Did J.A. Happ Get Overpaid?

When the FanGraphs crowdsource contracts came out earlier this month, my thought was that the price for J.A. Happ seemed a bit high. He was projected for three years and $33 M, and that looked like a lot for a guy coming off his one good year, fueled by a seemingly impossible to repeat final two months.

Yesterday, Happ received more than that projection, getting three years and $36 M from the Toronto Blue Jays. That amount is just $3 M shy of the three years, $39 M guaranteed that Francisco Liriano received last year from the Pirates. Granted, Liriano’s price may have been held down due to compensation, but he also had a much better track record.

Liriano had a 3.20 ERA and a 3.26 xFIP in 323.1 innings over the previous two years with the Pirates, and was heading into his age 31 season.

Happ posted a 3.61 ERA and a 3.69 xFIP in 172 innings last year, heading into his age 33 season.

Maybe Liriano’s compensation held back his price a bit, but his better results and two years younger age should have made up for that. So either the Pirates got a great value with Liriano, or the Blue Jays paid a lot for one good year of Happ.

I think it could be a bit of both. The Pirates did get a great deal with Liriano, and that’s easy to say in hindsight after seeing his 2015 season. One factor last year was whether Liriano would continue his success, after so many inconsistent and poor seasons earlier in his career.

Those same concerns should exist for Happ. There’s a chance that he’s finally fixed and living up to his potential. If that’s the case, he will be well worth his $36 M price. But this is a guy coming off one good season after many years of the same inconsistent and poor seasons that Liriano put up.

Happ wasn’t even the first guy to get this type of deal this off-season. Marco Estrada received two years and $26 M, coming off a year where he had a 3.13 ERA and a 4.93 xFIP. He’s put up some good numbers in the past, but has never pitched more than 150 innings before last year, and is 32 years old. Granted, Estrada signed his deal with the same team that signed Happ, so this could just be a case where the Toronto Blue Jays are comfortable shelling out a lot of guaranteed money for guys coming off one good season, hoping that season wasn’t a fluke.

Brett Anderson is another case, although a more minor example. He received a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, and accepted it, which means he will make $15.8 M in 2016. He’s had a huge history of injuries, but put up good numbers last year in 180.1 innings. A one year deal won’t kill anyone, especially the Dodgers, but that seems like a lot of money to risk on a guy who combined for just over 200 innings in his previous four seasons.

It’s hard to say whether these deals set the market for starting pitchers, especially since two of the deals came from the same team, and one deal came from the team with endless money to spend. If these deals are an indication of how the off-season will go, then it seems that teams are going to be willing to take bigger financial risks on guys who seem to be big risks to repeat their performances.

I won’t say that Happ, Estrada, or Anderson are bad signings. Those are guys where it makes sense to take a risk (although of the three, I’d have Estrada in a distant third). The plan here is that you could potentially get value with a risky player, hoping that he doesn’t turn out to be a risk at all. That worked out for the Pirates and Liriano so far. If he hit the market this year, after a third straight good year and his best year yet, then he’d get much more than three years and $39 M. Maybe we’ll be saying the same thing about Happ next year.

The question for the Pirates is, how will this impact the market? If Happ and Estrada are getting $13 M a year, then the upper-middle tier guys like Jeff Samardzija could be pushing up to that range where it wouldn’t make sense at all for the Pirates to sign them. And the prices for risky players below Happ, such as Mat Latos and Doug Fister, could also go up.

One thing the Pirates have been good at is finding values on the starting pitching market, no matter how much teams are paying for starters. We saw that with Happ at the deadline. Other teams were paying ridiculous amounts for starters, and the Pirates got Happ for very little. They did the same thing in previous years with Liriano, Volquez, Liriano again, Burnett, and other smaller cases.

The Pirates could do the same thing again this off-season, although from the looks of things, they might have their biggest challenge yet in trying to find value. They’ve got top prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon in Triple-A, plus a lot of other prospects with starter upside, which could impact the approach. But even with those guys, they have a need for at least one starter next year, and as we’ve seen in the past, you can’t count on prospects to perform exactly when you need them, and you need plenty of starting depth. They’ll need to find a deal with a starter this off-season, and that might be more challenging based on the early results on the free agent market.

  • We first have to come to grips with the sort of existential question of what overpaying really means.

    There is so, soooo much money in baseball right now that one could easily argue nobody really “overpays” on a deal this small. No team in baseball would handcuff themselves to the point of troubling the franchise, or even really to the point of being unable to make other moves. At worst you’re talking about a minor, short term overrun.

