Saunders dealt to Toronto for J.A. Happ
Looking to add veteran depth to one of the American League’s top pitching staffs, the Mariners acquired left-hander J.A. Happ from the Blue Jays on Wednesday in exchange for outfielder Michael Saunders.
The Mariners have not announced the trade, but a source confirmed the news to MLB.com.
Happ, 32, went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 30 games (26 starts) as the fifth starter for Toronto last season. The eight-year Major League veteran has a contract for $6.7 million for 2015 and will be a free agent next year.
Saunders, 28, has been with the Mariners his entire career since being drafted in the 11th round in 2004, including the past six years in the Majors. He put up a .273/.341/.450 line with eight home runs and 34 RBIs last year, but played only 78 games due to two trips to the disabled list with a sprained shoulder and a strained oblique.
Saunders hit .231/.301/.384 in 553 games in his time with Seattle, with his best season coming in 2012 when he hit 19 home runs with 21 stolen bases and a .247 average in 139 games.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik wanted to add a veteran to a rotation that is topped by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and also returns a trio of talented youngsters in James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias, who all pitched as rookies last season.
With Chris Young departing in free agency, Happ apparently fills that role. The 6-foot-5 southpaw has a career record of 51-53 with a 4.24 ERA and 1.387 WHIP. He went 19-20 with a 4.39 ERA in three seasons in Toronto, but pitched only 10 games in 2012 due to a broken foot and 18 games in 2013 after being hit in the head with a line drive that put him on the disabled list for three months in midseason.
Happ started out last season on the disabled list with a back issue and then pitched out of the bullpen upon his return, but soon was moved into the rotation and wound up throwing 158 innings, his highest total since his rookie season with the Phillies when he was 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Happ pitched in eight playoff games with the Phillies in 2008-09, including two relief appearances in the ’09 World Series against the Yankees.