Washington Nationals: J.A. Happ would be a welcome addition to rotation

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TORONTO, ON - JULY 7: J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during MLB game action against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on July 7, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JULY 7: J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during MLB game action against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on July 7, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Inconsistencies, injuries and lack of experience have challenged the rotation. As a result, the Washington Nationals should make Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ a top trade target.

Since June 12th the Washington Nationals rotation, other than Max Scherzer, has struggled. Over 31 games, they have combined for eight quality starts and an ERA of 6.47. And perhaps J.A. Happ would go a long way to improving it.

Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez were expected to step up when Stephen Strasburg went on the disabled list. However, in the past month, both have regressed allowing 51 ER in 63.1 innings.

Jeremy Hellickson has just returned from the DL and is working to get back where he was prior to the injury. While Jefry Rodriguez and Eric Fedde have seemed overmatched at the major league level.

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As a result, it has required Davey Martinez to overtax the bullpen. Veteran lefty J.A. Happ would be a perfect fit for the Nationals.

After dealing Steve Pearce to the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays are in sell mode. They have indicated a willingness to trade multiple pieces prior to the deadline.

Happ, a pending free agent, would only be a rental for the Washington Nationals. He has struggled in his previous two outings and has seen his ERA increase from 3.62 to 4.29. However, he still has a 9.8 K/9, a FIP of 3.97 and a1.177 WHIP.

Happ would provide the Washington Nationals with another left-handed starter. He could slot third behind Scherzer and Strasburg (who is expected to return after the All-Star break). This would allow Roark to move to the bullpen as long relief.

The 35-year-old would be only owed 4 million dollars for the remainder of the season. Also, Happ has experience pitching in the postseason, as part of the 2008 World Series Philadelphia Phillies and as recently as 2016 with the Blue Jays.

The cost of acquiring J.A. Happ

The cost could be the main issue. There is a weak crop of starting pitching that is likely to be dealt at the trade deadline. And one of the top targets is Happ. Also, the Blue Jays are willing to take on salary for a better return. So, unlike the Kelvin Herrera trade, they will not take a lesser return for salary relief.

On the other hand, this would allow the Nationals to save money to make other deals to further the improve the club. Another possibility is the Nationals could expand the deal and get the Blue Jays to add players like Yangervis Solarte (16 home runs) or Curtis Granderson (.820 OPS vs RHP) to help bolster the Washington Nationals bench.

So to get someone like Happ, who is only under contract for 2018, Mike Rizzo may need to give up a high-level pitcher (Fedde or Rodriguez) and another low-level prospect with a high ceiling.

Next: Five potential starting rotation targets

The Washington Nationals need to bolster the rotation. The GM could be creative when dealing with Toronto. Atlanta and Philadelphia are going to continue to get better over the next couple of years. The time is now Mike Rizzo.

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