    If your idea of “overpaying” in the free agent market is literally going the one extra year or few extra million dollars needed to actually sign the player in the first place, then you’re not actually a participant in that market. You’re never going to get your guy.

    The original Russ Martin deal should be the example, in my opinion, more than Francisco Liriano. There were folks who said the Pirates “overpaid” at the time, but in reality they paid what was necessary to get their guy. It most certainly was not an overpay. Maybe you’re the kind of guy who’d rather maximize $/win or some other academic argument, but sometimes “overpaying” is exactly what needs to be done to build a winning ball club.

    • As well, the question of overpay seems to ignore trends in salary.

      So, Happ will be making $13M in 2018…and? With the rate that salaries are escalating, if he posts a FIP under 4 and logs 180 IP…I’m guessing that would give him break-even value at the very least.

      • Scott Kazmir 2015, 3.98 FIP / 183 IP / 2.4 WAR

        Now you really have to buy into what Happ became with the Pirates, or at least a generous mid-point of the two sides he’s shown, which is why I still think this says more about Searage than it does salaries. The money isn’t at all crazy for the player Toronto apparently expects Happ to be; the trust they’re putting in that expectation after just two good months may be.

  • I think the Jays are doing the right thing for them. The alternative is plunking down big $$ for Price. It’s better for them to overpay in short term than be saddled by a big $$ long term contract. All of this is examples of why it is important for the Pirates and their limited budget to develop their own pitching. What concerns me is their is no top of the rotation prospects at the lower levels. The future is Glasnow and Tallion. The Pirates are 1 for 4 at resigning pitchers who they fixed in recent years.

    • Excellent points. Disappointing to see the ’14 HS arms getting off to such a slow start to their development. They, and Yeudy Garcia, represent just about all the pitching upside in the entire system once Glasnow arrives. It would take an extremely unexpected breakout from another name to realistically get more than a #3.

  • The answer to the question posed in the heading of this article is no, because there was a team willing to pay it to him. Now will they regret it 3 years from now? That is TBD.

    I think there are far too many viable options who have had far more success who can be signed for either less money and/or less years to be overly concerned about losing out on Happ.

  • “NO” Mrs.Happ.

  • This is why free agent pitchers are such a bad investment (and why Huntington’s initial draft strategy of stockpiling pitchers in the draft had some merit). Happ is absolutely worth a “bet” of $12 million for 2016. But it is just a bet.
    From 2009-2015 (7 seasons), he averaged 1.3 WAR. But that could be broken further into 3.6 WAR for his two great seasons (2009 & 2015) and 0.4 WAR for his other 5 seasons. So based on 1.3 WAR, his “true” value should have been about $9 million per year – and even less per year the longer the contract is based on his age.

  • Happ has totaled 7.2 WAR in his last 4 seasons, which includes a great year this year and an ugly year in 2013. He only needs to average 1.8-1.9 WAR for the 3 years of this deal for it to be a fair deal for the Blue Jays. Given his improvements the last two years in his GB% and BB%, it’s not unrealistic for project him doing that (and it would still be a significant drop from this year’s 3.3 WAR).

    I don’t know where Happ makes his home in the offseason, but the cost of living in Toronto is 13% cheaper than it is in Pittsburgh. With all MLB contracts in USD, the Blue Jays players are taking great advantage of the collapse of the Canadian Dollar the last few years.

    He seems like a good dude. Good for him on getting paid. Hopefully the Pirates can work their magic with a couple more pitching reclamation projects and save some money for the hitter contracts on the horizon.

    • Where did you see 7.2? Baseball reference has 5.2.

      • Fangraphs has 7.2. The WAR formulas are a perpetual moving target, and different ones are used by BR, BP, and FG. But FG’s formula has synced better with FA contracts at a $6.0-6.5M/win rate the last few years.

        BR actually has a great chart comparing the differences in systems.

  • Regardless whether Happ is overpaid, do the Pirates have a chance at any starter by FA of trade? Since there is no chance of seeing Taillon or Glasnow before mid-June, we’re stuck with 2 more months of Morton and Locke.

  • Free agency isn’t the only way to get better pitching. We can also make trades There are also places we can get better besides pitching Any idea’s/ I heard Matt Moore, Ivan Nova,Josh Tomlin,Shelby Miller,Julio Teheran

    • I’m curious about Shields if money is included. Niese, I think would be a great fit.

