One of the most pleasant surprises for the New York Yankees this year has been J.A. Happ. The expectations were not high for Happ given how bad he was during the 2019 season. Last year the Yankees‘ weakness was starting pitching.
Despite that being an obvious weakness, Happ didn’t start in the postseason because of how bad he was in 2019. 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA, a WHIP of 1.295, and giving up more than 30 home runs doesn’t earn you a spot in the postseason rotation.
Going into the shortened 2020 season, the Yankees were going to do everything they could to prevent Happ from vesting his option. No way did the Yankees want to be on the hook for $17 million in 2021 after what they had seen from Happ.
However, Happ has surprised everyone this season with his pitching. So far this year he’s pitched to a 3.25 ERA and a 2-2 record. However, if you take out his first two starts, Happ has pitched to an ERA of 1.93 which is absolutely incredible.
The Yankees got the best of both
The Yankees re-signed Happ after he looked great for them in the 2018 season. The market was fierce so the Yankees had to give Happ a 2 year deal at $17 million per year with a vesting third year option. The Yankees were hoping for the best of Happ, but only for two years.
Well, with the shortened season, it looks like they are going to get their wish. Happ is pitching the best the Yankees could have hoped for, and his option doesn’t appear likely to vest. Happ needed ten starts or 61.1 innings pitched. Happ is at eight starts and 44.1 innings pitched right now.
With the amount of games left, Happ will only get one more regular season start with the Yankees. Thus, his option is not going to vest and he will be a free agent after this year. The third Yankees starting pitcher that will hit the market this offseason (James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka).
The Yankees have played this perfectly. Happ is pitching at his best, and the bombers know that they won’t be on the hook for $17 million. Happ’s pitching is good enough to get him another 1-2 year deal with someone, but it won’t be for $17 million, and it won’t be with the Yankees.