Yankees may target relievers instead of more questionable starters

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 27: Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 27, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 27: Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 27, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

After watching the Yankees beat up on starter J.A. Happ and learning that Cole Hamels lasted just two-thirds of an inning, Jon Heyman reported the Yanks are interested in left-handed relievers Zach Britton and Brad Hand.

The Yankees facing off against J.A. Happ on Saturday in Toronto was a bit of an audition. Not that anyone associated with the Evil Empire wanted to see Happ completely shut down the pinstripes.

Instead, we were looking to see if the 35-year-old Happ truly has what it takes to nullify a dominant offense. Since that’s what he’d be tasked to do versus the Red Sox and Astros should general manager Brian Cashman acquire the free-agent-to-be.

Perhaps feeling a bit of pressure to impress, Happ allowed two home runs within his first five pitches of the game (Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge). It didn’t get much better from there, as the Blue Jays’ best trade chip only lasted 2.2 innings while allowing six runs, four hits, six walks and five strikeouts, resulting in his shortest outing of the season.

Though Happ is still 10-5 with a 4.44 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and has 115 strikeouts in 105.1 innings, in his last seven outings, Happ hasn’t lived up to his top-tier billing: 3-2, 5.45 ERA, 35 hits allowed in 39.2 innings. 

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Now, these numbers aren’t to say that the Yankees shouldn’t trade for Happ. Instead, they act as a warning sign that the Yanks would be wise not to back up the truck in terms of prospects for anyone other than Jacob deGrom or Madson Bumgarner.

And as a recent Giants executive told Andrew Baggarly, any talk of Bumgarner to the Yankees is “California dreaming.” So there’s that.

The same goes for Cole Hamels of the Rangers, who also suffered a miserable defeat on Saturday. In only two-thirds of an inning, the 34-year-old Hamels allowed seven runs (three earned) on five hits, walking two and striking out a pair.

Hamels, who comes with a $20 million option for 2019 and a no-trade clause, has now allowed 18 runs (14 earned) in his last three starts, which have culminated in just 10.2 innings pitched.

The allure of Hamels lies in his Postseason experience; however, if he pitches as he has across his last eight outings: 1-4, 5.48 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in 44.1 innings, there is a real possibility Hamels could do more harm than good, ala Sonny Gray.

Perhaps the thin market for realistic tradeable starters is why the Yankees may turn their attention to acquiring arms to come out of the ‘pen.

With Aroldis Chapman forced to exit Saturday’s contest after getting one out in the ninth inning due to persistent left knee tendinitis, there is some concern whether or not the Yankee closer will be able to complete the season without a DL stint.

Because Chasen Shreve is well, Chasen Shreve, Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees are interested in a pair of left-handed relievers: Zach Britton of the Orioles and Brad Hand of the Padres.

Britton, 30, has missed much of the past two seasons, including recovery from a torn right Achilles tendon, and hasn’t been very good in his first 11 outings this season. In 10.2 innings, Britton has a 5.06 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 8:7 K:BB ratio.

On the bright side, in Britton’s last three outings, the free agent at season’s end has worked three scoreless frames. Should the Yanks acquire him around July 31, they’d only be on the hook for about $3.67 million, leaving enough room under the luxury tax threshold for another viable arm.

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As for Hand, whom the Padres were recently rumored to be asking the Red Sox for young third baseman Rafael Devers for in a possible swap, the 28-year-old has a 3.05 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while striking out 61 batters and notching 24 saves in 41 innings pitched.

Signed until 2021 for $19.75 million, and a $10 million club option for a fourth season, Hand will undoubtedly cost more than Britton. For now, we must wait to see how Brian Cashman gets the best bang for his buck and for whom that includes.