      • So do I . I mentioned that on another site. I was told Harold Ramirez would be an overpay but pitching is hard to come by and that is a position of great depth for us. I wonder what the prices would be for Shields,Ross,and Cashner would be. I think a trade is the best route to move in now that Happ is gone

  • Don’t know if this has been brought up, but…with the current exchange rate…Happ’s new contract translates into 3/27 in US dollars.

    …really curious what the Pirates offered him.

  • Happ would need 5.0 to 6.0 over the life of his contract depending on the price of Win. Doesn’t seem like an overpay, I personally don’t like the deal but, I don’t think it is out of line with cost of Win in the free agent market.

    • Do you also think we’re seeing a redistribution of free agent dollars; less to long term deals, more to short and mid term?

      Price per win could conceivably stay the same while guys the Pirates have typically signed get more expensive.

      • That could be true but it is hard to separate from just the rampant increase in overall price. I want to say there are more bidders but I’m not sure that is true either.

  • Cardinals,and Cubs will both sin significant Starting pitchers, Cubs are linked to all the top Free Agent starters like Price and 2nd tier ones like Lackey and Samardzija and you know the Cards will upgrade
    Cards 2016 Rotation options-Waino,Wacha,Martinez,(Free agent),Garcia,Lyons,Cooney,Gonzalez
    Cubs 2016 rotation options- Arrieta,Lester (Price? Zimmerman? Greinke? Lackey?)
    Pirates 2016 rotation options Cole ,Liriano,Morton,Locke
    Need to spend to upgrade this year. Go get Samardzija or something close then you add Glasnow and Taillon in June and you can match up with the division rivals. We won’t ever win this division and avoid the Wild Card until we are willing to spend on something significant

    • The only really big money the Pirates should ever spend is on extensions for proven superstars like Cutch or Cole. Samardzija doesn’t rise to that level and won’t. The Pirates fell two games short last year primarily because of a slow start in April by the hitters. The pitchers kept them in it. To match last years team record they have to replace AJ with someone (TBD) for the first half. Who that will be remains to be seen, but the Pirates will bring someone in. In the second half Taillon and Glasnow will be up. So a September rotation of Cole, Liriano, Taillon, Glasnow, Morton/Locke/TBD doesn’t excite you? In 2017 Morton will be gone and Glasnow or one of the other AAA prospects will likely beat out Locke/TBD. With those type of prospects coming up why do you want to block them with a multi year, expensive pitcher? The only thing certain about an expensive contract is that it will cost a lot of money. Superior performance isn’t guaranteed.

      • I’m still a little shocked so many folks think rookies will step in and be immediate contributors to a playoff team.

        • Depends on how we define “contributors”. Its in no way a crazy notion to expect a rookie to contribute okay value while not being a star right away. With Cole-Cutch-Marte-Liriano, you dont really need a rookie to be a huge value. Just be above replacement level overall and provide okay value that allows the actual stars to carry the team into 90 win territory.

          If Bell showed up and threw out 1 WAR, thats not great but good enough on a team that has plenty of talent to carry. Same goes for the SPs. Not looking for a ton, just a high quality prospect to be a useful back end SP to allow Cole and Liriano to make the difference. Rookies certainly dont all show up and fail to be above replacement level.

          • Taillon and Glasnow keep getting packaged together as call-ups.

            If the Pirates are in contention in late June, I find unlikely they’ll drop their 4/5 starters for two guys that have never pitched in the majors.

            And, realistically, if you have two black holes at the back end of the rotation who could be replaced by rookies…I don’t think that’s the staff of a contender.

            As well, if they do both come up and the Pirates happen to be in contention…odds they both can be better than replacement level? And, if one or both gets smacked around for the first 4 starts…how long is a contending team going to be able to tolerate that and still be contending?

            I’m all for the young guys, and hope they’ll both become studs, but it seems there’s a lot of assuming the Super Two date will pass on the calendar and the team will promote them without missing a beat.

            If I had to blindly speculate, I’d guess Taillon is going to have his innings managed very closely next season. He may be the first call-up, but, once he starts getting within range of the cut-off point, he’ll either be shutdown or sent to the pen and Glasnow will take his spot in the rotation.

            • If they are both pitching well they will be called up and put immediately into the rotation because Morton and Locke will disappoint once again

            • I dont see any reason why its likely they are replacement level.

              Im not assuming much, you are apparently assuming that rookies often come up and are replacement level. Im saying 1 WAR from a rookie isnt insane to assume. Not any rookie maybe, but a top 100 prospect. 1 of those guys likely sees innings, and it’d be unusual for them to be so poor their first 60 innings that they are 0 WAR.

