Yankees: What is going on with JA Happ’s 2021 option?


Um, are the Yankees and JA Happ about to go to an independent arbiter to talk about his 2021 contract?

UPDATE: NOPE! Happ’s option was declined by the Yankees. He’s gone.

Yankees fans have spent the offseason fretting about the team’s attempt to ball on a budget, with DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka’s future contracts far from a certainty at this point.

But what if I told you things could get … much worse?

On an otherwise peaceful Wednesday afternoon, while all of us were still basking in the glow of Kevin Cash and his bravado losing the World Series almost all by himself, MLB senior reporter (and former Yankees scribe) Mark Feinsand dropped what seemed like a little bomb.

When discussing the contract decisions the Yanks have to make in the next few days, he listed Zack Britton and his 2022 option, Brett Gardner and his 2021 club option, and … JA Happ? Wait, what? We thought that was a vesting option, which the Yankees successfully avoided?

This was the first time anyone had ever seen Happ’s option for 2021, a massive sum of money, referred to as a “club option,” which would indicate that the Yankees … have an easy decision on their hands? They can simply turn it down?

Or is there something more complicated going on here?

JA Happ Contract Details

When JA Happ signed his two-year contract with an option following the 2018 season, it goes without saying that nobody anticipated a global pandemic and some sort of tug-of-war argument over the status of the deal’s third year.

The option for 2021 was initially supposed to vest with 27 starts made or 165 innings pitched in a full-length 2020 season, but we were under the impression that those figures were adjusted to 10 starts or 61.1 innings pitched once the campaign was shortened to 60 games. Hence, the reason a struggling Happ ended up starting just nine games this season — well, one of the reasons. The other reason was he opened the campaign very, very poorly.

However, all indications are that this decision hasn’t reached the finish line yet. When Happ didn’t appear on a list of all eligible MLB free agents that dropped on Wednesday, the situation got muddier. For all intents and purposes, it would seem that Happ and the team are about to meet with an independent arbiter to figure out the official criteria that would cause the option to vest.

Perhaps Happ is going to take the Yankees to task for manipulating his innings? This could get a little ugly.

If the Yankees have to pay JA Happ $17 million in a season where they already have only $35 million or so wiggle room before they hit the first luxury tax, that could spell doom for more than just a LeMahieu extension.

After all, that’s basically half the full pot. Say goodbye to front-line starters and wave significant depth additions au revoir.

We’ve got to spend a lot of time crossing our fingers these next few days.