The Cincinnati Reds are looking for starting pitching and J.A. Happ is looking for a three-year deal. This seems like a perfect match.
This could be the easiest move the Cincinnati Reds make at the Winter Meetings. While talk of acquiring Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Corey Kluber seem to dominate the conversation in regard to the Reds, one of the best starting pitchers on the market, J.A. Happ, is sitting there just waiting for the right deal. Cincinnati should oblige.
It’s no secret, everyone knows it; the Cincinnati Reds are desperate to fix their rotation heading into next season. We’ve heard names like Dallas Keuchel, Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard, and other top-level pitchers mentioned as possible targets for the Reds.
Here’s the biggest issue that I have with those aforementioned players. They will cost the Reds, a small market team, a fortune. Keuchel is looking to land a 4-5 year deal worth at least $20 million per year. Would the Reds feel comfortable dishing out $80-plus million? We saw what happened with Homer Bailey.
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Okay, maybe Keuchel doesn’t make sense. What about acquiring Bauer from the Cleveland Indians or Syndergaard from the New York Mets? You want to talk about pricey? No, the upfront cost of $20 million per year is not there, but to land one of these coveted starting pitchers, it’s going to cost you some top prospects. Does anyone want to see the Reds ship out Taylor Trammell or Hunter Greene? I didn’t think so.
Which brings us back to J.A. Happ. Yes, I’m aware that he’s 36-years-old. I’m also aware that at age 35 last season for the Yankees, Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA and a 163 ERA+. Happ made his first All-Star team last season, and his WHIP for the entire season with both the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays was 1.131.
Happ’s fastball hasn’t left him yet. Over his last three seasons, which saw him pitch on four different teams, Happ maintained an ERA of 3.48 and averaged 30 starts per season with an average of 172 innings pitched per season.
Happ is a left-handed, ground ball pitcher. Anyone think that would play at Great American Ball Park? Of course it would. You’ve heard me countless times talk about the Reds’ need for a left-handed starter given all the dominant left-handed bats in the NL Central. The need for a ground ball pitcher is an obvious one if half of your starts come at GABP.
So, why three years? Because that’s what he wants. Okay, before you think it’s completely silly to just give a player what they want without negotiating, allow me to explain. According to Jeff Passan, Happ has been offered a two-year deal by multiple teams. However, that’s not what he’s looking for.
Can you blame him? The guy is likely signing his last big league contract and he wants to make the most of it. In fact, according to Passan’s report, Happ has indicated he’ll sign with the first team the offers up that elusive three-year contract. The Reds should not hesitate to make that deal.
The last contract Happ signed, back in 2015, was worth $36 million over 3 years. Would something similar be enough to entice Happ to sign with the Cincinnati Reds? Probably so. Given the Reds willingness to spend money this offseason, why not front-load the deal?
With Homer Bailey’s $28 million guaranteed coming off the books next season, perhaps sooner according to some reports, the Reds could front-load Happ’s first year in the Queen City for say $18 million, and balance out the remaining $18 million over the last two years. That way, in the event that Happ doesn’t maintain the success we’re accustomed to seeing, it’s not an albatross of a contract the way Bailey’s is.
This makes too much sense not to get done. So, while the Cincinnati Reds are busy at work trying to snag a power bat addition to their outfield, maybe they can pause for a moment to give J.A. Happ what he wants. A three-year contract.