As the Phillies look to boost their club for a potential postseason run, they’ve most frequently been mentioned as suitors for Orioles shortstop Manny Machado. That’s not the only move they’re considering, though — they have interest in Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, who began his pro career with the Phillies 14 years ago, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The 35-year-old Happ made his first-ever All-Star team this summer despite having a rather mediocre first half (he was the Blue Jays’ only representative). Over 19 starts, he’s posted a 4.29 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP, 121 strikeouts, and 35 walks in 109 innings. He’s been extremely solid over his career, though, throwing for a 3.96 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over 12 seasons, and he’s actually been better over the second half of his career — he hasn’t posted an ERA over 4.00 since 2014 or a WHIP over 1.5 since 2011. He’s also gained a lot of experience being around a winning team in recent years — an asset that could be valuable for a Phillies club that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2011 and is filled with young players — and he has a solid 3.72 ERA over 10 career playoff appearances.
The Phillies’ rotation has actually been very good this year, vastly outperforming expectations. Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola have been great as expected, Zach Eflin has pitched like an ace, Nick Pivetta was having a great year before a rough June, and Vince Velasquez has been solid all year. They also could get Jerad Eickhoff, who has been having circulation issues in his hand, back down the stretch. The Phillies aren’t in obvious need of a rotation upgrade, but Eflin is currently on the DL with a right middle-finger blister and may be a liability going forward, Pivetta or Velasquez could be bumped from the rotation if necessary, and there’s no guarantee that Eickhoff will return this season.
Happ is arguably the best starter on the trade market and won’t come exceptionally cheap. But with a minor-league system that has three prospects ranked within MLB Pipeline’s top 100 plus Mickey Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, the Phillies should have no problem putting together a compelling package if they want to acquire Happ.