the package initially offered to Toronto in exchange for Roy Halladay back in 2009. In 2009, Happ posted a 2.93 ERA and 12 wins for the Phillies, but he was ultimately traded to the Astros in 2010, and has struggled ever since. In the past two seasons, Happ has posted the following collective stats: a win-loss record of 13-24, a 1.50 WHIP, and a 5.15 ERA. And that was in the National League, where there is an automatic out (the pitcher) in the nine spot in nearly every batting order! Can you imagine how Happ is going to fare pitching in the A.L. East?
Happ’s one redeeming quality is his ability to strike out batters, as he has averaged better than 7 K’s per nine innings in his career. Call me crazy, but this guy’s stats look like Brett Cecil’s with a few more K’s. The huge amount of hits Happ surrenders will be his undoing; a starting pitcher simply cannot be effective in the Majors when he allows more than a hit per inning, as Happ has done since 2011. Ask Brett Cecil how that approach is working out in the American League.
The fact that Happ was just now acquired for little more than major league spare parts and low minor league prospects indicates just how far his stock has fallen in the past two years. Let’s face it, Happ will continue to find employment for the next couple of seasons simply based on that 2009 season with Philadelphia. Major League general managers have a peculiar habit of focusing on a player’s sole good season, many years removed. For those of us who were forced to take first year statistics in university, the term “outlier” comes to mind.
I have never been a fan of trades where a team acquires a player who provides a tolerable, quick fix to an immediate need on the major league roster in exchange for a decent prospect. In 2000, the Jays sent then minor leaguer Michael Young to the Texas Rangers in exchange for starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza, in an effort to bolster their starting rotation for the stretch run. Loaiza was decent for the Jays in 2000, despite winning only five games, but his 2001 and 2002 season were absolute disasters as he posted ERAs over 5.00 and a WHIP in excess of 1.40 in both years. Loaiza left Toronto after 2002 and last pitched in the Show in 2008. Michael Young didn’t do much with Texas, aside from winning a batting title, a gold glove, an All-Star Game MVP award, seven All-Star selections, and posting a lifetime .302 average and .794 OPS in over 1700 career games. Young is still playing in the Majors, and is a vital part of another playoff bound Rangers squad.
I’m not saying that the Happ trade is Loaiza-Young version 2.0, but as a Jays fan, I’m not very excited about this trade at all. Happ is not going to provide much more than acceptable, back-of-the-rotation pitching for the Blue Jays. He is 29, and his physical peak and his best seasons are likely behind him. Brandon Lyon is a middling reliever with a career 4.17 ERA who can eat some innings for the overworked Jays’ bullpen, but again, he delivers nothing more than adequate pitching. Carpenter could prove to be an effective relief pitcher if he can get his career 1.71 WHIP under control, but he is far from a sure thing. All of the minor leaguers traded by Toronto play below the AA level, and none have posted particularly great numbers in their careers to date. But if even one of the prospects acquired by Houston develops into a star major league player, and Happ doesn’t turn in a solid performance for the Jays for a couple of years, this trade will be a loss for Toronto. Jays fans should, however, rest assured that none of the four prospects look like they are going make the major leagues any time soon.
You can classify this trade as a gamble, a wash, or a steal for either of the teams involved, however, as a Blue Jays fan, I am going to call this trade as I see it: too little, too late to save the 2012 season.
…and that’s the Last Word.
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