If the playoffs started today, who would start game 3 for the New York Yankees?

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

After an extremely rough and depressing stretch, the New York Yankees finally look like themselves again. The bombers have won four straight games to pull within a half game of the second place Toronto Blue Jays.

A week ago, people were starting to wonder if the Yankees would even make the playoffs. Now, everything is starting to click for the Yankees from their hitting to their starting pitching and bullpen. Now, I’m starting to think about the playoffs and this Yankees rotation.

For the Yankees, the first two games are relatively easy choices. Gerrit Cole would obviously get the ball in game one, and likely Tanaka would get the ball in game two. However, game three isn’t very clear. Who would the Yankees start in a game 3 in the playoffs this year?

The Yankees Options?

Fortunately, the Yankees do have a few options for a third playoff game. If they were in a be in a do or die game three in the wild card round, Aaron Boone has three guys that he could look to for a solid start. None would probably give the Yankees fan base an extreme amount of confidence.

J.A. Happ

The first option would be the veteran lefty J.A. Happ. Happ has started six games this year for the Yankees and he’s pitched to a 1-2 record with a 4.31 ERA. Now, he has been much better over his last four starts. Happ has pitched to a 2.59 ERA since his August 16th start.

While Yankees fans aren’t extremely comfortable with Happ, he honestly might be the safest choice. He’s pitched in the playoffs, and when he’s on, you know what he’s going to give you. Given the experience, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Happ get the ball.

Jordan Montgomery

The next option would be the big lefty, Jordan Montgomery. There were high expectations for Montgomery entering the season given what he did as a rookie, but he’s seen a mixed bag of results so far in his 2020 campaign for the Yankees.

Montgomery has pitched to a 2-2 record with a 4.76 ERA in eight starts this year. Montgomery looked really good yesterday against the Orioles, but this comes just two starts after he couldn’t get out of the first against the Rays. Montgomery is a solid pitcher, but I’m not sure I’d trust him with the ball in a game 3.

Deivi Garcia

The final option for the Yankees would be the rookie, Deivi Garcia. I can honestly say that Garcia has far surpassed my expectations in his first three starts, Garcia has pitched to a 1-1 record with a 3.06 ERA.

His last start blew me away. With the Yankees sputtering, Garcia went out and pitched seven strong innings against the Blue Jays leading the Yankees to a win that snapped their losing streak. Garcia has proven that he belongs in the rotation. Would Boone give him the ball in a game 3 is the question.

The Yankees Decision?

I think that ultimately we are going to need to watch how these three pitch the rest of the season. If things ended today, I think that the Yankees would probably lean towards a rotation of Cole-Tanaka-Happ in the playoffs. While many would love to see Garcia get that start, I think Boone values the experience of Happ.

New York Yankees: Good news and bad news following win over Mets

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

With the rain holding back on Saturday afternoon as the New York Yankees took on the New York Mets, the Bombers managed to scrape out a victory in the final moments of the game. It seems as if DJ LeMahieu is a good luck charm, after all, losing seven straight before claiming a victory.

LeMahieu returned after spraining his left thumb against the Boston Red Sox about two weeks ago. He recorded one hit on the day, which was a triple to deep right field.

FINAL SCORE: 2-1

Good news and bad news for the New York Yankees:

GOOD NEWS:

The good news—victory. Finally, the Yankees were able to muster the energy to get back into the winning category, despite falling to 17-13 on the season.

While this was a close victory, the Yankees‘ offense sparked in the ninth-inning with Clint Frazier earning a leadoff walk and newly signed Jordy Mercer logging a one-out single to move Frazier to third base.

If not for a first-inning Luke Voit homer, though, the Yankees wouldn’t have been in the game at all. Dellin Betances threw a wild pitch to end the game, with Frazier scoring from third. This is a massive victory for the Yankees and hopefully will provide some momentum moving forward into a doubleheader on Sunday.

Pitching wise, starter JA Happ had a phenomenal game, lasting 7.1 innings and allowing just three hits. He tossed 90 pitches and proved that he should be in the starting rotation more frequently. Recently, he’s been under fire for indicating that the Yankees were keeping him out of the rotation, so they don’t have to pick up his vesting option in 2021. If he makes ten starts or pitches 60 1/3 innings, they have to pay him $17 million on a one year deal next year.

BAD NEWS:

The bad news, the Yankees just barely scraped out another win against a lowly Mets team.

Aroldis Chapman had a few scary moments in the ninth-inning, and Adam Ottavino gave up a game-tying homer in the eighth. Once again, the bullpen was tumultuous and cannot be relied on consistently. That makes three blown leads in the latter half of games the past two days. The Yankees had a lead four times during their seven-game losing streak, blowing all four of them and losing in the end.

The inability to produce any offense has been problematic, combined with skeptic pitching.

