This afternoon the Minnesota Twins made their first big splash of the winter in signing former Yankees starter J.A. Happ. He’s nothing flashy by any means, but the $8 million pact will move the salary needle.
Here’s the deal with Happ, he was passable in 2020 and his Baseball Savant metrics paint a prettier picture than a 4.57 FIP can (even with a 3.47 ERA). He was victimized by the longball at Yankee Stadium more often than he has been previously in his career, but he’s just a modest strikeout pitcher. Ultimately, he takes the place of Rich Hill on the 2021 Twins club and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If Wes Johnson can utilize Happ as a 5th starter that eats innings and keeps the offense within striking distance, he’ll make turns all season long. If he posts a 5.00+ FIP a la 2019 he could be a candidate to be bumped when Randy Dobnak or one of the other prospects force their way into the picture. It’s not glamorous, but it doesn’t preclude them from making any other moves.
Minnesota still needs a better arm in the rotation, and I have made the point since the beginning of winter that a trade seemed likely for a rotation arm. With Happ in the fold, I’m more confident than ever it will happen. Assuming Nelson Cruz is eventually brought back as the team’s designated hitter, plopping down $12 million or so on Jake Odorizzi becomes less feasible. A controllable starter still in arbitration can be had for less, and the prospect capital is where the spend comes.
I don’t think Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will fill out their bench solely with internal options, and at least one other relief arm still needs to be acquired. By allowed something like $14 million after a Cruz deal, there’s enough left on the bone to make a handful of different directions work.
Right now, just one of the four open spots on the 40-man roster has been utilized, and there could be more opened up with a player in that group sent as part of any package. There’s less than a month until Spring Training is supposed to kick off, and I told you it would be busy.