Chicago Cubs: Trading Ian Happ is still a possibility
Last season, many Chicago Cubs fans wanted to see Ian Happ be traded as they felt he had built some value in the spring. Happ ended up being a significant contributor, but that didn’t save him from the trade block.
Since the Chicago Cubs’ Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have taken over in Chicago, it’s been hitting or bust. The thought was to get the best hitters available in the draft, even if it was above slot money. The plan has worked out, as the Cubs saw each of the last five first round picks on this years team (Javier Baez is the only one pre-Epstein era).
Kris Bryant has a Rookie of the Year and MVP under his belt. Albert Almora is coming along and may get the keys to the center field spot next season. Kyle Schwarber has shown flashes but still doesn’t have a full season under his belt.
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May need to trade to get it done
Baez took a little bit of time, teetering on the “bust” title before coming back to show his worth. Switch-hitting Happ is the newest of the Cubs young stars. And it may take him–and another–to get the pitching the Cubs desire if they don’t intend to sign Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish.
Happ is a man without a position, as second base is tied up with Baez and Ben Zobrist. He’s filled in out in center, and while not always pretty he gets the job done. He’s also played the corner outfield spots, as well as filling in some at second base. Is this a reason to deal him for pitching? Joe Maddon has never let that stop him before.
No place to play, no problem
Happ batted .253 in his rookie season and struck out more than his fair share. But that didn’t stop him from slugging .514 with 24 home runs, 17 doubles and three triples. One of the biggest difference between Happ and Addison Russell? Speed. Happ seems to have just one speed, very similar to Willson Contreras. In three seasons, Russell has swiped only 11 bags. Happ tallied eight in year one.
With Russell and Baez up the middle, you have one of the most interesting combos up the middle in the league. Not to take anything away from Zobrist, who’s an excellent fielder in his own right. But these two have some flashy moments that will leave you in awe. Would breaking them up be something the Cubs would be willing to do?
With Happ, as well as Russell and Schwarber, none have a history deep enough to recognize tendencies. If anything, Russell has the best to look at with three seasons. Outside of 2016 with the 95 RBI, his numbers have been pretty spot on. So could Happ’s numbers trend any better? Will Chili Davis be able to turn around Happ–or any of the young Cubs’ hitters?
Chances aren’t always great
There didn’t seem to be a way that Happ would be part of the Cubs last season until he forced his way on and didn’t leave. Sound familiar? It’s what Schwarber and Contreras did, as well. But a home run every 17.2 plate appearances? That’s an impressive start to a career. And being a switch-hitter, there’s more value there than, say, Schwarber has.
I’m in no way advocating for the trade of Happ. And for all the Schwarber talk, his value isn’t as high as it once was. And hearing the talk of Epstein, I still don’t think he’s ready to deal him. Closer than it was a year ago, but not ready.
Next: Contreras' season in review
But the opportunity to get a pitcher under team control for several seasons as they did with Jose Quintana? It’s too good a deal to pass up. It’s going to come down to who the team is, and who might be on the block. The Cubs system has been depleted. While they still have some solid prospects, it’s far from what it was a few years ago.
That’s because of all the talent that’s in Chicago. It’s true, you really CAN have too much. The beautiful thing about baseball is they won’t have to sit on it. The GM meetings are coming up soon, with the Winter Meetings a little over a month away. We should know more after the GM meetings, so the speculation should at least tighten up for most team.