Cubs: Ian Happ wins his arbitration case, will earn $4.1 million

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

After looking like a long shot MVP candidate early in the season, Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ did more than enough to warrant a pay raise heading into 2021.

No matter how Friday’s arbitration hearing played out, he was going to get a steep raise from his $603,500 salary from a year ago. Chicago had filed at $3.25 million. Instead, the outfielder will make $4.1 million in 2021 after the case was settled in his favor.

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Happ, who won’t hit free agency until after the 2023 campaign, looks like a key piece of the team’s future after a pair of solid back-to-back offensive seasons . The switch-hitter showcased a scorching hot month of August in 2020, slashing .302/.439/.640 before fading down the stretch.

Chicago is hoping there’s more where that came from. Second-year manager David Ross has Happ circled as the team’s leadoff hitter heading into spring training – a role with which he’s definitely familiar. Last year, he turned in an .819 OPS out of the leadoff spot. He was even better leading off a game (1.079 OPS) and individual innings (.936).

With a great deal of uncertainty surrounding not just the soon-to-conclude offseason but the future of several key players, Happ has the opportunity to be a steady presence on the roster moving forward.

Cubs hoping Ian Happ can be a constant in the lineup

He has tremendous value to Chicago given the fact he’s a switch hitter who can handle just about every defensive position. It looks like Happ will get the majority of his reps in center field again in 2021, flanked by Gold Glover Jason Heyward and newcomer Joc Pederson.

Of course, given the Cubs’ lack of depth at second base, he could get a look there, as well. The big question for Happ is whether or not he can keep making offensive adjustments. He did a nice job cutting down his strikeout rate last year, but more consistency would go a long way toward cementing his role on this team.

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With CBA negotiations looming over the sport, Happ’s victory on Friday isn’t just a win for him – it’s a win for young ballplayers across the league. As the Cubs’ MLBPA rep, you know that’s something he doesn’t take lightly – nor should he.