J.A. Happ is set to hit the open market for the first time in his career. The Pirates have indicated they want to re-sign him, and Happ has said that he would be open to returning, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"It's a team I would definitely consider, absolutely," Happ said. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm happy with where I'm at right now, and we'll see what's down the road."
The 2015 season didn't start well for Happ, pitching to a 4.64 ERA with a 6.8 K/9 and a 2.7 K/9 in 21 starts for the Seattle Mariners. After he was traded to the Pirates in the summer, Happ righted the ship and posted a 1.85 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and a 1.8 BB/9 over eleven starts. In his piece, Biertempfel talks about how much a potential deal for Happ could cost. He cites that Jason Hammel got a two year, $20 million deal from the Cubs after going 10-11 with a 3.47 ERA in 2014 as a potential comp.
Happ is also turning 33 and has only made 30-plus starts three times in nine season, so a deal longer than two or three years seems unlikely. He is coming off of a $6.7 million option that the Blue Jays picked up last October, then traded him two months later to the Mariners.
The mutual interest could mean that a deal gets done quickly. The Pirates don't have many other free agent decisions to make this offseason with a lot of their young-talent still under team control. They also will have a hole in their rotation and some money freeing up following the retirement of A.J. Burnett. Getting Happ back into the fold before the start of the free agent signing period would give Pittsburgh greater clarity about their budget situation and allow them to more effectively address other needs as the winter progresses.