What makes the prospect of trading for Happ so compelling is the fact that he’s a left fielder who has actually been more productive than Benintendi at the plate, and he has an additional year of team control. The catch is that the Cubs, as evidenced by the amount of money they spent in free agency on Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki, clearly don’t plan on staying in the basement for too long. Happ is about to turn 28, meaning he’d still be an asset by the time the team plans on competing. So, not only is it uncertain as to whether Chicago wants to trade him, the extra year of team control would make the asking price a bit steeper. That said, if the two sides can negotiate a trade, I think it would be more beneficial for Houston than acquiring Benintendi.
I believe that Ian Happ has been the best full-time left fielder in the NL this season. That may seem like a bold claim, as he didn’t carry much name value until this year. However, he ranks 2nd among them in OPS (.807, behind only Kyle Schwarber), and 1st in both wRC+ and wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs. Happ’s actual wOBA exceeds his xwOBA by about 20 points and he has a slightly inflated .344 BABIP, but he has made plenty of sustainable improvements at the plate. His strikeout rate is down nearly 8% from a season ago, and while he probably won’t beat his career-high 25 home runs, he’s still slugging at a higher clip than last year because he has already surpassed his previous career-high in doubles.
Happ is also much improved on the defensive side of the ball. He has only made 2 errors in over 700 innings between left and center field, and while he was worth 5 outs below average according to Statcast in 2021, he has broken even in 2022, currently sitting at league-average. In comparison to Benintendi, Happ essentially has slightly worse contact and on-base capabilities with a far better power swing (.162 ISO compared to .081). They have an identical wRC+ this season at 126, but Happ’s well-roundedness offensively, as well as his contract extending into next year, makes him seem like a better alternative despite the slightly steeper price tag.