New York Yankees: J.A. Happ hints the Yankees are doing him dirty

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

“It’s pretty clear,” New York Yankees‘ J.A. Happ said regarding the organization utilizing him less to stray from committing to a 2021 contract trigger.

If you haven’t noticed, Happ has been seeing less and less playing time as the season goes on. While he believes it is due to the 2021 trigger that would occur if he starts in 10 games or reaches 61 1/3 innings, it is primarily due to the fact that he is a struggling arm in a questionable starting rotation.

Happ stated that to his “understanding it won’t be until Saturday (his next start).”

“You guys [in the media] are pretty smart. It doesn’t take too much to figure out, sort of, what could be going on.”

It is clear that Happ is frustrated with how the Yankees are going about a potential future contract that would pay him $17 million. The vesting option for next season would put the Yankees in a bind. It’s money they could utilize to sign a quality starting pitcher, rather than one that hasn’t been able to pitch sub 4.91 ERA baseball in two years. In fact, his 4.91 ERA in 2019 showed the Yankees why he can’t be relied upon in the starting rotation.

So far this season over 12.2 innings, he has a 6.39 ERA with nine runs allowed and four homers. He has struck out six batters and walked 10. At 37 years old, it seems that his best years are behind him, despite having a career 4.01 ERA that has been tainted by the last two seasons in the Bronx.

The Yankees seemingly cannot rely on him as a starter in the rotation if they want to win games in an abbreviated campaign, rather than a secret ploy to work around his vesting option, which I am 100% sure they do not want to pay.

Now, it comes down to the best probability of winning. Happ will undoubtedly file a grievance against the Yankees for his lack of playing time, but considering they have Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery readily available, starting Happ would be malpractice.

Here is manager Aaron Boone’s response to the rotation being changed up:

“After a four-day break, we reshuffled to prioritize getting Gerrit going and [Tanaka] after him, then the off day and then [Montgomery] and J.A.,’’ Boone said. “There’s a chance we even pitch Gerrit and [Tanaka] on the sixth day out of this. … With only four starters right now, you’re gonna need to make up those slots.”

Based on his answer, it seems as if Boone simply wants to win. After having several days off, Boone is ready to go with Cole, Tanaka, and Montgomery. With James Paxton being placed on injured reserve, I would be surprised if he didn’t call up another starter from their taxi squad. Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, and Deivi García represent options to call upon. However, Boone is coming dangerously close to having to rely on Happ without an explanation or justification for passing over him.

Yankees: J.A. Happ frustrated over being blindsided by Aaron Boone in rotation

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees have a J.A. Happ problem on their hands. Happ has a long way to go before triggering a 2021 testing option. At 37 years old, the right-handed pitcher would have needed to start 27 games or pitch 165 innings if he wished to cash in on a $17 million deal for 2021.

However, given the abbreviated season, the prorated levels would be 10 starts or 61 1/3 innings. With three starts already on the board, the Yankees are doing everything they can to stay away from that vesting option, which would take a large chunk of cash away from their available monies.

Ultimately, the Yankees want no part in that contract extension, considering Happ has been lackluster since the beginning of last year. He finished 2019 with a 4.91 ERA over 161 innings pitched. This year so far, he has a 6.39 ERA over 12 innings, allowing nine earned runs and striking out just six batters. With his velocity down and control inadequate, teams have been slugging the former Toronto Blue Jay regularly.

Last week, the Yankees skipped Happ in the rotation, given his lack of consistency and confidence from the coaching staff. When asked about the Yankees trying to steer clear of his vesting option for next season, Happ stated:

“That is a subject that I think I am going to stay away from right now.”

Happ had two conversations with manager Aaron Boone regarding the situation.

“One of them went very well and the second one I didn’t think went very well,” he said. He didn’t want to elaborate much more.

Conclusively, being skipped in the starting rotation frustrated J.A., who fully expected to be a consistent contributor this season. He has been quite poor over three starts, but his last one against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday evening was motivating. Over 5.2 innings, he allowed just three hits and one run. This was his best outing of the year by a large margin, but it was against a lowly Boston team that could barely fair in Triple-A.

His vesting option for next season is the biggest concern, as it is illegal for major league teams to manipulate player usage. They have to have legitimate reasons to skip a player in the rotation, and considering how poorly he had been performing, they have a pretty good justification.

New York Yankees: Good news and bad news after high-scoring loss to Phillies in first game of double-header

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees entered the first game of the doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday afternoon with elevated confidence and momentum. After defeating Philadelphia in the first game of a four-game series, the Yankees deployed starting pitcher J.A. Happ to take on their opponent.

Happ, who was thrashed and his first outing against the Orioles on July 30, giving up four earned runs over four innings, had an even worse performance against the Philadelphia Phillies. In just three innings pitched, he allowed three hits, four earned runs and walked six batters.