            • Tailon may make the team out of the gate if he is ready. At some point, and that point will be when the Pirates get a new deal from Root. The wallet has to open up and they have to be willing to take a risk. For this year I would like us to sign Jeff S the former Cubs and As pitcher, to a 1 or 2 year deal. Think he would still get about 12-15 mil a year. But take a short deal try to pitch well again to cash in elsewhere. Always seemed to stay healthy and eat up innings. Think he just couldn’t pitch in the AL with all the pressure.

              • Samardzija isn’t getting a 1-2 year deal. There will be teams lined up around the block to give him four and he may sneak out a fifth…and 12-15 is definitely on the low side. Just about everyone is putting his expected contract at $16M AAV. He would look good on the Pirates…but there are a lot of teams willing to spend more money that think he’d look good on their’s, as well.

                The last time Taillon threw a pitch in an actual game was 2013. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s not breaking camp with the Pirates.

                • Not to mention the fact that he has pitched all of about 35 innings above AA.

                  The other issue to consider is the total number of innings they would let Taillon pitch this year considering the 2 year lay off and the fact that he has never thrown more than 147 innings in his life. So even if all goes well I don’t know how much help he is going to be for the Pirates late in the season.

              • “Taillon may make the team out of the gate”

                C’mon. At least pretend to be serious. Thats never gonna happen, shouldnt happen, and isnt even being considered. Trading a year of control in 5-6 years for a few months now is a bad trade and a potential massive money loss.

        • As a counter example to your contention remember Michael Wacha’s performance against the Pirates in the playoffs three seasons ago. Top caliber rookies can make contributions to playoff teams.

          • No doubt rookies can contribute…it’s just assumption that, not only, will a rookie contribute…but that two of them will.

            The constant talk is that both will be up as soon as the Super Two date passes and will contribute…I’m guessing that’s not going to happen and doubt the FO is hoping to do well then swap out 40% of the rotation overnight and motor on without missing a beat.

            The guys will be up eventually this season and, I think, will do very well over time.

            We’ll see though…definitely would not be the first time I’ve been wrong.

          • And, that Cole kid from Pittsburgh did not do too bad in 2013 coming up for 19 starts, 10-7, 3.22 ERA. But, both he and Wacha had a wealth of college experience to call upon. That is one of the reasons I think Chad Kuhl could help in 2016.

            I think Cole and Liriano are money in the bank as 1/2 and Locke coming off a 1.6 WAR season, 3.94 xFIP is at least No. 4/5 level. All the Pirates need to start 2016 is for Charlie Morton to show up ready to be the No. 3 or better guy we thought he would be when the Pirates extended him for 3/$21 back when that was very good money for a #3 SP. If he does, then all the Pirates need is a #4 or #5 guy for the Rotation.

        • You mean like Cole was?

      • They invested 13 million a year in Liriano. Samardzija would cost around 2 million more per season and he is more durable and more reliable for the most part. He dominated in the NL Central once. His record never indicated how good he was for the Cubs. He had a down year with the Sox but with Ray Searage and in his prime I think 15 million would be a bargain.Not to mention you could flip him in 2 years after Glasnow and Taillon and others have established themselves. Look at what this organization did with Burnett,Happ,Liriano,Volquez,Melancon and Grilli. Imagine what he’d do with a Samardzija

        • If the Pirates could sign Samardzija for a year I’d be all in. But he will probable counter an offer of three years with a demand for five and compromise for 4 years. That’s two or three years longer than they will need him, and therefore an over spend of 30 to 45 million (less minimum salaries due the replacements). Stating that he could be flipped after two years assumes he’ll be uninjured and is still performing as he does now. There is no certainty in that.

          • Also costs a draft pick. Gonna cost a draft pick+a non small sum. He’s a fine option, but idk if he’s a lovely option to rebound. Rather go with a guy like Iwakuma over 3 years.

    • I think they should be investing more into Korea this offseason. They should put in a solid bid for Hwang who is being posted on Monday I believe. He’s a good contact hitter, plays 3B and SS, but maybe could be used at other infield spots. He’s likley not as good as Kang, but could be a good player in MLB and probably would be cheaper than Neil Walker if they chose to trade him. While the market for Koreans has definitely escalated since the success of Kang, I still think Huntington could acquire a decent player from the KBO for a cheaper price than for what is out there in the FA market right now. That goes for both position players and pitching.

