The Toronto Blue Jays announced the signing of left-hander J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Happ becomes the first 'big' free agent to sign, after the first month of the Major League Baseball offseason was filled with inactivity in the free agent market.
The 33-year-old Happ had somewhat of a revival last season with the Mariners and Pirates, going 11-8 with a 3.61 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 32 appearances (31 starts). Over his 172 innings pitched, Happ struck out 151 and walked just 45.
Happ was most dominant after being dealt to Pittsburgh midseason. Happ pitched like an ace in 11 starts with the Pirates, going 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 63 1/3 innings, striking out 69 and walking just 13.
Happ is not the first pitcher to have a revival with the Pirates. Pitching coach Ray Searage is known for reshaping pitchers' careers while with the team, having helped the likes of Edinson Volquez, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano.
In a way, the Blue Jays are buying into Searage's pedigree for fixing broken pitchers.
Formerly a 3rd round pick with the Phillies, Happ took the league by storm in 2009, pitching to a 2.93 ERA in 35 games (23 starts). He then bounced around the league, pitching with Philadelphia, Houston, and Toronto from 2010 to 2014, all with below-league-average numbers.
Even in today's demand for pitching, Happ probably would not have gotten $12 million per season if he was still the same pitcher he was before taking Pittsburgh by storm.
Giving a pitcher $36 million for what they did in half a season seems a bit outrageous, but it could be justified. Happ's 5.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Pittsburgh would not have been just the best mark of his career, but it would have been his best ratio by almost three strikeouts per walk.
That alone could be a reason for the Blue Jays wanting to take a risk on Happ, as strikeout-to-walk ratio is often a good indicator over how good a pitcher really is.
If Happ can even come close to his performance with Pittsburgh in the final months of the 2015 season, the deal will be more than worth it for Toronto. In fact, it could even be looked at as a steal. But that's a big 'if.'
On paper, Happ will add to a rotation that is likely to lose David Price in free agency. As it stands, the Jays' rotation consists of Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchinson, and now Happ.