The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired J.A. Happ from Seattle for Adrian Sampson, according to a team press release. The move is an interesting one, as it gives the Pirates either a third lefty in the bullpen (or a replacement for Antonio Bastardo), and/or it gives the Pirates rotation depth.

Happ currently has a 4.64 ERA in 108.2 innings with Seattle, although his 4.02 xFIP is much better. He’s only under team control through the end of the 2015 season, making $6.7 M this year. That means the Pirates would owe just under $2.4 M the rest of the year.

Looking at the splits, Happ has dominated left-handed hitting, with an 11.84 K/9 and a 1.85 BB/9 this year. He also has a 2.10 xFIP against lefties, compared to a 4.58 xFIP against right-handers.

The Pirates must see something they think they can fix in a hurry to get him back on track. That would give them some rotation depth, which could be where he is headed, according to Ken Rosenthal.

That could be just chalked up to an assumption from Rosenthal, but A.J. Burnett has been having issues lately, and there’s this bit of information from Travis Sawchik.

So it’s possible that Happ was brought in for immediate rotation depth to deal with Burnett’s struggles. If that’s the case, the Pirates would need to hope that he pitches closer to his xFIP going forward, starting immediately. UPDATE: Burnett has been placed on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation.

As for Sampson, we rated him as the 16th best prospect in the system in our mid-season update, putting him in the same talent tier as JaCoby Jones, who was dealt for Joakim Soria yesterday. Sampson has a fastball that sits 91-94 with good command, and a curveball that has good break and can be a strikeout pitch. His changeup came along in recent years, leading to a breakout in Altoona last year. He would have been rotation depth this year, but was struggling with his command lately. He’s got the upside of a number four starter in the majors, with a chance to be a sleeper mid-rotation starter who can throw 200 innings per year.

I had Happ’s trade value at $0.8 M, although as I noted last night, starting pitchers were getting about four times their value on the trade market. That puts his value at a Grade C pitching prospect, which would describe Sampson.

This is another deal that doesn’t hurt them in the short-term or the long-term. Sampson’s value in the short-term was rotation depth, but Happ fills that need. In the long-term, he still would have been rotation depth, as the Pirates have better options for the rotation who will be making their way up in the next two years, such as Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, and Nick Kingham when he gets healthy. There is also a wave of starting pitching prospects coming up from Altoona who can fill the depth role, like Chad Kuhl, Jason Creasy, and the already promoted Angel Sanchez. So the Pirates had plenty of depth in the next few years, and several options who would be better than Sampson for the rotation.

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72 COMMENTS

  1. Think playoffs. Some players take on different roles come October. He’d be a cool lefty hammer in a short series. Wear him out.

  2. Sampson wasn’t going to be on the 40 man roster next season so thy gave up nothing in my opinion. I worry that this move is more a reflection of what happened last night and they decided they didn’t want to trust Worley and Blanton down the stretch. As for Morse that was your basic pass the trash deal

    • Don’t necessarily know that’s the case. AJ will be gone. Worley was already gone. That’s leaves Liriano, Locke, Cole, and Morton…With this full season at AAA, there’s no reason Sampson couldn’t have made the team out of spring training.

      • Other than his marginal talent at the big league level. You can surely have those 4 and 1 FA addition (or two) and mid season promote a more than average prospect in Taillon/Glasnow

        • Everyone keeps saying Taillon at mid-season. I’m far from sold on that. When April rolls around, it will be 2 1/2 years since he threw a pitch in a minor league game.

        • Everyone keeps saying Taillon at mid-season. I’m far from sold on that. When April rolls around, it will be 2 1/2 years since he threw a pitch in a minor league game.

          • I didnt say only Taillon, i meant 1 of either Taillon/Glasnow. He’d be healthy, and get 2 months in AAA. If they thought that wasnt enough, they could still promote Glasnow.

            • Oh, I didn’t mean to imply you meant only Taillon…just that, it seems, everyone is counting on him to produce next year…hopefully he will, but it’s not something I consider a lock.

              As awesome as Glasnow is, we’re still thin. Heck, when ST kicked off this year, Cumpton, Sadler, Kingham, and Sampson were our young AAA depth.

              I guess we’ll see how Happ perfroms, but I’d rather have thrown Sampson or Liz into the role…and, I’m assuming, if management knew it was going to be just a month…that’s probably the decision that would’ve been made.

                • Oh, yes…totally granted. Just as he’ll do some serious off-season work soon. I wasn’t trying to say he hadn’t thrown a ball…just that he hadn’t been in an actual game and dealt with the pressure of it…all while trying to get his groove back.

                  I wish the best for the guy. If he makes the rotation next year straight out of ST, wins ROY and CYA…I’ll be thrilled. Heck, I wouldn’t be upset to see him step up midseason and put up a sub 4 ERA. It just seems that there’s a lot of throwing him into the mix of 2016 when he hasn’t had genuine competition for a couple of years.

                  All things being equal, I just don’t see him as the top depth option next season. Free agent acquisition? Yes. Glasnow? Yes. Angel Sanchez? Yes. I don’t see Taillon on the list before those.

  3. I feel like most of the comments here involve people radically over estimating the value of Sampson and Jones. Not that they’re bad players, but definitely far from sure things, and not even top ten prospects.

