Former Orioles executive Andy MacPhail said pitching was fragile and expensive, thus the “grow the arms” philosophy. Try to develop your own young and lower-salaried pitchers rather than overpay for those with another team.
He was sure right about the expensive part. As of Friday, J.A. Happ is earning on average $12 million per season to pitch from 2016-18 for the Toronto Blue Jays.
When I look at Happ’s track record, I see mediocrity. He has a career ERA of 4.13 anda WHIP of 1.367. Maybe some advanced stats look better for him? Well, his FIP (fielding indepedent pitching) is 4.20. His control is not great, as he averages 3.5 walks per nine innings. He has never pitched more than 172 innings in a season and has averaged just 141 innings per year over the last three seasons.
Just what exactly did the Blue Jays see here? I guess they believe the pitcher that ended the 2015 season is the real Happ. After he pitched to an ERA of 4.64 in 20 starts last year for Seattle, he was traded to Pittsburgh for a minor leaguer. He then pitched to an ERA of 1.85 in 11 starts for the Pirates to end last season.
But the Pirates let him reach free agency, where he signed a three-year deal worth $36 million on Friday. Happ’s career 1.367 WHIP would rank behind five Orioles from 2015, with Wei-Yin Chen at 1.252, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman at 1.284, Chris Tillman at 1.315 and Ubaldo Jimenez at 1.360. The Blue Jays have even seen Happ be mediocre for them before. From 2012-14, he pitched to an ERA of 4.39 for Toronto.
Now he is worth $12 million per year. Pitching is indeed expensive.
Will this deal bring up the price for the second- and third-tier pitchers? Will it do that for teams lke the Orioles, who are looking at pitching?