By Sam Bush
The Phillies whiffed on primo lefty Patrick Corbin, who signed with the NL East rival Washington Nationals.
So now the smart guys think they’ll focus on free-agent left-hander J.A. Happ, sources told MLB.com.
Happ, 36, went a combined 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA and a 3.98 FIP in 31 starts last season with the Blue Jays and Yankees.
He is 47-21 with a 3.44 ERA and 3.91 FIP over the past three seasons, pitching most of his games against the American League East.
Happ has been seeking a three-year contract.
The Phillies have also have expressed interest in Japanese free-agent left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray could be available in a trade. Free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel remains on the market.
But Happ, who was selected by the Phillies in the third round of the 2004 Draft before they traded him to Houston in July 2010 for Roy Oswalt, might be the best fit because he not only has been consistent over the past several seasons, but because he could be signed at the more reasonable price.
The Phillies’ strength last season was their rotation, so while it could use an upgrade, they don’t necessarily need to empty the farm system or back account to do it.
The financial flexibility Happ potentially provides could give the Phillies more freedom to sign free-agent shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado or outfielder Bryce Harper.
Machado could be the Phillies’ priority at this point, although Harper remains on the club’s wish list.
Corbin’s deal seems to leave the Nationals with less money to re-sign Harper. That could benefit the Phillies in the long run, if they sign him or not.