The Yankees took an early 3-0 lead and looked the part of their seven-game winning streak. However, poor defense and pitching put them in a deep hole before they could claw their way out. Giving up four runs in the third inning and six runs in the sixth inning, the Yankees simply gave up and decided to bury their troubles before the second game of the doubleheader.

FINAL SCORE: 11-7

Here’s your New York Yankees good and bad news from the blowout loss to the Phillies:

GOOD NEWS:

There was very little good news to extract from the Yankees’ blowout loss to the Phillies: the one positive, DJ LeMahieu. Over three at-bats, LeMahieu has three hits bringing his batting average to .459 and slugging percentage to .649. He has been stellar this season, similar to his performance in 2019.

Aside from LeMahieu’s day, Brett Gardner hit his third homer of the season. He only has four hits on the year, and three of them are long balls. He is finally getting back into offensive shape, which was needed considering the position battle the Yankees have instituted in left field.

Aaron Judge also had his turn at the plate, launching a three-run homer in the 7th inning down 11-4 to bring the Yankees within four.

Judge’s 2020 stats, so far:

7 HR | 17 RBI | .308 AVG | .372 OBP | .897 SLG | .521 wOBA |249 wRC+

BAD NEWS:

The bad news was everything else. From defense, pitching, to a majority of the hitters, the Yankees struggled in every facet of the game. Happ only lasted three innings, allowing four runs, and Nick Nelson, who pitched just 1.2 innings, allowed seven hits and six earned runs. One noticeable deficiency was Happ’s awful number of walks. He allowed six batters to get on base through walks.

Back-up catcher Kyle Higashioka also had a tough outing behind the plate. An error on a force out at home plate allowed the Phillies to score two additional runs. The Yankees will look to bounce back in the second game of the doubleheader.

Shoutout to Angel Hernandez for calling a terrible strike on Mike Ford for the second out in the seventh inning.

New York Yankees: JA Happ struggles in game one of doubleheader versus Phillies

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

After a subpar four inning outing to start the season, Yankees starter JA Happ was looking to bounce-back on Tuesday versus the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, the 37-year-old was worse, lasting just three innings and struggling to find the strike zone.

Happ walked six batters in his three innings, recording just one strikeout.

After managing to pitch the first two innings scoreless, things quickly went downhill in the third inning. Andrew McCutchen drew a leadoff walk, then Bryce Harper hit a two-run bomb after a Rhys Hoskins fly-out.

Three of the next four batters walked, driving in a run and then another run was driven in by a fielders choice.

Like last year, Happ is still dealing with reduced velocity. In 2018 and earlier, Happ’s fastball would consistently be in the mid-90s. The past two seasons has seen Happ only touch 92 or an occasional 93 mph. Although he struggled last time out against the Orioles, Wednesday is his first loss of the season.

Happ’s contract expires at the end of 2020, but has a vesting option for 2021. By the way the past few seasons have gone, it’s hard to see how the Yankees pick him up for one more year. They will have a healthy Luis Severino and a reinstated Domingo German in 2021, plus Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton if the latter two are resigned.

JA Happ is really starting to show his age, and now a days, hitting a 91 mph fastball is a piece of cake for a big-leaguer. He needs to turn things around soon if he wants to stick around in New York for another year.

The New York Yankees could lose up to four starting pitchers in 2021

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, James Paxton

The New York Yankees have their best chance at making a World Series appearance in years, considering the talent they have in the batting order and consistency in the pitching rotation.

A shortened season should limit injuries to a degree, as 2019 saw the Yankees set records for most games missed by starting players. However, once the 2020 season comes to an end, general manager Brian Cashman has a tall list of things he has to do.

Among several position players that will have expiring contracts, the Yankees could lose for starting pitchers due to free agency and retirement.

Here are the New York Yankees’ pitchers that could move on:

1.) James Paxton

The Yankees signed Paxton to a one-year, $12.5 million deal this past off-season. The former Seattle Mariners played in 29 games for the Yankees last season, pitching 150.2 innings. He finished with a 3.82 ERA, 186 strikeouts, and 23 home runs allowed.

With manager Aaron Boone already naming Paxton their number two starter this season, you can see the value he brings to the Bronx. Surprisingly, Paxton has never won any awards, whether it be an All-Star appearance or appearing in Cy Young voting.

However, that doesn’t take away from his stellar production when healthy. He has never pitched over a 3.90 ERA and has only recorded a winning percentage of less than .500 twice in seven years in the MLB.

The Yankees expect more, though, which is why he has been thrust into a more strenuous position. Adding a quality lefty pitcher to the rotation is always a positive. He will be a big question for the Yankees come the end of the season.

WATCH: Yankees’ Gary Sanchez rips double off J.A. Happ to spark offensive return

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees hosted their third intrasquad exhibition game on Saturday evening, with J.A. Happ starting for the first time.

