Yankees indeed looking to trade J.A. Happ to free up money for Gerrit Cole

With Stephen Strasburg resetting the market for Gerrit Cole thanks to his seven-year, $245 million deal to return to the Nationals, the Yankees are now looking to shed J.A. Happ’s contract to stay in contention for Cole’s signature.

As I wrote in yesterday’s article — whoever leaked the Yankees supposed offer to Gerrit Cole for seven years, $245 million was likely doing a disservice to the Bombers in their quest to sign the former Astro.

And wouldn’t you know it, only a few hours later, Scott Boras’ other mega free-agent starting pitcher received the same exact contract to return to Washington D.C. As I see it, Boras makes both clients extremely happy. For a moment in time, Strasburg becomes the highest-paid pitcher of all time ($35M AAV).

Yet soon, possibly during Day 3 of the MLB Winter Meetings, some club may offer Cole a ludicrous amount of money — perhaps as much as $300M by some accounts.

Could the Strasburg deal see the Yankees bidding against themselves? Unfortunately, it’s not a tactic general manager Brian Cashman can wait around to find out about. Not with the Angels and Dodgers still circling.

According to Joel Shelman of the NY Post, the Yankees are indeed hoping to trade J.A. Happ and the remaining $34M on his contract ($17M AAV) before the end of the Winter Meetings.

Initially broached during the General Managers Meetings on Nov 19, Happ won’t be easy to get off the books. And that’s the concerning part.

Are the Yankees really going to wait and see if they can trade the 37-year-old left-hander before extending a sizeable offer to Cole? Or will they do all they can to lock up the 29-year-old staff ace and look to swing a trade for Happ later this winter — in order to bring some balance to the luxury tax threshold?

The Yanks may need to take a page out of their own book, such as when they included pitching prospect Bryan Mitchell in the Chase Headley trade to San Diego in 2018. Yes, it was a $13M salary dump the Padres were willing to accommodate, but they wanted something of actual value in return. Hence, Mitchell.

So now, Cashman is on the phone looking for a club that could use a reliable, albeit inconsistent aging starter. Despite his 4.91 ERA in 2019, Happ did post a 2.23 ERA during his final five starts (and one relief appearance) before moving to the bullpen for the postseason.

One possibility is the Chicago White Sox, who missed out on Zack Wheeler. After singing catcher Yasmani Grandal and extending first baseman Jose Abreu, the White Sox sit at $111M in payroll, and could easily add to it if they genuinely feel they can contend in the AL Central.

Aside from Lucas Giolito, the Sox are extremely thin in the pitching department. Reynaldo Lopez has upside; however, both Michael Kopech and Carlos Rondon will miss extended time as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Therefore, Happ could be a nice stopgap for a team that could challenge for a wild card.

Next: 5 moves the Yanks should make at Winter Meetings

Chicago would likely want a young player able to help the club in 2020 and another in a year or so. To me, that sounds like Clint Frazier and possibly Michael King. Or a package including Mike Ford and Clarke Schmidt.

Is that too much to surrender? Not if you’re all but assured Gerrit Cole is coming to the Bronx.

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