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.
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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.
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.