  • The Toronto Pirates

  • We need at least 2 starting pitchers. With as good as STL is and CHC is becoming we cannot afford to start the season with both of Morton and Locke in the rotation . You have to plan for injuries and we need to stop coming up short. 3 years in a row we fail to overtake STL. . It’s time to gamble, We can not afford to get off to another slow start and play catch up again all year because there are 2 legitimate teams to worry about .If your serious abut winning the division in 2016 then you cannot depend on Mrton and Locke for more than 5 and 6 starters. Let’s win the Central for once

    • How many wins do you need to “win the Central for once”. Because i guarantee you wouldnt have said 100 at this time last year, and i guarantee we’d all be wrong when we guess what it will take to win the division.

      Tough to point to Locke and Morton as clear reasons we lost the division after last season. They are upgradable, but in any given year it’ll take a 3-4 WAR increase to actually overtake STL. So yeah, if we only paid David Price a truckload we’d be set.

      • Nah all we needed to do was pay Volquez 2 years and 20 million. I agree 98 wins is a great season and it’s hard to criticize a season like that but the fact of the matter is,the Cardinals rotation was flat out better and signing Volquez would have been the difference. Our offense was better than theirs Our bullpen was about as good as theirs

        • Volquez worth 2.5 wins. We lose the division by 2 games and STL gave up the final 2-3.

          Volquez would not have clearly got us over the hump, and anyone not being absurd would admit that we dont get Happ if we have Volquez. You dont get to add him and also assume everything else is 100% the same roster wise. Its not a videogame.

          • Hopefully this explanation will put to rest the ludicrous notion the only reason the Pirates didn’t win the division last season is because Nutting is cheap.

            • I mean i get why people think that, its just a lazy way to analyze things. You have to assume all other moves are made plus that move, and assume he gets the same results (with a worse defense), and even then you have to just dislike WAR enough to think he’d be worth more than what WAR has him at.

            • No – I think it proves it…

              Things that always get looked over in the “Why the Bucs should have signed Volquez” discussion.
              1. The rotation would have been deeper stronger from opening day. Early in the season Locke/Morton would have been needed and used less – so suggesting that all you get with EV is the difference between his WAR and Morton’s misses this effect.
              2. The deal would have been for at least two years – the Bucs might even have been able to add a third year – so Liriano and EV would have been fixtures in the rotation for not only last year – but next year and perhaps 2018. Think how that would change the picture NOW – the need for two starters becomes that need for one – and the possibility of getting by with Cole – Liriano – EV – Lock and Morton would look a whole lot better than the current situation.

              The choice to not spend another $10M/yr was made by Nutting – he is free to do so – it’s his money – and a business strategy of being competitive enough to keep fans coming into September has proved very profitable for the last few years.

              Problem is – it reduces the chances of winning something significant – not saying signing EV would have guaranteed either a Divison or League or WS pennant – just would have significantly improved the odds.

              • First off, you’re overvaluing who wasn’t signed, while undervaluing who was signed instead.

                Second, your claim spending money automatically results in more wins. The Pirates spent less than 50% on payroll than Dodgers and Yankees and win more games while playing a more difficult schedule. Payroll is important, but it isn’t the be all, end all, some claim it to be.

                Lastly, the Pirates won 98 games! The fact the Cards won 100 doesn’t diminish the greatness of the Pirates season. As Luke so eloquently put it, adding Volquez to Pirates roster doesn’t change the outcome.

              • I liked Volquez too. His contract wasn’t unreasonable and there’s no question that the Pirates would be in a much stronger position right now if Volquez were in Pittsburgh. I also think he would have pushed them over the top last year but there’s no way to know that.

                That all said, signing Volquez wasn’t an obvious thing to do once AJ was signed. This time last year they had Worley and Cumpton who had already pitched in the majors backing up Cole, Liriano, AJ, Morton and Locke with Taillon and Kingham waiting in the wings and Sadler not far off. The expectation was that both Kingham and Tallion would be called up last year and if neither were injured I don’t think the Pirates would have ever acquired Happ.

                This year is a much different story. Despite what’s written here, I don’t think there’s any expectation that Glassnow is ready. At least you don’t hear Huntington say that he is ready. Worley is gone, Taillon hasn’t pitched in a looooooong time, Cumpton and Sadler are out for the year. I honestly don’t know what Kingham’s status is but he never projected as better than a 4 starter. This year it makes perfect sense to sign two pitchers to 1 to 3 year deals not only to compete this year but also to get some some insurance for the long haul.

