Age: October 19, 1982 (36)
Traditional Stats: 17-6, 3.65 ERA, 31 G, 31 GS, 177.2 IP, 193 K, 1.131 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.9 K/9
Advanced Stats: 163 ERA+, 4.21 FIP, 3.64 SIERA, 3.4 bWAR, 3.2 fWAR
The Mets’ gifted group of young flamethrowers unfortunately never came to fruition. Injuries and inconsistency robbed quite a few of them of their talent and as such, the Mets come into the offseason looking for rotation help. Free-agent southpaw J.A. Happ could help anchor their injury-plagued staff.
Over the past decade, Happ has emerged as one of the underrated pitchers in the MLB. The 2009 Rookie of the Year runner-up has enjoyed a remarkably consistent career so far, starting at least 25 games for five consecutive years. He’s pitched for seven different teams throughout his 12-year career, providing each team with a stable rotation stalwart.
Happ will never be confused to be a front-line starter, but he’s that consistent force in the rotation that every team desires. His impressive year put him in position to earn one of the richest deals in the winter.
Entering his walk year after signing three-year, 36 million dollar pact with the Jays prior to the 2016 campaign, Happ’s free agent stock spiraled down in the first half as he posted a 4.52 ERA in the first four months of the year. However, after he was traded to the Yankees at the trading deadline, his season completely turned around. While with the Yanks, he increased his fastball usage at the expense of his sinker and concluded the year with career-bests in WHIP, K/9, and K/BB.
Even though his post-trade numbers portrayed him as an ace, he’s clearly not. However, he’s a quality arm that many teams will pay up for this winter.
The left-hander doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he gets the job done. He won’t blow his fastball past hitters, as evident by his 2018 fastball velocity: 92.6 MPH. However, he locates his fastball extremely well and effectively mixes in a quality blend of pitches that tend to throw off batters. His sinker, which sits in low-90s, complements his trio of off-speed pitches well. One advantage he has over the other starters the Mets might target is his proneness to give up flyballs, which makes him a perfect fit for the spacious Citi Field.
The thing that’s going to kill Happ’s next deal is his age. The veteran southpaw just turned 36 so his deal will be a short-term pact. That being said, he’ll likely receive an AAV worth $12-$15 million. Fortunately for Happ, he doesn’t throw particularly hard as those types of hurlers tend not to age well. A contract this winter will most likely be akin to his 2015 pact.
Counting on the big four of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz to produce at the same rate as 2018 is extremely risky and there are a lot of question marks behind them. Is Jason Vargas able to continue his second-half surge? Can Chris Flexen and Corey Oswalt ever develop into Major-League caliber pitchers? Will Justin Dunn or Franklyn Kilome be ready by mid-season?
Happ’s calling-card is durability and the Mets could do well this offseason to acquire an arm that keeps them in the game every fifth day. That being said, if the Wilpons fail to increase the Mets offseason budget, the rotation shouldn’t be considered a priority. Nevertheless, if his market collapses, the Mets should be all over him. Whoever gets J.A. this winter should be pretty HAPPy with him.