Happ is looking to return from a tumultuous 2019 campaign, as he posted a 4.91 ERA and allowed 34 home runs, a career-high. He also allowed 88 earned runs and struck out 140 batters over 161.1 innings.

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His return is essential for the Yankees during a condensed, regular season where health and starting quality is needed. As management continues to iron out the starting roster and who they can rely on, on an everyday basis, Happ performed adequately in his first exhibition action.

He finished the night with three innings pitched, recording four strikeouts, one walk, and one earned run.

However, one of the more exciting portions of the game was Gary Sanchez and his return to offensive form. He roped a double to the outfield that scored a run.

Sanchez had been struggling the past few games due to a lack of timing, which seemed to alleviate for a moment against one of the Yankees’ starting arms. This was vintage Gary, and the Yankees need to see more of this as they inch closer Opening Day on July 23.

New York Yankees: With the shortened season, J.A. Happ will not return in 2021

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The great news for New York Yankees fans is that baseball is coming back. Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is implementing a 60 game season that is expected to begin in late July. After all of the back and forth between the union and the owners, we are finally going to see some baseball. The season is going to be very interesting given the limit in games. I started thinking about the Yankees roster, specifically the starting rotation. One name caught my attention. The name that caught my attention was the name of the player that I wrote in my first article about for Empire Sports saying this man was inevitably going to be traded. That man would be starting pitcher, J.A. Happ.

The Yankees Vesting Mistake

So why did Happ’s name get my attention? Well the Yankees shopped Happ around in the winter after his horrendous 2019 season that saw him go 12-8 with a 4.91. If you take out his September which was actually really good, his numbers looked far worse. The Yankees signed Happ to a two-year deal worth $34 million in the 2018 offseason. Happ was a hot commodity and to sweeten the pot to secure the deal, the Yankees added in a vesting option for Happ. If he pitched over 160 innings during the 2020 season, Happ would automatically get a third year worth $17 million. Obviously, the Yankees regretted giving Happ this deal.

No innings, No 2021 pinstripes for J.A. Happ

I thought the Yankees would try to manipulate the innings somehow to prevent Happ from reaching his innings milestone. Given the amount of money the Yankees gave Gerrit Cole, and considering that they’re going to have others to pay, you had to think the Yankees were desperate to shed that contract. Well, now the Yankees don’t have to worry about it. With a 60 game season, there is going to be no way for Happ to hit his innings in 2020. With that in mind, the Yankees will let Happ walk after this year. The Yankees have plenty of options to fill his spot in the rotation, a spot that wasn’t even guaranteed going into this year. When the season starts, I hope that we see the Happ that we saw near the end of last season. If we see that guy, he will leave a good taste in the mouths of Yankee fans everywhere. Given the young talent the Yankees have, and their rotation depth, once the 2020 season is over, it’s time to say goodbye to ole J.A. Happ.

Can the Yankees trust J.A. Happ to be a starting pitcher in 2020?

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

Taking a look at Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ and if he can be trusted in 2020:

Prior to J.A. Happ tossing out a dud in 2019, he was extremely effective for the Yankees in 2018. Being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays over to the Bronx Bombers, Happ finished his season with a 2.69 ERA and a 7-0 record. His 193 strikeouts on the year was a career-high for Happ, who pitched only 16 fewer innings last season compared to 2018 (177 –>161).

However, last season was tumultuous, to say the least, as he struck out 140 batters, 53 less than the year before, and allowed 34 homers, seven homers more in 16 fewer innings, resulting in a massive difference.

Nonetheless, Happ started off this spring training with a bang, earning a 1.38 ERA with 16 strikeouts and only one walk in 13 innings (4 total games). His impressive start can be attributed to multiple things — no more juiced baseballs and a change in pitching dynamics.

“It’s just a (better) feel upon landing. My direction is better,’’ Happ said before the MLB suspended operations.

When he was initially sent into a bullpen role last season, he was frustrated but understood the nature of the business, stating:

“I understand that’s kind of the nature of the business,’’ said Happ, shortly after pitchers and catchers reported. “But, I’m certainly happy I’m here.’’

Happ entered spring ball with a different mentality, one that’s more in line with how the Yankees go about things.

“He came in (with) a very great effort, laser focus and crisp stuff that I thought was great to see,” said Tim Naehring, the Yankees VP of Baseball Operations.

These past few months have been interesting for Happ, who was discussed in various trade scenarios due to a bloated contract that didn’t match up with his production from 2019. Ultimately, GM Brian Cashman elected to retain the suspicious arm, and he will feature in an increased role next season due to the loss of Luis Severino and suspension to Domingo German.

Can we trust Happ, though? 

I would say yes, simply based on his improved mechanics and solid showing this spring. Of course, the regular season is a different beast, but his 2019 is a serious outlier from years of consistent play.