Wilson Contreras Most public speculation among the Cubs’ commercial candidates is born with the deadline a week later, but his teammate Ian Hap It has emerged as one of the most sought after names in the summer market, according to a report by Jeff Bassan of ESPN. This is particularly notable when paired with Haup’s recent admission that the team has not come close to him about a contract extension (link via Patrick Mooney of The Athletic).
Bassan wrote that it is likely that Happ will trade over the next week, adding that some interested parties have reached out to the Cubs about package deals that would see one of the Contreras or Happ traded along with a mitigating factor such as David Robertson or Michael Givens. (Basan does not mention the right specifically Chris Martinalthough a free agent is pending, it’s certainly available too.) More interestingly, Dennis Lane of The Athletic wrote over the weekend that Padres had shown an interest in adding both Contreras and Happ in the same trade, although asking about That would definitely be enormous.
MLBTR’s Anthony Franco explored the best production in Happ’s career earlier this month, noting that notable gains in Happ’s disciplinary profile have generated the strongest and most sustainable results in his six major league seasons. Hap has always been at a high pace, but his fondness for knockouts often diminished his overall value on the plate.
Notably, as Anthony wrote at the time, Hap had significantly improved his contact rates in 2022. His 62.6% off-court contact rate is up a full ten percentage points from 2021, and his 83.7% on-court contact rate is up a full ten percentage points from 2021. In the region of 79.9% last year. Happ’s overall connection rate of 75.9% is less than one percentage point below the league average. This might not sound impressive, but pairing Hap’s roughly average communication skills with Hap’s fine gait (10.9%), above-average strength and above-average speed, Hap seems an increasingly good player. Habb has also posted significantly better numbers as a right-handed hitter this season than in years past, and while part of that is due to the high rise of 463 BABIP as a right-hander, he has also lowered his strike rate against him. Hardness is about six percentage points this year (down to 25.1%).
Defensively, opinions on Hap will be more mixed. After jumping around the diamond early in his career, a left-footed player has settled in Chicago this season, his best position. He’s scored 706 of 718 defensive tires left this season, while the other 12 tires have come across a few short flicks in the middle. He was a zero defender in 2022, according to Statcast’s Outs, although both defensive kicks saved (+5) and absolute area ratings (+3.9) feel he was above average.
It’s easy enough to see why The Hub’s overall skill set makes it an attractive trading chip. He’s at least a solid left flank defender—and a balanced racket with a .282/.367/.445 hitting streak in 387 trips to the plate so far this season. His home power wasn’t quite as high as previous levels – his nine long balls made him shy of pace to match his career high last year 25 – but Hap has already gone on in the top 24 doubles of his career and snagged a few triples. for good measure. Even more attractive, however, is the fact that Hub is being controlled for an additional season after the current campaign.
Assuming Haup has already been traded, any team that acquires him could channel him to the left in both the current post-season push and the entire 2023 season. He has earned $6.9 million this season and should not have earned more than $10 million in 2023, making it affordable for the majority of clubs across the league. Hap also won’t turn 28 until next month, which means the former No. 9 draft pick is right at the height of the hitter’s career.
Whether Cubs will eventually follow through on the package offers that Passan has reported or instead attempt to engineer independent deals for all of their chips, of course, depends entirely on the strength of the offers they receive. However, nearly every rider is looking to deepen their range, so it’s only natural to think that a team interested in Happ would take a two-by-one-stone approach. Robertson, Givens and Martin will all be free agents at the end of the season, and they are all in the midst of a great season.
Robertson has drawn the most attention among the Cubs’ shorts in early speculation – as is often the case for those in the vaunted closest role – thanks in large part to his original 1.83 ERA and 14 saves on the season. He earns his base salary of $3.5 million, although he is fast paced to access all of his incentives (including a $100,000 business bonus), which would bring his total salary to $5.1 million. However, for a marksman with a proven track record and a strike rate of 31.4%, that’s a reasonable price to pay – even if the 11.9% walk rate this year is a bit disconcerting.
The 32-year-old Givens also earns $3.5 million, but his contract contains $1.25 million in incentives and a $1.5 million takeover of the mutual option next year, so his final price will drop further in the $5.5 million to $6 million range. He delivered 2.79 afternoons with a 29.1% strike rate and a similarly high 11.5% walk rate. Like Robertson, Givens has a long track record as a strong late-temperator with roots in the Middle East (Orioles).
As for the 36-year-old Martin, his ERA has swelled to 4.50 after yielding five rounds through his past 3 2/3 innings, but even given this recent slump, he’s touting an impressive 37 to 4K/BB ratio in 30 rounds so far in 2022. He’s making $2.5 million and probably won’t get the 60 appearances he needs to maximize his incentives, but he’ll probably unlock $400,000 or $500,000 in bonuses available on his incentive-loaded contract before he becomes an agent. Free at the end of the season.