Yankees: Predicting Which Free Agents Return in 2021

New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Departing Free Agents

New York Yankees starter JA Happ (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The New York Yankees will have to let a few free agents walk in 2021.

All of New York’s certain departures next winter are at least somewhat ancillary. Chad Bettis and Adam Warren, both veteran options that the NYY extended an olive branch to either at the last moments of Spring Training or during his injury rehab last year, in Warren’s case, will both be replaced by similar shots in the dark next spring.

JA Happ, however, is the interesting case. He went from nearly guaranteed to return to New York in 2021 to likely the exact opposite scenario right now. His vesting option was assured, with Luis Severino and James Paxton’s injuries thinning the rotation significantly. Suddenly, Happ was the team’s No. 3 starter, and new pitching coach Matt Blake had to say all the right things about how excited he was to work with the whippy lefty.

2019 was not kind to Happ — after an exceptional sprint to the finish in 2018, his fastball became several levels flatter after his extension was signed. Happ posted a 4.91 ERA in ’19, lowered by an excellent September/October (1.65 ERA in four starts). If he’s not required to be on the roster in 2021 thanks to a previous agreement, though, we can’t see the Yankees taking a chance again on Happ’s age 38 season.

Adding Happ wouldn’t be importing a veteran “sure thing,” at this point. It would be adding an aging question mark. Their rotation money has to be split elsewhere.