    Like it says above, these are both moves from depth that made incremental improvements to the team. For this team to be successful, it’s going to primarily rely on the already established players continuing to achieve at the level that has led to them having one of the best records in baseball.

    If you avoid using names for the prospectsfor a moment, and instead using tools and organizational positioning, I think it looks a lot different. They gave up a SP prospect that is currently struggling in AAA, that throws in the low 90’s without a plus pitch and a SS prospect who occasionally hits for power, but hasn’t really inspired anyone or produced beyond the A+ level.

    In each case, there are people to fill these voids immediately. Sampson was just not going to pitch in Pittsburgh this year, that’s a reality. Beyond that, Jones is a SS project of a prospect, and the Pirates have used multiple top draft picks for SS in the last two years.

    Would people feel better if the Pirates sent players like Bell or Glasnow away? That’s what some other organizations did, relative to their own farm systems. I’m not shocked at all by what they’ve done so far, and regardless, the team will live and die with pitching and the offensive production from their outfielders.

    • You make an excellent argument. I’m willing to give Neal Huntington and his team some slack. They have built a team that made back to back playoff appearances and are a serious World Series contender this year.

  4. Have to assume there is something we don’t know, Happ seems redundant, but really no all that different to Locke and Morton.

    Worse in the run department (which in the end is all that matters) due to possibly better contact against or worse defense. More home runs surrendered because he allows more fly balls, but also has pitched more innings.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2015&month=0&season1=2012&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=2929,4676,7410

  5. Not a huge fan of this deal, but I’d be more upset if I was an O’s fan who just realized that the organization gave away two young lefties with upside for essentially nothing.

  6. In my opinion, the biggest steals were the Nats getting Papelbon and the Orioles trade for Parra.

    • Haven’t looked at the Parra trade, but agree on Papelbon. They didn’t give up much more for Paps than the Pirates did in their two big trades…

  7. If there is something wrong with Burnett and we didn’t go get a starter like Haren, shame on us…the only good news is that neither the Cards or Cubs did much to improve either.

  8. I am less than thrilled with Neil. Unlike past years this was a buyers market and Ramirez was the only big addition. I like Soria but I just think overall, even with Ramirez, they could have done ALOT better without selling the farm…

  9. Soria wasn’t a bad get, but…if they were willing to lose Jones and Sampson…I’ve gotta think they could’ve been packaged for something better than Soria/Happ.

  10. It wouldn’t be a big stretch to suggest JA Happ is around the floor for a top 15 pitching prospect.

    Maybe they were encouraged enough by Jaff’s relief appearance to conclude that any LHP who can find the plate is better than Bastardo.

  11. I doubt Happ has any options left so he can’t be stashed at iNDY for depth. There’s got to be something we don’t know.

  12. Blah. That’s my opinion of this…a lot like the Morse addition. NH didn’t try very hard…or, maybe more appropriately, just didn’t do very well

  13. I think Seattle has to be giddy about this trade…they unload a stiff like Happ for a decent young starting pitching prospect. Happ hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2009…is he supposed to be our second left-hander in the bullpen to replace Bastardo or a starter?

    I would have not done this deal…Happ is mediocre at best, and now we lost one of our last starting pitching depth in case of an injury.

    Its like we had to show that we did something, so we made this trade. Haren was the guy to get and the Cubs paid little to get him.

    • first off I think sampson projects as a middle reliever in the bigs and happ is a middle reliever on the pirates but he is a leftie. So with all these moves who goes who stays. 1-guera for soria 2- happ for a dl move for bastardo 3- morse for decker or ishikawa probably decker because he has options.

    • Decent? I mean, he’ll likely spend time as a back end rotation arm in the bigs. But his upside isnt higher than that, so he kinda limits the “decent” idea. Sampson is set for a mediocre future.

  14. NH obsession with Ex Yankee catchers = good

    NH obsession with Ex Phillie 5th starters = not so good

  15. I see Lunchbox was DFA’d. Let’s put in a claim for him and it would be like the O’s gave us Tarpley and Brault for nothing.

  16. Perhaps they want to use him as a bullpen lefty? But really this would only make sense if it preceded another deal, which there isn’t enough time for this to be the case.

  17. You know who else is rotation depth: Sampson! Probably better than Happ this year plus you have him for the next 5-6 years. Terrible deal

    • Already thin on pitching depth and we trade one with no mlb service time yet for a rental who everyone in Seattle wanted gone!

    • Personally think we overrate Sampson. I don’t think he’ll ever pitch in the majors. Of course Jack Z probably brings him right up, so I’ll refine my opinion that he never effective pitches in the majors.

      • I have liked Happ since long ago when he first came up with Philly and went 12-4, with a 2.93 ERA. Then he was traded the next year to Houston where they were looking for a miracle. It went down from there. IMO, he has always looked a lot better than the results – if that makes any sense.

        I wonder if he will pitch right away or whether he will work on the side with Benedict and Searage before starting? I see this as a can’t lose proposition for the Pirates, because Sampson had at least 4 or 5 RHP’s ahead of him and guys like Sanchez and Kuhl can add to that number.

  18. Not sure about this one. Is Happ going into the rotation? Maybe a starter to the DL (Burnett).

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