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J.A. Happ could bring balance to the Rockies starting rotation in 2016

In a rotation that looks to be very young and right-handed next season, J.A. Happ could be a veteran, left-handed option that would be in the Rockies' price range.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If the Rockies look to add a pitcher this offseason, and they might given the state of the 2017 free agent class of arms, veteran J.A. Happ could be a good option for them.

The 33-year-old southpaw is coming off his best season since 2010. In 172 innings in 2015, he posted a 3.61 ERA and 1.27 WHIP to go with his 3.41 FIP, 45 walks and 151 strikeouts. Happ was especially good after joining the Pirates at the trade deadline; in 11 starts with Pittsburgh, he had a 1.85 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 63⅓ innings.

His time with the Pirates in 2015 also saw Happ make his first career start at Coors Field on September 22. He pitched 5⅓ innings, allowing three runs, all earned, on seven hits, including a home run by Wilin Rosario, with a walk and eight strikeouts. The eight strikeouts were part of a trend for Happ, as he struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings after joining the Pirates, which would have been his career high in a full season. Happ did post a career-best 2.4 walks per nine innings in 2015.

Happ has played for five teams in nine seasons in his career, with a 4.13 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 1,012⅔ innings. He also has a 4.20 FIP, 399 walks and 859 strikeouts.

A concern with bringing Happ to Coors Field would be his below-average ground ball rate, which for his career sits at 38.7 percent. His ground ball rate has been trending in the right direction, however, at 40.6 percent in 2014 and 41.6 percent in 2015, though that still puts him on the low end of what Rockies Rockies starters have produced in recent years.

Of course, the issue with pitching at Coors Field is not just inducing ground balls, but keeping the ball in the ballpark, something Happ has done fairly well in his career, allowing 1.08 home runs per nine innings, and was excellent at in 2015, allowing just 0.84 homers per nine. Both of those numbers are in line with some of Aaron Cook's best years in Colorado.

As for his repertoire, Happ's bread and butter is a four-seam fastball that he throws more than half the time and that sits at 91-to-93 mph. He complements it with a two-seamer in the 89-to-92 mph range. In addition to the fastball, he has a trio of off-speed pitches, all of which he throws roughly 10 percent of the time, his slider and changeup both are in the 83-to-85 mph range and his curveball sits at 76-to-78 mph.

A point in Happ's favor is simply that he is left handed. Aside from Jorge De La Rosa, most of the Rockies rotation options for 2016 are right-handed, a group that includes Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Eddie Butler, Jordan Lyles and Tyler Chatwood, so they could be looking to add another lefty to the group. Happ would also provide another veteran to the rotation which will likely include just one pitcher over the age of 30 at this point.

Happ would also come in a price range that the Rockies would likely be comfortable with. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman has projected that Happ will receive a contract of two years, $25 million, while both Dave Cameron and Carson Cistulli have both projected Happ to get a three-year deal for $24 million and $33 million, respectively. None of those deals would break the bank from the Rockies point of view.

It is also important to note that being traded during the season means that Happ was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer from the Pirates, meaning that unlike several other free agent pitchers, signing him would not cost the Rockies a draft pick.

The Rockies have said they are looking to add pitching this offseason, and if that is the case, Happ may be one of the arms they have an eye on. He may not be the first name that jumps to the minds of many, but he could be an interesting pickup for the Rockies.