Yankees Rumors: J.A. Happ could be traded to open up payroll
Even though Yankees pitcher J.A. Happ produced a winning record in 2019, he was moved to the bullpen for the postseason run. It now appears that the club could look to deal him to save as much as $34 million over the next two years.
I never did quite understand re-signing both J.A. Happ and C.C. Sabathia last winter. I mean, why ink two veteran left-handers, neither of which was going to get the Yankees over the hump — something that another southpaw, James Paxton, did down the stretch.
Even still, 103 regular-season wins later — a sweep of the Twins in the ALDS and six hard-fought ALCS games that ended in defeat to the Astros, proved that the Yanks still missed out on acquiring a second game-changing starter to solidify their rotation. And this was only amplified after missing Luis Severino for all but five total contests.
Therefore, with a handful of exciting names on the free-agent market, the Yanks are kicking the tires on everyone from Gerrit Cole, to Stephen Strasburg and even Madison Bumgarner.
However, the estimated $208 million luxury tax threshold is a concern for ownership and could force Yankees GM Brian Cashman to get creative to open up the necessary funds to sign a top-flight starter.
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With his 3.99 career ERA and 1.308 WHIP across 1692 innings, Happ pitched much better after Aug 1, when his .215 BAA ranked 19th-best in the league.
According to Joel Sherman, who was at the recent General Managers Meetings in Arizona, Happ still has value, even as a low-end No. 3 within a particular team’s pitching staff — but he’ll need to limit a career-worst 34 long balls and 5.22 FIP in 2019.
"One outside executive who believed the Yankees would go for Cole if they could clear salary suggested that the Yankees would try to attach a desirable second piece to Happ and trade him to a starter-hungry team such as the Angels or White Sox, who would not mind the risk of the 2021 option vesting. For example, tie Luis Cessa or a pitching prospect to Happ."
While the Yankees could naturally hold on to Happ, since he’s signed for 2020 at $17 million, his vesting option of another $17M the following season — should he reach 27 starts or 165 innings in ’20 is a hindrance.
Coming off a down campaign where Happ still tossed 161.1 innings in 30 starts, which included one week of bullpen work in September — a typical, successful season from Happ could easily put him over that vesting number. During his 13-year career, Happ has averaged 190 innings per season.
If the Yankees are serious about targeting Cole or Strasburg, two pitchers with an AAV that will hover around $30M, then saving Happ’s $17M per season would undoubtedly come in handy. It also frees up an immediate spot in the rotation. It’s time for Cashman to wave his magic wand.