Much of this season for the Chicago Cubs has been spent focusing on the development of younger players, and on the potential trade destinations for Willson Contreras. However, Contreras isn’t the only position player the Cubs could trade at the deadline.
Ian Happ has emerged as a very good left fielder for the Cubs so far this season. Over the last few weeks, the likelihood of Happ being traded has started to rise, with several teams potentially involved in negotiations.
San Diego Padres
The Padres have had a very good season despite the fact that Fernando Tatis, Jr. has yet to play a game. Manny Machado has been fantastic all season and has helped the offense support a pitching staff that has been the fourth best in the National League.
San Diego is in a strong position to make the playoffs. The Padres are 11.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, but would currently make the playoffs through the wild card, where they are three games ahead of Philadelphia.
While the Padres would make the playoffs if the season ended today, the team still needs to prioritize improving its offense at the trade deadline. San Diego has the eighth-best offense in the NL by OPS+ and is ninth in the NL in runs scored this season.
The outfield has been one of the biggest areas of concern for the Padres in 2022. Trent Grisham, who is an excellent defensive player in center field, has a .189/.288/.333 slash line this season, and Wil Myers, who is currently on the IL, has an OPS+ of 71. Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar have both been above-average offensive players this season, with an OPS+ of 113 and 115 respectively, but the team would benefit from outfield depth that would provide lineup flexibility.
San Diego undoubtedly has depth in their farm system to complete a trade. However, the Padres are still a contender to trade for Juan Soto, which will impact their interest in Ian Happ and their strategy in negotiations. In addition, the Padres could possibly need to trade away some players on expensive contracts to avoid exceeding the luxury tax, which could be a factor in a trade for Happ or another player.
Ian Happ Staying in National League with Atlanta Braves?
A few weeks ago, the Atlanta Braves would not have been a logical trade deadline destination for Ian Happ. The team’s offense had been solid, the NL’s third-best, and their outfield group of Michael Harris III, Ronald Acuna, Adam Duvall, and Marcell Ozuna did not seem like an area the Braves would hope to improve at the deadline.
However, Duvall suffered an injury last week to his wrist that will result in him missing the rest of the season. Atlanta finished the first half of the season extremely well, and is now three games behind the Mets in the NL East, as a result, they might make a trade to improve their outfield in the wake of Duvall’s injury.
The Braves minor league system does not have the depth of San Diego’s, but several of their best prospects are pitchers. The Cubs drafted pitchers with 16 of their 20 draft picks in this year’s MLB Draft, but a trade with the Braves could add valuable pitching depth to the Cubs’ group of prospects.
Happ may make sense for the Braves, but the biggest obstacle to a deal between the two teams may be the depth of Atlanta’s farm system. If several teams are interested in Happ, which is likely, the Braves might not have the minor league depth to complete a deal, especially if one of the Cubs relievers is traded alongside him.
Happ to the Tampa Bay Rays?
Tampa Bay is 53-45 this season and is currently in the final wild-card spot in the American League. The Rays remain a playoff contender despite a series of injuries that have seriously affected their roster this season.
Kevin Kiermaier, Harold Ramirez, Manuel Margot, Mike Zunino, Francisco Mejia, and Wander Franco are all currently on the injured list. Kiermaier and Zunino are both out for the remainder of the season, while Margot is on the 60-day IL and isn’t eligible to return until August 20.
As a result, the Rays will almost certainly make a trade to improve their depth at the trade deadline. While Happ’s best position is left field, he has the versatility to play at all three outfield positions, and he is a switch hitter, two qualities the Rays’ front office values.
In addition to an outfielder, the Rays are most likely looking for both a catcher and a reliever at this year’s trade deadline. The Cubs players most likely to be traded are Contreras, Ian Happ, and three relievers; Chris Martin, David Robertson, and Mychal Givens. Tampa Bay has a very good minor league system, and they and the Cubs could make a trade deadline deal for multiple players this summer.
Toronto Blue Jays Make a Splash?
The Blue Jays were one of the most exciting teams in baseball heading into this season. While the team doesn’t lead the AL East, they are still first in the AL Wild Card race and will likely make the playoffs.
Toronto’s starting outfield has not been an area of concern. Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., George Springer, and Teoscar Hernandez have all been above-average offense players this season. However, the lineup could benefit from a switch-hitter such as Happ.
If Happ is traded to the Blue Jays he may spend most of the rest of the season as the team’s designated hitter. Toronto could potentially have the best lineup in the AL if they make a trade for Happ during the next few weeks.
These four teams may be among the favorites to land Ian Happ, but almost every contender will have an interest in trading for him. Happ won’t be a free agent until after next season, but the Cubs may, and almost certainly will, choose to trade him now as several teams compete to complete a deal for the All-Star left fielder.