Here's another one written by reader request, one of the last pitchers I had on my "maybe" list to write about the Cubs possibly looking at him in free agency.
J.A. Happ, whose given names are John Anthony but who prefers to have his initials pronounced like the name "Jay," has had a weird career.
He was decent-to-good with the Phillies when he first came up. Led the league in shutouts in 2009, in fact, his rookie year, and was second in Rookie-of-the-Year voting. (Chris Coghlan won, in case you'd forgotten. Lots of Cubs connections of various kinds in that balloting -- Casey McGehee finished fifth, Randy Wells sixth, Dexter Fowler tied for eighth.)
Anyway, looks like Happ had some kind of injury in 2010 after he was traded to the Astros, because he made only 16 starts that year, and after that he was pretty bad. From 2012-14 he made 96 starts and posted a 4.75 ERA (legitimately, he had a 4.33 FIP) and a WHIP of 1.432. He was starting out that way in 2015 with the Mariners -- a 4.64 ERA in 20 starts -- when he got traded to the Pirates at the deadline.
And then he turned into Jake Arrieta, almost. No, really -- a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts, a 1.026 WHIP and just three home runs allowed in 63⅓ innings. He posted 2.4 bWAR with the Pirates in those 11 starts -- that's 1.4 bWAR more than his previous four and a half seasons combined.
So who's the real Happ? Did he suddenly figure out how to pitch on arrival at PNC Park? Was it the hitters' unfamiliarity with him? He turned 33 in October. Can he sustain this long enough to get him a decent free-agent contract? Why am I asking so many questions?
Happ's lefthanded and teams are always looking for lefthanded starters. He's a local guy, going to high school in downstate Peru and playing college ball at Northwestern. He made $6.7 million last year so the starting point for an offer here, I'd think, is somewhere in the area of 3/36. Worth it?