The FanSided MLB GM Simulation got underway on Wednesday afternoon. And we haven’t waited to make a move, bringing Ian Happ to the Washington Nationals.
During the coming days and week, District on Deck Site Expert Blake Finney is taking part in FanSided’s MLB General Manager Fake Simulation. His first move as Fake Washington Nationals GM has been to bring in Ian Happ from the Chicago Cubs.
While an upgrade at the keystone was low on the priority list, this trade came together pretty quickly. Happ could now lock down second base for the foreseeable future as he’s under team control through the 2023 season.
There’s a lot to unpack in this trade, with major league and minor league pieces going both ways. We take a look at both halves of the trade below and assess what we had to give up to get an upgrade at second base.
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The Nationals Half of the Trade
Obviously, the headliner of the whole trade is Ian Happ. The switch-hitter can not only provide an immediate spark in the batting order while playing second base, but he also has the versatility to slide in at third base or in the outfield should it be needed.
So far, Happ has been somewhat underwhelming major league career since his first call-up back in 2017. He has a career slash line of just .242/.341/.459 with 39 home runs in 257 games with the Cubs.
Some will get sucked in by that .242 batting average, but the .341 OBP and .800 OPS are very productive for a middle infielder. But if you really are a batting average fan, Happ was actually regarded as a pretty good average hitter in the minors with a .275 figure over parts of three seasons there, so there’s reason to believe he can raise that and improve his overall line even further.
Happ is also still under team control for five more seasons and doesn’t hit arbitration until after the 2020 season, meaning he’ll be easy on the luxury tax. With his positional flexibility, there’s always going to be a place somewhere for him over the next five seasons and is a huge addition.
The other piece to the puzzle is Michael Rucker, a starter who is currently ranked as the Cubs 13th best prospect according to MLB.com. Despite only being promoted to the rotation full-time in the middle of the 2017 season, he thrived with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies last year to the tune of a 3.73 ERA in 132.2 innings, while striking out 118 and walking just 38. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter with his excellent command, but won’t quite be a top-end guy.
The Cubs Half of the Trade
Obviously, a cost-controlled potential stud at second base isn’t going to come cheap. We’ve essentially given up starting pitching prospect Seth Romero and catching prospect Israel Pineda to upgrade on the Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick combination at second base.
While both Difo and Kendrick are solid major players, in 2019 neither are really above average options for 162 games. Difo took a step back in 2017 after a positive 2016 season where he filled in at shortstop much of the year. Kendrick, on the other hand, is coming off a torn Achilles and will likely only be able to fill a part-time role at best. Happ is clearly a step up from these two players.
At first, it seems like a lot. However, if you remember that Romero is just a matter of weeks removed from Tommy John surgery and has already been disciplined by the Nats for violating club policy in spring training. His prospect stock is arguably quite low, and Mike Rizzo doesn’t care much for giving out multiple chances to players. Just look at how he handled the Shawn Kelley situation. Romero will be an interesting trade chip for the Nats this winter.
Pineda is arguably just as much of a loss to the organization as Romero though. A young catcher with a rocket arm who finished the season with a .273/.341/.388 slash line at Short-Season A-Ball with the Auburn Doubledays. While he is still a long way away from the majors, if he can keep up his development, there’s a possibility he makes it as a middle of the road starting catcher in the big leagues.
Keep an eye out on District on Deck as Blake Finney tries to craft his Washington Nationals roster in the fake GM Simulation along with the rest of the MLB FanSided sites.