Michael Saunders for J.A. Happ: A fair trade

I happen to be happy about this trade for all involved – not excluding myself. I was scrutinized (nicely, which was ok) about leaving J.A. Happ out of the rotation when I wrote a piece on the Toronto Blue Jays latest moves. I didn’t predict he’d end up with the Seattle Mariners, traded for Michael Saunders, but it works out.

But apparently I was correct and it WILL most likely be a matter of the Blue Jays moving 22-year-old Aaron Sanchez, who made his big league debut in 2014, out of the bullpen and adding him to the starting rotation.

J.A. Happ. Getty Images.
J.A. Happ. Getty Images.

He appeared in 24 games for the Blue Jays going 2-2 with three saves and posting a 1.09 ERA in 33.1 innings. In the minors he appeared mostly as a starter but never pitched more than 100 innings in a season so the assertion by GM Alex Anthopoulos there was no real ace of the staff that all five starters could pitch 200 innings, might be reaching a little.

The Blue Jays pitching staff has veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey along with prommising youngsters Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Sanchez. The bottom part of the rotation probably won’t put up 200 innings in 2015 but they have future potential too.

Happ wasn’t exactly a necessity anymore. Neither apparently is Melky Cabrera. CBS Sports reported Wednesday that now that the Blue Jays have 28-year-old Saunders, they will no longer be pursuing Cabrera.

Saunders was unhappy in Seattle and the Mariners did not seem to be too fond of him. The oft-injured Saunders was not pleased with his lack of playing time and the Mariners would do nothing about it.

Saunders and his agent maintains that the majority of his injuries come from playing too hard which is mostly true, the left-handed hitting outfielder injured his shoulder last season slamming into the outfield wall last season. A six-year veteran, Saunders has never played in more than 139 games in a single season.

Michael Saunders. Brad White/Getty Images.
Michael Saunders. Brad White/Getty Images.

While injuries were part of the problem so was the fact that his name didn’t always appear on the lineup card when he was healthy. He’ll get a chance to play everyday in Toronto which will appease Saunders needs.

If he doesn’t fall victim injuries that former third baseman Brett Lawrie attributes to playing too much on the artificial turf at the Rogers Center, then Toronto should be happy getting a left-handed hitter that hit .273 last season and who has hustle on the field.

Seattle’s GM Jack Zduriencik needed another left-hander in his rotation that, depending upon the health of Roenis Elias, would contain only right-handed pitchers Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and Chris Young.

Happ is a safe fourth or fifth starter. Happ, 32, has a 4.24 career ERA and went 11-11 for the Blue Jays last season. He posted a 4.22 ERA and finished the season with 158 innings pitched.

Not a top tier pitcher but solid enough to put at the backend of the rotation. It’s a similar risk to Michael Saunders being “injury-prone.” It could work or just not but neither team would be seriously compromised if something were to happen.

It appears Young who was the 2014 American League Comeback Player of the Year may be the odd righty out but that remains to be seen.

Either way Happ will be in the rotation. So unless J.A. Happ has something against the city of Seattle – which is gorgeous – or Safeco Field – which is a pitchers’ park – then it appears to be a good trade all around. Both teams will contend in 2015.


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