New York Yankees: Latest on Josh Hader & J.A. Happ

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone
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A month ago, the hot stove was cooking for the New York Yankees. The Yankees had agreed to terms with Gerrit Cole and Brett Gardner, and they were hot on the trail for star reliever Josh Hader. In addition to looking to acquire Hader, they were talking with multiple clubs about trading starting pitcher J.A. Happ. So, what has happened in the last month? The Yankees have been very quiet, and all talks that they had going on have seemed to cool. I’ve reached out to a few folks to see if I could get a read on what is going on in the world of the New York Yankees.

What’s up with Josh Hader?

Let’s start with the Josh Hader rumors. Empire Sports was reporting that the Yankees were “Aggressive” in their pursuit of Josh Hader a few weeks ago. That information came from sources close to the Brewers organization. Various reports in the mainstream media were linking Josh Hader to the Yankees.

Well, the Yankees were aggressive, but mostly have backed away from the poker table with the Brewers. What I mean by that is they have let the Brewers know where they would go to acquire him and scooted back from the table after laying those cards down.

The two teams discussed Miguel Andujar, Deivi Garcia, and multiple other prospects, but it’s not known what offers, if any, Cashman put up for Hader. Cashman is known for being a tough negotiator and usually only offers something when he’s really serious, whether it be a trade offer or a free agent contract. He often speaks in parameters instead of solid pieces.

I think another thing that has stalled the Josh Hader talks is his arbitration hearing. Hader is a super two player who filed for a record, $6.4 million, while the Brewers came in at $4.1 million. That is a considerable gap, and many teams backed away without knowing precisely what Hader will be making next year. Remember, the Brewers have never needed to trade Hader but were entertaining offers because of the haul that they could get for him considering his four years of club control.

The Brewers still have holes on their roster, but not as many as they did a month ago, making the deal less and less likely. I think after Hader’s salary is determined, you will see teams revisit the Hader discussions, but the sources I spoke to in Milwaukee, who were once confident he would get traded, now believe he will likely start the season in Milwaukee.

Is Happ going to be a Yankee in 2020?

In my first article with Empire Sports, I talked about how the Yankees trading J.A. Happ was inevitable. J.A. Happ is set to make a whopping $17 million this upcoming season after his awful 2019 season. He was so bad that he didn’t even make one start in the postseason for the New York Yankees. J.A. Happ is a solid veteran pitcher, but he is not worth the $17 million he is owed in 2020.

The Yankees have been exploring deals all offseason with teams to see if they could get anyone to take on his salary in 2020. The Yankees payroll is close to $260 million, which is over the third luxury tax threshold. From what I can tell, the Yankees have kept dialogue alive with multiple clubs about J.A. Happ.

However, teams are very reluctant to take on the money that Happ is owed, and they are just in their caution. The Yankees would only get someone to take Happ’s full contract if they attached a top prospect with him. At one point, it looked like the Yankees might be willing to do that, but it has become apparent that they are not enthusiastic about that option.

I personally still believe that Happ will get traded before the season starts. The trade could come in the next couple of weeks, or it could occur during the final week of Spring Training. I think the Yankees envision Jordan Montgomery as their fifth starter for 2020 behind Cole, Severino, Paxton, and Tanaka. Time will tell if Happ is still on the team, but if the Yankees do hold onto Happ, you can bet they will manipulate his innings, so his $17 million option does not vest for 2021.