Credit for the ad to the marvellous @JAHappster
JA ("Jay", or if you prefer, "Jah") Happ has returned to the Blue Jays on a 3-year deal for $36MM.
I'm a little unsure of how I feel about this deal. On the one hand, I had postulated that Happ would be looking at at least a 3-year deal for $14MM a season, so I feel somewhat pleased that my guess was close, and relieved that the Jays didn't overpay for Happ. Happ was a 3-WAR pitcher last season, and even though much of that value was accumulated over the final third of the season (in Pittsburgh), $12MM is not a lot to spend for a 3 fWAR player. Happ stayed healthy last season, made 30+ starts for the first time in his career, and posted a fairly impressive 7.9 : 2.4 strikeout:walk ratio.
And, bonus: If you were among the pessimists that were convinced that Mark Shapiro was going to bring the Jays budget down, then this is good news: The team has committed $62 million to Happ and Estrada over the next 2 seasons. Even if you don't think Happ is a superstar (and to be fair, he isn't), he provides the team with another mid-rotation arm that should keep the Jays competitive in 2016. Stroman-Estrada-Happ-Dickey-someone else (Hutch, Chavez, mystery pitcher) is a pretty solid rotation.
On the other hand, it's getting progressively harder to talk myself into the idea that the Jays will be players for any really big names over this offseason. I did my best to argue for a David Price signing, but I can't really see the team coughing up $25-30MM annually on top of the $24MM or so they have already committed to Estrada and Happ. So, likely no Price, or Greinke, or any other top-tier free agent. Depending on how likely you thought it was that the Jays would spend $200MM on anyone, this may be a disappointment to you.
And the other thing, let's not forget, is that last year was the first time Happ cracked the 170 inning barrier, or the 2 WAR barrier. Happ was beset with injuries during the early part of his Jays career, but he was healthy in 2014 and managed just 1 WAR based on a 4.27 FIP and 158 innings. Happ often struggled to pitch into the 6th inning and beyond during his last stint in Toronto, and even during his hot (11 starts, 1.85 ERA, 2.19 FIP) stretch in Pittsburgh, Happ made just one start that saw him get batters out after the end of the 6th inning. His game high for innings over the season was 7.1. Considering the question marks the Jays have in middle relief (i.e. there isn't anyone, right now), that's not a good sign.
Could Happ be as good in Toronto as he was in Pittsburgh? There's no way to say, but if nothing else, he should be pitching in front of a better defense (Tulo/Goins/Travis instead of Reyes/Kawasaki/Goins, Pillar instead of Rasmus) than he did in 2014. And the Jays do have a great offense, which means average pitching (or worse - Drew Hutchison, anyone?) can be all that's needed. This isn't a bad move. It's just not a great move.