                It may well be that both Taillon and Glassnow turn out to be aces, however it’s a lot to expect either to be a major improvement or to make up for the losses of AJ, Happ and Worley. It just is.

  • It’s interesting that – *now* – the Pirates got Happ for ‘very little’, but, as recently as last year, this site had Adrian Sampson as a mid-teen prospect in an admittedly stacked Pirates farm system. Either this site misevaluated Sampson (undoubtedly true) or it’s now trying to revise history by saying he was regarded as a ‘very little’ piece to give up (also true).

    No one, outside of Pirates-centric sites thought Sampson was worth anything. Just admit this site was wrong and move on. No need to revise history, as all of us remember and can cite the Prospect guides.

    • Wow. Still on the Sampson hate wagon.

      Very little in comparison to what other starters landed. Sampson is still a better prospect than you give him credit for.

  • Ok, a question for the experts here.

    Do we just go with one of our young guys
    to start the season, and just take the chance
    with one of them as far as Super 2?

    Or do we hold the young guys for June
    to replace Loche or Morton?

  • Absolutely, he was overpaid.
    This guy would have gotten a minor league contract if Searage hadn’t gotten hold of him.

  • If the pirates are going to contend this year they absolutely have to make a trade for more starting pitching. Cole, LIRIANO along with the Morton and Locke which you can’t count on at all are not going to cut it. Even the best case scenario comes true and that is Glasnow & Taillon are ready in mid June they have never pitched in September let alone October…I’m afraid there arms will not last in the ladder part of the year. NH is going to have to have veteran pitching that can pitch deep into the year. The young AAA pitchers will not be able to do that I’m afraid

  • Some teams dont seem to use advanced analytics and seemingly go more towards potential, recent results and belief their system will work for whatever players they bring in. To me, the money isnt the risk with Happ, its the years they gave him but maybe thats what it took to seperate themselves and have a guy who could be their #3. Not an overpay really but some luck will be needed.

  • There is overpaying and there is overpaying!. Toronto may be overpaying Happ by $3-6M over 3 years; the team that signs Price may need to overpay by $30-60M over 6 years.

  • NH is a firm believer in Rate of Return on Investment (RRI).

    I have faith that this will continue to be the rule for the 2016 Buccos. And………it works for me. 🙂

  • People were saying Volquez’ 2014 was a fluke and that his SABR indicators indicated a regression. I wanted us to sign him, tho. (I’m not right often, so I like to remind people of those 3 times that I was….lol)

    I never got that feeling with Happ. I think he WILL regress to the mean. MLBTR wrote a piece about their rotation and that, outside of Strohman, they have a bunch of #4’s on their staff.

    • I think with Happ his pitch selection changed dramatically but teams didn’t have a chance to react. Next year when teams react he will regress. But a lefty that can pitch in the mid-90’s should still be a solid member of a rotation.

      • TN: Happ is a low 90’s thrower – 4 seam was an average of 92 mph which was down 0.7 from the previous year. By comparison, Jeff Locke averaged 91.8 mph with his 4 seam which was an increase of +1.3 mph over 2014. Locke was at 91.2 mph with a 2 seam; Happ 90.7 mph.

        We all give Locke a lot of heat, but 81 starts in the last 3 years with an overall record of 25 – 24 is excellent for a No. 4/5 guy in the Rotation. His ERA had been under 4.00 in 2013 and 2014, but ballooned up to 4.49 in 2015 although his xFIP was 3.94. Happ’s first year of $10 mil was correct – the other two years are way too much.

  • “The question for the Pirates is, how will this impact the market?”

    As some eluded to in the comments yesterday, that’s the biggest question. After arguing offseasons for years, learning my own lessons along the way, I’m going to judge the final product headed into April before wringing my hands over every move.

    Honestly, I’m interested in the young arms(and position players) more than anything. If the Pirates are ever going to win anything, the talent is primarily going to come from within. I think everyone here has always known that to a certain degree.

    I just can’t get worked up over losing JA Happ. Almost has a Matt Flynn, Jeremy Lin aspect to it. Lot of money over a small sample size, not indicative of the true player.

    • Did the word ‘allude’ elude you?

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      However, I DO agree with your last paragraph.

      • No. I noticed some of the smarter guys on here were surprised with the price.

        I think Toronto thought Happ was less of a risk than others and after all their wheeling and dealing lately, think they wanted to keep their pick too.

