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Chicago Cubs: The Cubs aren’t so loaded that they don’t need Ian Happ

Mar 20, 2017; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Ian Happ (86) hits a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2017; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Ian Happ (86) hits a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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Earlier this week we discussed the Chicago Cubs–let’s call it a conundrum–of Ian Happ. The talented infielder is beginning to hit his stride. So would it be best to try and trade him for pitching? Or is he the Cubs “next” superstar?

It’s impossible to look at the Chicago Cubs as anything other than a factory for minor league talent. Over the past few years, they’ve given us players like Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez. You would think they would be out of talent in the minors, but that’s further from the truth. The next big star for the Cubs could be Ian Happ, which is why they CANNOT trade him.

I can see the relevance in the argument in trading Happ–likely along with others–for pitching. The Cubs are going to need another starter this year. And while they do have the pieces to make it work, a top-tier arm with team control would do them good. But that’s something that isn’t cheap. With most of the top talent in Chicago, most scouts eyes are on players like Happ, Jeimer Candelario and Victor Caratini to name a few.

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The thought is that Happ is blocked on all sides and would be worth more in trade than on the field for the Cubs. After watching much of this year’s Spring Training, I couldn’t disagree with that more. Now, Happ is currently on the 7-day DL with a bruised thumb, but that shouldn’t be a lingering issue. It also shouldn’t affect his status as teams out of contention start looking around for the players they desire in trade. Keep on looking, nothing to see here.

Untouchable?

After a spring that saw him slash a .383/.441/.750 with a 1.191 OPS, any other team would have considered a spot on the roster for him–except the Cubs. There was simply no room for him, at least as of yet. Part of what makes the Cubs and their system work is the versatility. It’s the reason that Dan Vogelbach was dealt last year for Mike Montgomery. Vogelbach showed he could only play first base and DH. Neither were going to help the Cubs out, so he was traded. But Happ isn’t limited like that.

In fact, before the thumb injury, the Cubs planned on getting him some time over at third base. That’s been put on hold for now, but the team will very likely revisit that when he returns. As of now, Happ can play second base and both corner outfield spots. He’s an average second baseman and an adequate left fielder. He’s struggled in right field (20 G, 8 GS, .865 Fld% with five errors) but hasn’t seen as much time there.

How Happ would fit

If you look at the makeup of the Cubs roster, the potential is there for the switch-hitting Happ to replace both Tommy La Stella (currently at Triple-A) and Matt Szczur (out of options) off the bench. This would allow the Cubs to carry another pitcher–possibly using Montgomery as a sixth starter and adding another bullpen arm. Many of us have a concern Szczur will eventually be traded, but more so because he’s out of options–not his performance.

Ben Zobrist has two more years left after this one, and he’s coming off winning the World Series MVP. While the Cubs would unlikely have a starting role for Happ, they didn’t have one for Baez either. If the Cubs went the route of replacing La Stella and Szczur, Happ could bide his time until Zobrist’s deal is up. Some might say if he’s not getting everyday at-bats it isn’t worth calling him up. But by September of this year, Happ should have accrued quite a few Triple-A at-bats.

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Should the Cubs choose to call him up for a stretch run, he could be a valuable bench player for this team. And there’s plenty of worth in a solid bench player. The Cubs could still part with talent to acquire pitching at the deadline, but that trade shouldn’t involve Happ. He needs to get his shot in Chicago. We don’t need to watch players like him and Gleyber Torres make it big elsewhere at the same time.

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