The Yankees just traded for Andrew Benintendi to bolster their outfield, which is interesting because he was among the Royals players who couldn’t travel to Toronto recently due to being unvaccinated. Reports are that Benintendi is now willing to get the jab, which would eliminate what otherwise stood as a competitive advantage for the Jays. In order to gain back some of that leverage, then, they could seek to make a trade of their own for a left fielder.
As Robert Murray shared on The Baseball Insiders podcast, “Someone in the Blue Jays organization texted me that Ian Happ is the exact player we are looking for.” That might sound a little strange given that starting left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has a stat line almost identical to Benintendi, specifically with the low K-rate and 123 wRC+ mark. Right fielder Teoscar Hernández has very similar stats, just with more pop and strikeouts.
That doesn’t sound like something Toronto would need Happ to improve, though both of those Jays are right-handed hitters. Happ has more power than Gurriel, strikes out less than Hernández, walks more than either of them, and can bat from the left side. And even though Happ hasn’t played second base in a long time, he could be an emergency option with righty-batting Santiago Espinal there most days.
The only thing that really gives me pause here is that all the Blue Jays in question are under club control through at least next year for less than Happ will earn. As cheap as Happ’s production is this season and at $10 million or so next year, we’re talking about a crowded house. Still, the Jays know their personnel and it sounds like they believe Happ represents a significant boost.
Just what they would be willing to trade for said boost is the big issue in my mind, since Happ holds a ton of value due to his production and control. If there are talks, one name Marquee’s Lance Brozdowski says to look for is righty Nick Frasso. The 23-year-old is not listed among the organization’s top 30 prospects on MLB.com, mainly due to age and missing a year with Tommy John, but he’s got a 98 mph fastball and a new slider.
As Brozdowski noted, the Cubs had scouts at his most recent start.
If #BlueJays were in on Benintendi, makes sense they'd be in on Ian Happ as well.
Keep an eye on RHP Nick Frasso.
23 years old, TJ surgery June 2021, 10 starts since, up to 98, slider has been tweaked, funky angles.#Cubs had a scout in Vancouver for Frasso's start on 7/26.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) July 28, 2022
Brozdowski isn’t indicating that Frasso would be the centerpiece to a deal, only that he’s a potential piece of what would have to be a much bigger haul for the Cubs. Benintendi netted the Royals three of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects and Happ should command more due to better overall production and that extra year under contract.
Update: Frasso’s stuff goes hard.
@nickfrasso strikeout thread.
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) July 27, 2022