Cubs: Yankees are an obvious fit in an Ian Happ trade
What could a Cubs-Yankees deal for Ian Happ look like?
With the Gallo trade in mind, it’s likely we see a similar type of return for the Cubs. Both Happ and Gallo in this scenario would be traded with an OPS well above .800 and each with a year-and-a-half left of team control. What would likely make the Cubs’ return better is that the Yankees are in a much better position this year as opposed to last year and are more likely to trade a better package for what they view as the final piece needed to guide them to a championship.
Last year, New York also picked up lefty-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez, who had a 5.93 ERA at the time of the deal, in the Joey Gallo trade. Daniel Norris would fill a similar role in this deal, as despite his unsightly 7.24 ERA, has many underlying metrics that suggest an effective reliever under the surface.
Norris has an xFIP of 3.57 and a 3.42 SIERA to go along with good strikeout rates. This suggests a lot of bad luck, mostly due to his staggeringly high 31.8 percent HR/FB rate. The Yankees have done a great job of turning relievers’ seasons around, turning Clay Holmes into arguably the best reliever in baseball and getting a sub-3.00 ERA out of Rodriguez as examples, so it makes sense for them to potentially target a reliever like Norris.
As for the Cubs’ return, this would be the absolute best possible return you could hope for from Happ. Wells (#4 Yankees prospect according to MLB Pipeline, #72 overall), the Yankees first-round pick in 2021, is a bat-first catching prospect with 55-grade hit and power tools. The Cubs likely would be able to net one of Wells, Ken Waldichuk, or Trey Sweeney as the headliner, but Wells would add life to the catcher position which is certainly the weak point of the system.
Wells has hit well at every level he’s been at, sporting a career minor league slash line of .269/.392/.488, good for an OPS of .880. Wells certainly isn’t going to impress defensively (Just 40-grade fielding) but the Cubs have operated with a rather lackluster defensive catcher in Contreras because of his bat. As long as the North Siders keep a good defensive catcher around as a backup, this shouldn’t be a big issue.
The second prospect the Cubs get in this deal is Yoendrys Gomez (#8). Gomez has two 60-grade pitches in his fastball and slider, a 55-grade curveball, and a solid 50-grade changeup as his fourth pitch. Gomez currently sits in High-A where he has a 1.23 ERA over three starts. He’s further off than the other prospects in this deal, but his pitch mix paired with the Cubs rejuvenated pitching development could be a very good dynamic in turning Gomez into an electric starter.
Elijah Dunham (#26) is the third prospect in the trade and he represents a safe and solid outfield option. Dunham has 50-grade everything. He’s a solid hitter with a solid power tool and has nice speed and decent fielding. He’s a disciplined hitter that has a good left-handed swing that pipeline says could help him produce 20 home runs a year. His ceiling is likely a decent regular or good fourth outfielder, and that’d be a very nice thing to get as a supporting piece in a trade like this.
The final piece of the trade is right-hander Will Warren (#27), who’s caught the eye of many sellers and is likely better than his prospect ranking shows. Warren would likely be the first prospect the Cubs would see in the majors as he’s quickly ascended through the minor league ranks after being an eighth-round pick in 2021, now sitting in Double-A with a 2.37 ERA.
Warren has the tools to be a rock-solid starter in the majors, topping out at 98 MPH on his four-seam fastball while generating groundballs at a great clip with his two-seam. Pair that with Warren’s 60-grade slider, a pitch the Cubs have an affinity for now, and there are the makings of a very good pitcher. The question will come from whether his 50-grade changeup stays usable and whether he can further develop his 45-grade curveball. Either way, Warren fits the mold of a piece the Cubs would love to get their hands on.
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The Cubs aren’t likely to move Happ at the deadline, and truthfully, it makes more sense to keep him if they want to be competitive in 2023. However, if a team blows Hoyer away with an offer it can be hard to argue the logic if it nets the team premier prospects in return.