After years of catching glimpses of what Ian Happ is capable of on the baseball diamond, the Cubs have finally received prolonged, consistency from the now-All-Star outfielder, who enters the team’s second-half opener Friday already with a career-high 2.2 fWAR on the year.
But with Chicago at 35-57 and in sell mode again ahead of this year’s trade deadline, rather than looking to a future with Happ, it seems likely the team will listen on the switch-hitting outfielder. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, as is the case with the Cubs and another All-Star trade candidate, Willson Contreras, there have been no extension talks with Happ.
If you subtract Happ from the outfield mix, you’re left with rookie sensation Christopher Morel, who has cooled after a scorching start to his big league career, Seiya Suzuki, who is in the first year of his five-year deal signed last offseason and a mix-and-match approach from there.
Veteran Jason Heyward is on the IL with no clear timetable to return and Rafael Ortega is best suited as a platoon guy given his righty-lefty splits. That leaves Nelson Velazquez as the only other outfielder on the 26-man roster. You could, at least in theory, mix in Alfonso Rivas out there, too, but it’s clear that a Happ trade leaves a sizable hole in the lineup.
Cubs: Finding a match in a hypothetical Ian Happ trade
Last summer was not only a rude awakening for fans, but Cubs players, as well. Watching guys like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez dealt in the days leading up to the trade deadline has definitely impacted guys who are in similar positions this summer, namely Contreras and Happ.
"“I grew up in Chicago,” Happ said. “I was 20 years old when I got drafted by the Cubs. I got there in 2017, have been in the city and made so many friends and connections with people. I really do view it as home … That’s what’s so tough with the deadline: You get traded, the next day you’re out. You don’t get to go back. You don’t get to say goodbye to people. You’re gone. You’re working the next day for somebody else.”"
When we’re looking at potential partners in a Contreras trade, the list is fairly concise. But given Happ is a switch hitter and capable of playing all three outfield spots and even putting in time in the infield, you can bet it’s a lot easier to find a match. Throw in the fact he’s not a rental, and adding him to the mix becomes even more enticing.
So while it’s all eyes on Contreras right now – don’t sleep on Happ. He could end up drawing a similar type of return for Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins in the next couple of weeks.