Could the Mariners Trade for Ian Happ?
By Trevor Pedro
Holiday gift shopping is the worst. No, I'm not a Scrooge, but I'll be the first to admit it, I'm a terrible gift-giver. I'm the guy who loses track of time, procrastinates, and has to find something at the last minute when the shelves are half empty. Ask my wife about the year I got her a dictionary because I thought she'd need one for college. Twenty-one years later, that Webster's Dictionary collects dust on the bookshelf and is a never-ending sticking point in my household.
It's like how most Mariner fans are feeling this winter. Correa, Judge, Nimmo, Turner, Verlander, all the shiny new toys are gone, which means Mariners General Manager, Justin Hollander finds himself in the situation I've faced just about every year. Manager Scott Servais could use a bullpen arm who excels against lefties, a versatile bat who can play the infield corners, and an outfielder who swings from the right side to platoon with Jarred Kelenic.
I offer one suggestion based on my YEARS of experience shopping in a limited environment. Call Jed Hoyer, General Manager of the Chicago Cubs, and inquire about Ian Happ.
Ian Happ Could Add Value in Multiple Spots
The former first-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati is versatile, playing second base, third base, and the outfield at an above-average level (78% Outs Above Average). Happ's versatility could help keep Eugenio Suarez fresh and offer platoon options for lefty bats Kolton Wong and Jarred Kelenic. A lack of arm strength would probably limit his outfield options, but it's not like he's a liability out there. He won a Gold Glove as a left fielder just this year.
Ian Happ's Offense Could Lengthen the Lineup
The 2022 Mariners were driven by the three-run homer, especially from August to October. Additionally, the bottom of the order was hit or miss, as Sam Haggerty was overexposed, Curt Casali filled in for Cal Raleigh a few days a week, and J.P. Crawford continued his year-long slump. As a result, the bottom of Scott Servais' lineup card needs Ian Happ.
The 28-year-old utility man is a switch hitter who has improved his contact, walks, and strikeout rates each year. According to Fangraphs, his walk rate reached a career-high of 9%, while the strikeout rate hit the major league average (23%). In addition, Steamer projections have Happ accumulating a .246/.331/.427 slash line, suitable for a 2.8 WAR. These types of moves might not get the fans excited, but they add wins and help close the gap between the Astros. Remember, the 2022 Mariners busted the drought and made the playoffs but were still 16 games back in the division standings.
Ian Happ is a free agent after the 2023 season, which should keep the trade cost down. President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto and Hollander could offer Emerson Hancock or Taylor Dollard and a couple of lower-level prospects to get Happ to Seattle.
Take it from a guy who's been there. The shelves are only going to get emptier. Don't get stuck with a dictionary as your best option this season. Look outside the box and take the wins where you can get them. Put down Webster and trade for Ian Happ. I'm sure Scott Servais and the fans will mark this as a holiday to remember.