        • uhhhhhhh….my point was that your third word in your second paragraph should’ve been ‘allude’ (suggest or call attention to indirectly; hint at) rather than ‘elude’.

          I guess that ‘eluded’ you? 🙂 🙂

          Have a great Saturday!

          • Is that two separate words? Learn something new everyday. To be honest whenever I seem NRM, I see NMR so I think my confusion is validated. 🙂

            • Yep…two separate words. Learned that back when studying for my SATs. (wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy too long ago….)

              I did a lot of writing in my past, so I have thanked my English teacher many, many times for the valuable lessons she taught me!

  • We’ll probably end up with Ian Kennedy. He’d be interesting at the right price.

    • I remember them teeing off on him in San Diego earlier in the year. I think he pitched better afterwards but I’m not a fan.

    • He would cost us a draft pick, right? If so, we’ll only sign him if we sign another player who got a QO and I don’t see that happening.

    • K/9 over 9, BB/9 under 3, just suffered a horrible HR/FB rate, I think the draft pick will hold him back and his price til January or later. The pirates maybe can get him to create some GB and boom 3+ WAR pitcher whose 30.

  • Sometimes you just have to say goodbye. Do not forget how many people were saying that the Happ trade was a joke when it was made. And the remarks did not seem to improve after his first start. If the Pirates would have signed him to a contract like he just signed, and if his next three seasons are Happ like average, we would be screaming about how stupid the Pirates are. Yes, Happ could go on and win the Cy Young award, but the Pirates do not have money to throw around like the Jays do, and the risk is not worth it.

  • At his age, the third year is the deal breaker, I think. The money is fine, but his velocity is going to start dropping soon, and I don’t know he has the command or movement to compensate for that. The money, though, is fine.

    Pitchers get paid a lot, whether or not they’re any good, and Happ had a dominant stretch right before signing. Seems like fair money from that perspective, especially from a large market team. But I really think the Pirates wanted the shorter term and roster flexibility.

    • It’s crazy. That last line is being spouted a lot on Blue Jay blogs for the reasoning over Price. Risk and term change with with the clubs market it seems.

    • I think you are exactly correct with that comment Darkstone. Happ’s weighted value for next season is around $ 14 mil, and he will be getting $ 10, $13 & $ 13 according to Shai Davidi. I don’t doubt that the Pirates might have matched those first 2 seasons, but at age 33 now, and with their pitching prospect list, they weren’t about to get caught possibly holding the bag in 2017 or certainly in 2018.

  • I probably wouldn’t have spent 3/36 on JA. But we definitely need to add a starting pitcher to the rotation to at least be a solid to better than average #3 starter.

  • Might have been an overpayment, but so was AJ 2 years ago. Eventually they have to over pay and keep players. But they have a budget and don’t get to far off of it. Tailion may make the club from the start, Glasnow will be up in May/ June so I guess they didn’t want to spend on an older pitcher. Be nice to give Cerville (2/3 years), Polanco and or Cole a long term deal that would mean a lot more than keeping Happ.

    • What PGH paid AJ was never even close to an overpay in any year. 13 million over 2 years, the horror.

      • Maybe he meant Philly’s 16m contract for AJ in ’14? Though coming off the season AJ had, that was hardly outrageous. Hell, Brett Anderson will be making that next season.

        • Yes the 14 contract was what I was referring to. Thought that would be easy to understand 2 years ago, 2 off seasons. Point is the same last year they let EV go to KC, that should of never happened. Tailon losing a year to injury sucked, but again if they want to win the division they need; a true clean up hitter (hopefully a lefty) that’s can hit 40 HR and his defense won’t kill you (Pedro), a first basemen and 2 more pitchers. Even though his numbers sucked last year Shellby Miller is a guy I would trade for. He could be a good #3 and Tailon and Glasonw can’t be much morse than Locke and Morton. Tailon and Glasnow will be a lot cheaper. And while you kicking the can in ATL who seems to be selling everyone see if Freeman is available. He has a longer term team friendly deal. Proven major league talent a million times better than Pedro.

  • Sorta have split feelings as of now. Certainly feel 3/36 was an overpay but at the same time Haap was lights out down the stretch. At some point we are going to have to pony up for someone this off season. i think we will know a lot more this coming Friday with the non tenders. With all our free agents, possible non tenders, and potential trades it has the feel of a totally different club heading into 2016.

