HOUSTON — Monday, J.A. Happ was pitching both for a team that’s traded him and against a team that’s traded him. And in about four weeks’ time, he’ll almost certainly have been traded again, making it five times in his MLB career.
That says a few things. For starters, it indicates what a commodity Happ has been over his dozen seasons in the majors. A lot of teams have desired his services. The Blue Jays, who he pitches for today, have even desired them twice — trading for Happ in 2012, trading him away in 2014, and then signing him as a free agent in 2015.
It also tells you that while he’s been a very good pitcher throughout his MLB career, posting a 3.89 ERA over 243 starts, Happ has never been quite good enough to receive the kind of lengthy, high-value contract that can make a player practically unmovable. The best he’s done is the three-year, $33-million deal he’s currently completing, one that was questioned when the Blue Jays offered it to him, but has turned out to be an overwhelming success for the club.
And it says Happ is no stranger to the circumstance he finds himself in now. With only five weeks remaining until MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline, Happ is one of the best — if not the best — starting pitchers available. Cole Hamels is right up there with him, and Tyson Ross is having a quietly strong season. But the drop off from there among known trade candidates is awfully steep.
It all explains why Happ, a 35-year-old pending free agent, has been so dependable as he motors toward an uncertain future. He’s been through it before. And if he ends up somewhere next season on a one or two-year pact, he might go through it again.
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