Why Happ’s Next Months Could Point to Cubs Timeline Originally Appearing on NBC Sports Chicago
ST. LOUIS — He wants to stay long term. He could be gone by the end of next month.
And if he’s still there at the end of the season, that only earns Ian Happ a place in the same free orbit occupied for the past two seasons by friends and All-Star teammates – as a short-term asset. term with commercial value on a team nowhere near arguing.
So keep an eye out for Happ if you’ve been racking your brains trying to decipher what team president Jed Hoyer’s plan is (regardless of timeline) for his stripped roster.
Because one of the biggest indicators in the coming months of the Cubs’ direction is the man on deck behind Willson Contreras.
“Obviously it would be my hope to be able to continue here and be with the group long term and be able to build something really special here,” Happ said before doubling a home run in the 3-0 win. from Friday night on the Cardinals.
“That’s about all you have is your hope.”
The Cubs haven’t approached Happ to talk about an extension, nor does he expect them to do so this season.
Hoyer has trades to make before the Aug. 2 deadline before making that decision on Happ — All-Star receiver Contreras and top-scoring David Robertson, front and center among the inevitable departures.
And Happ could join them, given his surge in business value as he sets up All-Star-caliber numbers starting in the third-place order, with an additional year in control of the club after. this one to dangle in front of potential suitors.
Don’t you think the White Sox could use a productive hitter with power who’s become an above-average defender in the outfield?
“You never know if this is all real; as players you just don’t know,” Happ said. “There are always speculations. But you don’t have the ability to see behind the curtain and know what’s going on.
And, in addition, he said, “You can’t control whether you get traded, you can’t control whether you get an offer to be extended. So you’re just going to play every day.
Happ, 27, could be the enigma on Hoyer and his front office team’s list, particularly when it comes to their approach after August. 2 if they choose not to trade it.
A ninth draft pick, Happ made his debut for hot rival St. Louis six weeks into the Cubs’ championship defense season in 2017 and hit the first of 24 home runs in 413 plate appearances this season. -the.
He’s a switch hitter with power on both sides of the plate and a career OPS over .800 (115 OPS+) but didn’t make an All-Star team, largely because of a record of unusually streaky career (and the fact that there was no All-Star Game during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).
He was almost too patient for long stretches in his career, drawing walks but hitting a lot and wrestling much of his career on the right side. In 2019 he was sent back to the minors for the first few months of the season before coming back and finishing strong. A year ago, he was mired in the deepest crisis of his career, looking more like an unsubmitted candidate in August than part of the Cubs’ long-term plans.
Since then, in 126 games (457 AP) since Aug. 3, he’s hitting .291 with 23 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .906 OPS — the longest consistent, sustained production streak of his career.
His withdrawal rate is down; his numbers on the right side, up from the adjustments and regular playing time saved against lefties.
And he has the general look of a player who has understood himself – if not his future.
“He just looks more athletic, he’s got better jumps,” manager David Ross said of Happ’s improved play in left field. “And he is held in the middle of our command when we lacked some of that consistency in the middle.
“He was definitely one of our All-Stars for sure. Him and Willson.
What if he wins a bid this year and sticks around for decision time in the offseason?
Is he a cornerstone of Hoyer’s “next great Cubs team”? Or Hoyer’s next big local core player rental business chip?
To say it’s a crossroads winter approaching for whatever becomes of Hoyer’s timeline is probably an understatement.
It could be the fulcrum of a process that either starts to turn in the right direction or is set back years – especially since it’s nearly impossible to confidently identify anyone on the current slate who will be on the next one. Cubs playoff roster. (Seiya Suzuki? Justin Steele? Nico Hoerner? Are you sure?)
And this: If Hoyer, GM Carter Hawkins, and their computer data say locking up Happ is the right move, what does Happ have to say about the terms?
Happ is one of the game’s shrewdest players, especially when it comes to baseball, a union rep who beat the Cubs in arbitration in his first year of eligibility – the first player to beat the Cubs for over 30 years.
If the Cubs want to talk expansion, it’s unlikely to come for a heavily discounted price.
And that may require some transparency and detail about what other players plan to join Happ in the next competitive core, and when – certainly a lot more transparency than Jed Hoyer has offered fans.
“I think it’s all taken into account,” Happ said when asked if he would need reassurances competitively. “Everything is taken into account. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an amazing place to play baseball day in and day out.”
Watching friends like Anthony Rizzo get traded in that 20-hour purge of Championship All-Stars last year only underscored the business side of a sport that more than any other likes to hide behind a thick veil. of romance warmed by the summer.
“You see both sides,” Happ said. “There’s an emotional part of being here, of being with this group, these guys being your friends. And then there’s the business part, where there’s a chance to bring other players back and have an impact on the organization, which is why they do what they do.
What they do next could have the most profound effect yet on how long it takes them to win their first postseason game since Happ’s rookie year.
Never mind the potentially profound effect on the last of those single-digit first-round picks by Theo Epstein’s front office who started with Albert Almora in 2012, Kris Bryant in 2013 and Kyle Schwarber in 2014.
“I really enjoy it here. I love playing here. I love the fanbase. I love the city,” said Happ, who can only guess how the next few weeks (months?) might unfold for his team and career.
“Being able to play left field here every day and hitting mid-order is something that’s been awesome,” he said. “My goal is to keep doing that for as long as possible.”
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