BY SPNW Staff 04:14PM 12/03/2014

Mariners swap Saunders for Jays’ LHP J.A. Happ

Ten-year veteran J.A. Happ, a 32-year-old lefty, is expected to slide into the Mariners’ rotation next season, but he can also come out of the bullpen.

J.A. Happ, who spent the last three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, can start or come out of the bullpen. / Wiki Commons

The Mariners Wednesday traded outfielder Michael Saunders to Toronto for left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ, who went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 28 starts last season. Happ, who spent the past three seasons with the Blue Jays after previous stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros, should provide rotation depth for a Seattle team trying to position itself for a playoff run.

A native of Evanston, IL., the 32-year-old Happ was selected by Philadelphia in the third round of the 2004 amateur draft. He made his major league debut June 30, 2007 and pitched for the Phillies through mid-2010, when he was sent to the Astros in a July 29 deal that included Roy Oswalt. After three years in Houston, Happ went to Toronto in a July  2012 trade.

Happ is 51-53 in his major league career with a 4.24 ERA. He won a career-high 12 games for Philadelphia in 2009 and lost a career-high 15 with Houston in 2011. He threw three complete games, including a pair of shutouts in 2009, but hasn’t had a complete game or shutout since.

Last season, he had a 4.22 ERA over 26 starts that spanned 158 innings. He fanned 133, walked 51 and had a 1.335 WHIP.

“We feel that J.A. is a nice fit to slide in to our rotation in 2015,” Zduriencik said. “They say you can never have enough starting pitching, and it is especially true that you can never have enough quality starting pitching. Pitching is our foundation here, and Happ will help us in that area.”

Happ can start or come out of the bullpen. He would be especially valuable if the Mariners, who acquired slugger Nelson Cruz Tuesday, trade some of their younger pitching in exchange for another outfield bat.

Happ is under contract through the 2015 season after signing a two-year extension with the Blue Jays last season. Happ’s contract contains a team option worth $6.7 million.

The Mariners have been seeking to trade Saunders, who turned 28 last month, since the end of the season after Saunders took exception to remarks by Zduriencik, who, in radio interviews, criticized Saunders for not doing more to get into the type of physical shape that would allow him to play a full season.

Drafted by the Mariners in the 11th round of the 2004 amateur draft, Saunders never played more than 139 games in any year since his debut July 29, 2009. Last year, Saunders saw action in 78 games, batting .273 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs. He had two stints on the disabled list.

When the season ended, Zduriencik suggested that Saunders didn’t do enough to keep himself in top condition and that he could have spent more time in the weight room. That drew a strong retort from Saunders’ agent, Mike McCann.

“It was shocking to hear that,” McCann said. “Michael was never told that there is something that needed to be changed. If there was, Michael Saunders would do it. These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that he’s lackadaisical.”

Over six seasons with Seattle, Saunders hit .231 (396×1716) with 226 runs scored, 82 doubles, 14 triples, 51 home runs and 182 RBIs in 553 games.



  • RadioGuy

    Unfulfilled promise dealt for a proven mediocrity. The M’s swap a oft-hurt .231 hitter with some potential who worked his way into Mac’s doghouse (and I get the feeling once a guy lands there, it’s usually for good) and get a career .500 pitcher who’ll struggle to make the rotation if Felix, Iwakuma, Elias, Paxton and Walker are somehow all healthy while costing them $3 million more than Saunders did last year.

    I would ordinarily give the Mariners the edge in this one if only they had more decent outfielders. Cruz should never wear a fielder’s glove again, but there’s one less man on the roster who can catch a fly ball without making an adventure of it. Ackley and Jackson should be okay, but who’s the RF? I like Jones but he’s inconsistent, Romero has some power when he makes contact…he just doesn’t make enough and Morban’s on the 40-man roster but hasn’t done anything exceptional in the minors (where he’s never been above AA). More help needed.

    • shakins

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  • jafabian

    In defense of Saunders I was also surprised at Jack’s shot at his work ethic. It’s never been an issue in the past and it’s been documented that Michael went out on his own and even hired a person to help with his hitting. That being said, I think more was expected of him at this point. He flashed consistent 20-20 potential but it never happened. For his sake I hope it happens for him. Sad to see him leave after 10 years with the M’s organization. I had hope that Ackley, Smoak and Michael would be the M’s #3, 4 and 5 hitters for years to come and that wasn’t meant to be. (I’m still not ready to commit to Dustin.)

    Happ gives the pitching staff some depth. Would like to keep him in the bullpen and see the club pick up a #2 or 3 pitcher still. Sounds like the M’s aren’t going after the marquee ones of Scherzer, Shields or Lester. Wouldn’t mind Hammel of the A’s if he’s still available.