    • Aaron: I doubt that the Pirates make any type of move when it comes to non-tenders – the longer they keep a few guys going into their final season of control, the better the opportunity to get something in return. So we pay $28 mil in Arbitration for Walker Alvarez, and Melancon – it is still almost 90 days until the beginning of ST and almost 240 days to the trade deadline. I think NH and Coonelly want to go to Nashville ready to find a deal, but if the right people are not a part of a deal, they are not the type of guys to give anything up for nothing!

      Are you heading to Nashville Tim?

  • If the Jays have the money and the need, then they did not overpay as much as they added inflationary pressure to the market for starting pitchers. Whether that pressure increases the price per pitching WAR remains to be seen.

    If the Jays overpaid for Happ and Estrada, that would mean they had nearly identical alternatives they could have signed for less money — that is, pitchers who would provide the same value with the same risks but at a lower cost. Who were these pitchers?

    • It surely doesnt mean they had alternatives like you mention. Overpay could easily also mean they didnt have any alternative they liked for cheaper or similar money, and thus they spent what they did on those 2 to ensure they got someone that doesnt cost 15-20 million per year.

      TOR went with riskier, more mid rotation types and paid enough to get them likely because they dont want to pay for TOR arms and have sights on keeping a few of their insanely talented position players.

  • Over payment is a matter of perspective. It’s seems when a player signs a deal with the PBC it’s perceived as a team friendly deal but when someone signs elsewhere the team over pays. In terms of Russ Martin Toronto got exactly what they wanted a stabilizing force behind the plate. The Happ deal IMO in not an overpay for Toronto. The franchise gins money and it’s corporate owner (Rogers Communication) has deep pockets. This franchise has skyrocketed in value in the past 3 years. Should the PBC have signed Happ? Maybe, but the question is When will their luck run out with signing marginally value players who over-perform? Their model has worked but will it continue to work.

    • This deal is in no way people being biased or homers toward PGH. 12 million over 3 years is at least pretty even value for Happ, due to his record and lack of consistent success. Its absolutely not a friendly deal, and its fair to think its an overpay for 3 months of success. Not a huge overpay imo, but not great value.

      PGH has seen a shocking number of guys take slightly lesser deals to stay/come here. Liriano absolutely could have gotten more, AJ basically walked back in on a sweetheart deal. PGH has seen quality arms take less money, for whatever reason.

      As for “will it continue to work” i’d think they wanna actually fail at it at a high rate before abandoning a plan thats working. Their best trait to this point has been in finding underrated SPs and getting them to perform at great value. No reason to stop that, which doesnt mean they cant also get a mid rotation arm of a bit more “known” variety.

      • A lot of guys come here bc the outfielders are probably the best in baseball

        • I think the pitching coach and way PNC is built are bigger reasons. OF defense helps, but our infield defense isnt so great people would jump at the chance to pitch in front of them.

          Ray Searage is the largest reason any SP thinks highly of PGH, outside of just the team winning a lot of games.

    • Any contract the Bucs have had with FAs has been team friendly over the past 4 or so years now… Why? Because that’s how the PBC operates. Soon as things become slightly better than market value, or even on market value they have shown they will stop their pursuit. So yes, when the Pirates have been signing players, it has been considered team friendly. The one contract that people blasted and said wasn’t team friendly was the 2yr deal for Russ…at some point “luck” can’t be the excuse people give. It’s their scouting and analytics people. Jung Ho? AJ trade? Liriano? Russ, Cervelli, Stewart? t (terrific backup, an under appreciated position knowing that’s normally 45-60 games you need a complimentary piece) The no name bullpen on a regular basis now that has helped bring more and more talent from Sean Burnett to Reliever of the Year Melancon…theres a pattern of success in place, that’s no longer considered luck. That’s considered a track record.

  • Really missing Kingham, Cumpton, and Sadler right now.

    • Kingham maybe but that’s speculation based on him reaching near his ceiling if a solid number 3 early in career. Having cumpton or Sadler would do nothing to assuage my concerns about our number 3 pitcher next year. Those guys are bottom of rotation arms. Don’t get me wrong, they are good for depth but not guys you want to fill role happ would have theoretically filled

  • 1st Toronto overpays for Russ, now for JA….

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    November 28, 2015 10:51 am

    an emphatic yes, regardless of the “market indicators”….you don’t pay that kind of money for 2-3 months of a fluke pitching performance….especially in the AL

    • Agreed. Rich people can “overpay” in business just like baseball organizations can overpay in player contracts. Whether a team or a business can afford it or not is a different topic then “was such and such acquisition an overpay?”

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