Currently leading the National League Central division by only 1.5 games as the end of May draws closer and closer, the Chicago Cubs have a bit of an issue that needs fixing. Their positional player depth, while a strong suit for the franchise this season, is making it a bit tough to juggle for manager Joe Maddon.
The easy fix? Trade from their surplus to address their biggest weakness, their bullpen.
The difficult part about that is figuring out exactly who would be traded from the Cubs. Easy answer? Ian Happ.
The cousin of Ethan Happ, the former University of Wisconsin-Madison basketball player, Ian was sent down to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs at the end of Spring Training this year, which came across as a bit of a surprise to some. Maddon used the reason, or excuse, of not having enough at-bats for Happ to see regular playing time as to why Happ was sent down to start the year in the minor leagues.
Obviously overperforming his status as a minor leaguer, Happ has been biding his time down in Iowa ever since the year opened up, not even having been called up once this season. For the Cubs to have such a talent as Happ is biding his time down in the minor leagues, they would be better suited to take his talent and ship him out to a team that could provide the big-league Cubs with help for their roster.
The San Francisco Giants look to be a good bet to be involved in any talks with Chicago, as they have a stable of relief pitchers that are ripe for the picking for any contending teams. Along with the Giants, the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and the Baltimore Orioles look to be other squads that have arms that are up for sale for others to choose from.
Giants left-hander Will Smith is one of the better arms on the market and looks to be the best lefty available, so there may become a bidding war for the former Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers bullpen asset. Happ would fit right into any talks for Smith, and a swap involving both Happ and Smith would be a smart move for both franchises.
When up in the major leagues, Happ has provided the Cubs with quality utility play, moving all across the diamond to showcase his immense value. From second base to center field, Happ is a multi-tool positional player who was a huge weapon for Maddon off the bench for pinch-hitting opportunities.
While only hitting .233 in 2018 across 142 games and 102 starts, 15 home runs, and 70 walks make up for that low average figure. His best MLB season was his rookie year in 2017 when he hit .253 with 24 long balls and 68 runs were driven in 115 games and 89 starts.
Theo Epstein and company know exactly what they are doing in the front office, and their handling of Happ, while a bit upsetting to the player due to his proven prowess in the big leagues, is ultimately a good way to drive up value due to keeping his “prospect” status a bit intact, even with how much MLB playing time he has.
By trading Happ, the Cubs can capitalize on proven talent while building up a sore spot of their roster in their bullpen, which would be an immense help in their quest to getting back to the playoffs.