What to Make of the Cubs’ Extension of Outfielder Ian Happ

Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs

After months of trade rumors last season, Ian Happ won’t be leaving the north side of Chicago any time soon. The Cubs announced that it agreed to a three-year extension with the impending free agent, a move that’s set to keep a key part of Chicago’s offense in town for the immediate future.

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A Look at Happ

The Cubs made Ian Happ the ninth overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft, when Chicago selected him out of the University of Cincinnati after a standout college career. Happ jumped up to the Majors after less than two seasons in the Minors, and slugged 24 home runs over 115 games in his rookie campaign.

The 28-year-old has gone through funks over the course of his six-year career, but Happ’s been relatively consistent in terms of power and his ability to get on base. The 28-year-old posted an on-base percentage north of .340 in three of his six seasons and hit double digits in every single one of his six seasons, including in 2020 when he socked 12 homers for the 2020 NL Central champions.

Last season, Happ hit .271/.342/.440 with 17 home runs, 61 extra base hits, and 72 runs batted in. The Cubs outfielder earned his first NL All-Star appearance in 2022 and a Gold Glove for his work in left field.

A switch-hitter, Happ does have good splits against both lefties and righties, although his OPS is a bit lower against left-handed pitching. Here’s a look at his career splits as of April 12:

  • LHP: .248/.320/.391 (.711 OPS), 15 HR, 43 XBH over 592 PA (7.2 XBH%)
  • RHP: .251/.348/.483 (.831 OPS), 90 HR, 192 XBH over 1,891 PA (10.2% XBH)

Happ was set to be a free agent at the end of the 2023 season. Per reports, Happ will receive $61 million over the three seasons along with a full no-trade clause. Happ is not the only Cub to receive an extension in recent weeks, as Nico Hoerner signed a similar three-year extension a few weeks earlier.

A Look at the Cubs

The extension of Happ comes just a few months after rumors that the Cubs were prepared to trade him at the 2022 deadline. That did not occur, and now the Cubs are set to keep the 28-year-old around for another few years.

Happ is now set to be in Chicago until the end of the 2026 season. The extension marks a move that keeps the 28-year-old around at a time where the Cubs looked to continue progress towards becoming a contender, a process expedited in recent years with the signings of Marcus Stroman and Dansby Swanson. If the Cubs want to stay the course, keeping a quality power hitter than can hit anywhere from 15-25 home runs makes sense — even with what is in the Chicago prospect pipeline.

Chicago does have a number of outfield prospects creeping up in Alexander Canario, Brennen Davis, and Pete Crow-Armstrong, the latter of whom was acquired from the Mets in the Javier Baez deal in 2021. The Cubs also have youngster Kevin Alcantara in Myrtle Beach (A+), who could factor into the equation as early as 2024.

Despite those prospects, it’s wise for the Cubs to retain a very reliable power-hitter in Happ that can do damage against both lefties and righties and move around the field. And at 28 years of age, the Cubs aren’t locked into a lengthy deal that could bite back over time. Plain and simple, Happ is the kind of player a team like the Cubs — who could return into contention quicker than originally thought — should retain for the immediate future.

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