It finally happened. The New York Yankees made the sexy free-agent splash that all fans have been begging for over the last few years when they reeled in their “White Whale” Gerrit Cole. The Yankees gave Cole a record-breaking 9-year, $324 million contract to come in and be the ace of the staff.
With Cole now in the fold, the Yankees are looking to deal J.A. Happ. Last offseason, The Yankees signed J.A. Happ to a 2-year, $34 million contract with a $17 million vesting option for 2021. The Yankees were familiar with Happ and loved his track-record in the AL East, specifically in the Bronx. They were able to acquire J.A. Happ in July of 2018 for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. In his first half-season with the Yanks, Happ was tremendous posting a 7-0 record with a 2.69 ERA.
Happ didn’t even come close to living up to his new contract in 2019, posting a 12-8 record with a 4.91 ERA and a FIP of 5.22 (Baseball-Reference). Throughout the year, I didn’t notice a tremendous drop-off in Happ’s stuff, but he could not keep the ball in the ballpark. Despite having a bounce-back September, Happ did not start a single game in the postseason, which saw the Yankees again fall short of making the World Series. Now that the Yankees have Gerrit Cole and a payroll that has swelled to close to $260 million, it’s time for them to shed some salary and dump J.A. Happ.
Now, you’d think with the numbers that he posted last year, there wouldn’t be a ton of interest in clubs picking up Happ’s $17 million contract. However, multiple teams have been talking to the Yankees about Happ, Empire Sports Media has learned. Teams that have reached out to the Yankees include the Brewers, Blue Jays, Rangers, Padres, and Angels.
Happ has a career track-record as a solid starting pitcher, and with the prices going drastically up for starting pitching, Happ is an attractive commodity. To me, the Brewers make a lot of sense for Happ as they are looking for another starting pitcher and currently have a hole at third that could be filled by Miguel Andujar.
Where could Happ land if the New York Yankees trade him?
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has been reporting that the Yankees are “the most active pursuer” of Brewers’ All-Star Josh Hader. Could the Yankees package Andujar, Happ, and prospects for the star reliever? The deal is something that could materialize, but I would not hold your breath. Meanwhile, the Angels are a team that is desperate for starting pitching help. After missing out on guys like Cole, Strasburg, and Kluber, you might see the Angels make a push to acquire Happ. The Blue Jays are another team that is looking to add a veteran starter and are interested in a Happ reunion.
What we do know is that unless the Yankees drastically change course, J.A. Happ is not going to be wearing pinstripes next season. The interest is there from multiple clubs, and the Yankees would love to get their payroll down as much as they can. The Yankees currently have 42 men on the active roster factoring in Gerrit Cole and Brett Gardner. Gerrit Cole’s press conference is being rumored to occur tomorrow, December 18th, so we could see a move today. Will it be J.A. Happ? Time will tell.