Central notes: Happ, Merrifield, Cabrera


Central notes: Happ, Merrifield, Cabrera

Of course, with the Cubs currently at a 27-44 record, speculation has begun about players approaching free agency who could be delayed by the August 2nd trade deadline. One of those players coveted by opposing teams is Jan Happ, although Happ doesn’t seem interested in being the subject of rumours. “You go deaf at some point,” Happ tells The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney. “Everyone has gone through it at certain points. It’s something you just go deaf to and understand it’s part of the job.”

Happ’s case will be interesting to watch this year as there are arguments for holding on to him as well as arguments for trading him. He’s slated to reach free agency after the 2023 season, making him a pretty logical trade candidate for a rebuild team that likely won’t be competitive within that timeframe. He’s also having the best season of his career, which means the club might want to put him on the block while his value is in overdrive. He achieves .288/.385/.475 per year for a wRC+ of 138. Combined with a solid outfield defense, he has produced 2.2 fWAR per year, which is already a career high even with more than half the season still to play .

However, the Cubs could also extend Happ and keep him for the next competitive window. Happ seems open to the idea, saying: “I’ve also always made it very clear that I like playing here. This is a great place to play. I would love to be part of a competitive group here in the years to come.”

Some other notes from Central teams…

  • The Royals are 26-43 and must decide which of their players will move as part of their deadline strategy. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that a Whit Merrifield Trade is given more consideration than in previous years. Merrifield has long been the subject of trade rumours, as the club has been mired in a years-long rebuild for essentially their entire big-league career. The Royals went 81-81 in 2016, Merrifield’s debut season, but have been under .500 since. Despite this, the club has refrained from all commercial offers in previous seasons. It would certainly be a shock if the team suddenly changed course and agreed on a deal now that Merrifield is having by far the worst season of his career. In 69 games he beats 0.230/0.277/0.314 for a wRC+ of 66. Turning down offers for years and then suddenly giving in when his value is at a low level would be a very surprising turn of events. Perhaps the club fear the 33-year-old won’t be able to turn things around despite having the time to do so. His contract runs until next year, with a club option for 2024.
  • The Cardinals announced this lefty Genesis Cabrera goes on the injured list. No designation was given for his injury, meaning Cabrera has gone into COVID-related IL. Right Jake Woodford has been recalled to take his place on the active list. This is the second time COVID has hit the St. Louis bullpen in the past few days TJ McFarland It was also paused earlier this week. Notably, both Cabrera and McFarland are southpaws, leaving the club undermanned on that side of their bullpen. However, there are now two left-handers left Packy Naughton is more of a long relief option. This works out Zack Thompson and his 14 2/3 innings MLB experience as the club’s primary left-handed assist. Cabrera has become a key factor for the club in recent years, notching 28 holds last year and 10 so far this year. He has a 2.27 ERA here in 2022, despite generating fewer strikeouts. His 0.193 BABIP and 93.1% beach rate certainly give him an unsustainable boost, but he’s also got his walk rate down to 9.3%. That’s still above the league average, but up a notch from his career mark of 12.1%.

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