DUNEDIN, Fla. -- This has turned into quite the week for Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ.
First, there was the news Tuesday night that he won the final spot in Toronto's rotation over Ricky Romero. Then, the club announced Wednesday that Happ signed a two-year contract extension worth $8.9 million that includes a club option for 2015.
In a matter of 48 hours, Happ went from someone who seemed destined for the Minor Leagues to becoming a key part of the Blue Jays' postseason aspirations.
"It certainly has been a great few days," Happ said during a Thursday news conference. "There was a long time before that where it wasn't quite as easy, but this kind of makes it all worth it.
"The best thing about this for me is it just creates even more excitement than I already had to be here and be a part of this club. Just really looking forward to a lot of fun and hopefully some great things this year."
The timing of the deal might seem odd, but it's something the Blue Jays started to explore in January. There were initial discussions prior to Happ signing a one-year contract to avoid arbitration.
The parameters had been set a long time ago, but the Blue Jays wanted to wait and see how Happ recovered from a fractured right foot he suffered late last season. When Happ eventually proved he was healthy, it didn't take long for both sides to officially agree to the deal.
The fact that Happ originally appeared destined for Triple-A Buffalo had little impact on the negotiations, according to general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Toronto signed catcher Josh Thole to a two-year contract earlier this offseason, even though he was destined for the Minors.
"There was no promises and no guarantees [with Thole], and then the entire time with this, there was still no promises or no guarantees," Anthopoulos said. "But it was a way to obviously give J.A. some financial security and obviously some cost certainty with the club.
"It was unique in a lot of ways. But it was just one of those things, you don't want to promise something and then have to go backwards, say, 'This is the way things are going to be,' and all of a sudden it changes."
The Blue Jays already had Happ under control through the 2014 season. He was eligible for arbitration at the end of this year, but in theory could have been non-tendered by the club. The money is now guaranteed, and in return, Toronto has the option of taking away Happ's first year of free agency with a club option in 2015 valued at $6.7 million.
That's in line with the club policy of extending players before they can hit the open market. The Blue Jays refuse to guarantee money to a player in a multi-year deal unless at least one of the free agent years is potentially taken away with a team option.
There are risks for both sides, but there is also a mutual understanding despite a spring filled with uncertainty about Happ's role and standing within the organization.
"I'm excited to have him," said Anthopoulos, who acquired Happ in a multi-player deal with the Astros last season. "J.A. did a good job for us when he came over. He takes care of himself, very good competitor. Like I've said before, when you're giving out contracts, you have to feel good about who you're giving it to.
"It's something that made a lot of sense for us. Excited that J.A. wanted to be a part of it. We had him under control next year anyways, but it was a way to get cost certainly for us and for J.A. Excited to move forward and hopefully have a strong year."
Happ now has the ability to move forward and put a somewhat controversial Spring Training behind him. The veteran lefty made waves earlier in camp when he publicly proclaimed he was a Major League starter, despite the club's supposed desire to either option him to the Minors or find a spot in long relief.
Throughout the spring, Anthopoulos repeated several times that he didn't have an issue with the comments. Anthopoulos would rather have a player be upset than simply accept a role that's less than what he should be striving for.
But all of that becomes history now, as Game 5 of the regular season on April 6 against Boston belongs to Happ -- something he felt all along that he deserved.
"In my mind, I knew where I should be, and it was a matter of trying to convince [Anthopoulos]," said Happ, who owns a 4.19 ERA in 590 career innings. "Coming into camp, it was stay positive and do your thing. That's kind of what I heard from everybody that I was talking to and that's what I tried to do. It took a little longer than I would have liked, maybe, but it worked out great."