The Toronto Blue Jays have announced that they’ve signed starting pitcher J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract.
Happ, 33, previously spent two-and-a-half seasons north of the border with the Blue Jays. The team acquired him from the Houston Astros as part of a 10-player trade in late-July of 2012 (via MLB.com).
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 28, 2015
Several members of the Blue Jays have tweeted their excitement to see Happ return
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) November 28, 2015
Happy to see my friend JA back in a blue jays uniform!! — Kevin Pillar (@KPILLAR4) November 28, 2015
During his tenure with the Blue Jays, Happ spent significant time as both as a starter and a reliever. His most extended stretch as a starter for Toronto came in 2014 when he went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 30 games (26 starts). Happ finished his first tour of duty with the Blue Jays with a record of 19-20 and a 4.49 ERA in 58 games ( 50 starts).
After the 2014 season, the Blue Jays traded Happ to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Michael Saunders, according to ESPN. Upon the trade being made official, Happ commented about being traded to play a majority of his games at Safeco Field — a ballpark that’s notoriously pitcher-friendly.
“I feel like I’ve been pitching in some kind of difficult parks to pitch in at times. I definitely welcome this change. I think it will be good.”
Then-Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik also spoke about the acquisition of Happ, calling the veteran left-hander an ideal acquisition for the team.
“I just think we were in a position where we needed to add a starting pitcher. And I think when you looked at all your trade option possibilities, and then you look at the free agent market… I think where we ended up because of this trade it satisfied exactly what we were looking for.”
However, neither player contributed to their new team the way that people expected.
Saunders, a native Canadian, struggled to stay healthy in 2015. He tore his meniscus in an unusual incident in which he stepped on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls, according to ESPN. Originally, Saunders was expected to be out of action until the All-Star break, but the surgery was not as serious as first thought. However, complications from the injury hampered Saunders the rest of the year.
— Andy Clayton (@aclayton33) February 26, 2015
In just nine games, Saunders batted a measly.194 with three RBI.
As for Happ, he made 20 starts for the Mariners, going 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA. But his most productive run of 2015 came after the Mariners traded Happ to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Triple-A pitcher Adrian Sampson (via NBC Sports). In 11 starts, Happ dominated the opposition, going 7-2 with a sparkling 1.85 ERA.
Combined between the Mariners and Pirates, Happ finished 11-8 with 3.61 ERA in a career-high 172 innings. So it’ll be interesting to monitor the way Happ responds to throwing so many innings.
In re-joining Toronto, Happ figures to slot into the back end of the Blue Jays’ rotation in 2016 with the re-signed Marco Estrada and trade acquisition Jesse Chavez.
The Blue Jays appear focused on re-signing fellow left-hander David Price — who helped lead the team to its first postseason since 1993 last season.The Inquisitr reported yesterday that the Boston Red Sox are considered early favorites to sign Price but the Blue Jays are still a viable destination.
For right now, the team is obviously focused on filling smaller needs, and Happ is the epitome of a fifth starter as sports a career 62-61 record with a 4.13 ERA across nine seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, Astros, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Pirates.
[Image by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images]