After missing out on free agent starting pitcher Patrick Corbin, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, who could the Philadelphia Phillies go after next to bolster their starting rotation?
According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, one potential option could be free-agent left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ.
Happ was drafted by Philadelphia in the third round of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft and spent four seasons with the big-league club. In those four seasons, he was used both as a starter and reliever, posting a record of 14-5 with an ERA of 3.11.
Happ’s best season with the Phillies came in 2009 when they went back to the World Series and faced off against the New York Yankees. He had an impeccable record of 12-4 with an ERA of 2.93 in 23 starts. Happ also recorded 119 strikeouts in 166 innings pitched, along with a SO/9 of 6.5 and finished second in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting.
Fast-forward almost 10 years later and the 36-year-old Happ is reportedly seeking a three-year deal after an impressive season with both the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. In 31 combined starts, the veteran pitcher had a record of 17-6 with an ERA of 3.65.
Along with the Phillies, the New York Mets have expressed interest in Happ, while the Yankees still have a shot to re-sign him. It would not be a huge surprise to see him stay with the Yanks as he posted an impressive 7-0 record with a 2.69 ERA.
However, if the Phillies were to sign Happ, he would be a nice fill in as a solid third option in the starting rotation behind ace Aaron Nola and former N.L. Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Last season, both Nola and Arrieta did their best to carry the rotation, but they did not have much help from the third, fourth, and fifth guys.
Both Nick Pivetta and Vince Velazquez, who manned the third and fourth spots, were inconsistent at best over the course of the season. They would string together a few good starts, before getting shellacked in the fourth or fifth inning of their next start.
And then you have Zach Eflin, who has been mentioned in trade rumors this offseason, but it appears that he has a higher ceiling than Pivetta or Velasquez. A starting rotation consisting of Nola, Arrieta, Happ, Eflin and maybe Pivetta with Velasquez in the bullpen could be formidable in the NL East.
But with that being said, is Phillies GM Matt Klentak prepared to overpay slightly for an older starting pitcher, whose next deal would be over when he is 39-years-old? We reportedly heard that the Phillies and Yankees were only willing to give a five-year deal to Corbin, who is almost 30 years old himself.
Therefore, if they are hesitant to overpay for an older pitcher, Philly could turn their attention to a former A.L. Cy Young award winner. Jon Heyman of Fancred reported on Monday that the Phillies will consider Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel is one of the top arms left on the market with Corbin now joining the Nationals.
This past season for the Houston Astros, the 30-year-old starting pitcher struggled on the mound as he dealt with numerous injuries. He posted a record of 12-11 with an ERA of 3.74, which not bad by most standards.
However, when you are dealing with a top-tier pitcher like Keuchel, who had an ERA of 2.90 during Houston’s World Series run in 2017. And recorded an ERA of 2.48, which helped him win the AL Cy Young in 2015, you know that he is capable of leading a starting rotation and worth top dollar.
According to Spotrac.com, his calculated market value is a five-year deal worth $103 million with an average annual salary of 20.6 million. For a team like the Phillies, who already made one big move this offseason, adding Keuchel to go with Nola and Arrieta would be a dangerous 1-2-3 combination in the National League.