Yankees: JA Happ has no right to call out team about vesting option


Yankees pitcher JA Happ indicated the team is keeping him from playing to avoid paying him.

Look, we’re all for players expressing confidence in their game and wanting to play as much as possible, but New York Yankees pitcher JA Happ seems to be going about this all wrong.

The veteran left-hander — who was acquired at the 2018 deadline, shined in 11 starts, and then signed a big three-year $48 million contract — has largely been a disaster since. He registered a 4.91 ERA in 31 games (30 starts) last year (across just 161.1 innings) and got off to a horrible start in 2020 when he was knocked around by the Phillies and O’s.

His last outing against the Red Sox was at least somewhat encouraging, but at this point it’s clear, especially in a 60-game sprint, that manager Aaron Boone is going to pitch Gerrit Cole as often as he’s permitted to do so. Happ was skipped over in the rotation again after the team’s layoff due to the Subway Series postponement, and he’s not happy about it.

And he alluded to the team keeping him out to save money!

In short, Happ needs (according to the last report from a few months ago), 10 starts or 60 innings pitched for his $17 million option to vest for the 2021 season (prior to the 2020 season getting delayed, he would have needed 27 starts or 165 IP). In either scenario based on his 2019 performance, both of those seemed to be longshots.

In all honesty, most people can understand Happ’s frustration. The 2020 season being cut down drastically has slashed his pay (he was set to earn $17 million and will now make $6.29 million) and it’s very obvious that a) he cannot be relied upon to pitch every five days after the way he started season and b) the Yankees won’t force it just to be on the hook for another $17 million.

But that’s the reality. And if he has a problem with it, he should probably take it up with manager Aaron Boone or general manager Brian Cashman instead of taking shots at the team through the media. There’s already been enough hardship and drama 25 games into the campaign.

Perhaps the Yankees would’ve been more encouraged by his good outing against Boston his last time out if the Red Sox didn’t have a terrible offense and didn’t just become the first team in MLB to 20 losses this past Sunday. Also, Happ’s simply not getting the ball over Gerrit Cole or Masahiro Tanaka. Is that hard to comprehend? Nobody else is, either.

If not for the Yankees facing two delays due to the Marlins and Mets testing positive for COVID-19, then maybe we’re not in this situation and Happ is getting regular outings. But the long layoffs, coupled with his lackluster pitching, have given Boone the opportunity to shuffle the rotation and pitch Cole more with the extra days off.

That’s just the way it has to be because the Yankees need to put themselves in a position to win every single night.