For Blue Jays’ sixth starter J.A. Happ, the off-season likely went from one of fist-pumping surprise when GM Alex Anthopoulos pulled off the mega-trade with the Miami Marlins to one of uh-oh realization when R.A. Dickey came on board.
Suddenly, the club’s five-man starting rotation seemed set, with Happ the odd-man out.
“It’s a great thing for the Toronto Blue Jays,” Happ said. “Never one time, in any interview or any response, have I been trying to be selfish or negative in any way. I want to pitch on this team, that’s all it is. It’s definitely a positive thing to have these types of starters in camp.”
The dilemma for Happ comes in two forms.
First is the team’s stated desire to enter the season with a deep enough inventory of proven starters that they can better absorb injuries. When the Jays lost Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison in the same nightmare week in June 2012, there was little down on the farm ready to fill in. As the season progressed, the shallow talenet pool took its toll.
Happ fills that need for depth, as he clearly is the No. 6 starter in a five-man rotation. The Jays have averaged more than 11 starting pitchers per season in the past four years, so it’s not if but when Happ would be called upon to start. In the meantime, his role in the organization remains up in the air.
“In my view, I’m a major-league starting pitcher, so I’m just trying to go about that and build myself up and execute on the mound,” Happ said of his spring goals. “As far as this rotation’s concerned, we’ll just have to see what happens. I’m trying to keep a positive attitude right now and if we get deep into camp and something changes, then I’ll have to have a conversation then.”
The Jays have the upper hand in every regard in Happ’s case. They are paying him $3.7 million (U.S.) as a four-plus pitcher in terms of years of service. That’s fair market value, so is he ready, willing and able, with that money guaranteed, to accept without argument a Triple-A assignment?