New York Yankees: 3 influential players the Yanks could lose in free agency next offseason

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

With the 2020 MLB season in jeopardy, the New York Yankees have to begin considering what 2021 might look like for their roster and how injuries have played a part in its demise. In 2019, injuries plagued the team, restraining them from featuring their full lineup and pitching staff for a majority of the campaign.

A reliance on reserve players ultimately carried the Yankees to a postseason berth and o the ALCS, where they were knocked out by the Houston Astros under interesting circumstances. This season was meant to be a World Series-Caliber one, but due to the coronavirus and Spring Training injuries, the reality of a season is in flux.

Next year, though, GM Brian Cashman will have to make decisions on three influential players who are currently in the final year of their deals.

Here are three New York Yankees players who could leave in 2021:

1.) JA Happ

Happ played well in his first season with New York, despite pitching in just 11 games. He went 7-0, proving to be a reliable option and potential top rotational pitcher in 2019. However, the expectations were too much for Happ to handle, as he posted a bloated 4.91 ERA, leading him to take a backseat in the postseason.

With Luis Severino going down, Happ was thrust into a significant role, and the final year on his contract could prove to be vital for him and his future. His 2021 season is an option year, vesting if he pitches 165 innings or 27 total games played.

2.) James Paxton

Paxton has been injury-prone throughout his entire career, and going into the final year of a two year deal with the Yankees allows him a final opportunity to prove his worth and earn an extension with New York or elsewhere. The lefty arm recently underwent a procedure to extract a cyst from his lower back, but reports indicate that he’s progressing well and should be ready for the start of the regulars season. He will slot in as the 2nd pitcher behind Gerrit Cole, and the Yanks desperately need him to remain healthy.

1.) DJ LeMahieu

LeMahieu is also in the final year of his contract, and he’s the one player the Yankees shouldn’t let go by any means. “The Machine” posted ungodly numbers in 2019 en route to an All-Star appearance — .327 BA, 26 HRs, 102 RBIs. Extending DJ should be a priority for Cashman next offseason, if not well before. He’s an integral part of the team and can act as a quality utility player if need be.

However, ensuring he follows up his stellar 2019 with a second consecutive great outing would be the icing on the cake for an extension.

New York Yankees: Why J.A. Happ can be the dark knight for the Yankees in 2020

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

With the injury plague hitting the New York Yankees once again this off-season, they have begun to shift their hope in players that struggled or were absent in 2019. Options like Jordan Montgomery and JA Happ are both expected to play significant roles in the upcoming season, whenever that actually begins.

The MLB stated that Opening Day is at least eight weeks away and that the return date cannot be confirmed just yet. However, we can begin to evaluate the players on the roster and take a look at those that can rebound in 2020.

The New York Yankees need J.A. Happ to return to his former self:

The 37-year-old starter was atrocious in 2019, and he earned $17 million. He posted a 4.91 ERA with 140 strikeouts over 161.1 innings. Compared to his 2018 campaign, Happ saw a 1.30 increase in his ERA and allowed seven more home runs in 16 fewer innings. However, he has started off 2020 strong, posting a 1.38 ERA during spring training over 13 innings. He allowed just one home run and logged 16 strikeouts.

The Yankees desperately need him to return to his former self, especially with Luis Severino set to miss the entire 2020 campaign. Injuries have restricted the solidification of the starting rotation, but the pushback of Opening Day will give No. 2 starter James Paxton ample time to recover and hopefully be ready for the start of the regular season.

I anticipate Happ sliding in as the fourth man in the rotation, behind Gerrit Cole, Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka. Ultimately, this unit is far more durable than the Yankees’ group in 2019, considering they added Cole, on a nine-year, $324 million contract.

Having a healthy Ace is extremely important, as they progressed in 2019 without Severino for a majority of the season. He will now miss an entire year after succumbing to Tommy John surgery, which will force players like Happ and Montgomery to take a more stable and significant role.

Last off-season, the Yankees refrain from using Happ at all, as he was inconsistent and a liability as a starter. This is his chance to make the most of the final year on his contract with the Bombers.

Are the New York Yankees getting the old J.A. Happ back?

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

Do the New York Yankees have their own version of Jekyll and Hyde in their starting rotation or do they have a solid veteran pitcher who just lost his way last season? All winter long, I wanted the New York Yankees to dump starting pitcher J.A. Happ.

The 37-year-old starter was a dumpster fire last season, and the Yankees were paying him $17 million. The lefty arm showed some life in September last year and then pulled off a great escape in a crucial game against the Astros in the playoffs.

Of course, that was followed by a one pitch walk off the following inning. Happ has always been a crafty pitcher, but last year just looked mediocre at times. He could not keep the ball in the ballpark and sometimes it looked like he was tossing batting practices.

The Yankees were looking at a rotation of Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and the returning Jordan Montgomery. There was no room for Happ, and most fans were begging for the Yankees to find a way to dump that salary. Well, injuries have taken down two of the Yankees top three starters, and now the Yankees need Happ.

However, depending on J.A. Happ was not something that any Yankee fan wanted to do after last season. That being said, what we’ve seen from J.A. so far in Spring Training is making fans ask the question, “Is Happ Back?”

Going into 2020

J.A. Happ has come into Spring Training with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s pitching like he has something to prove. He knows that fans’ expectations are extremely low for him despite being extremely high for the team. Happ has dominated this spring, posting a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings. Happ has also struck out 16 batters in those 13 innings.

Happ is starting to look like the pitcher we saw in 2018. The Happ that carried the Yankees through the second half of the season, posting an incredible 7-0 record with a 2.69 ERA. Yes, it is only Spring Training, but Happ looks to be a different pitcher. A lot was made about the baseballs that were used last year, and maybe it just took Happ a while to get adjusted.

Maybe the Happ we saw in September last year and the Happ we’ve seen so far this spring, is the Happ that we should expect as fans. I’m not sitting here saying that I expect Happ to contend for a Cy Young, but I do think Happ is going to revert back to his normal line. I think an ERA in the mid to high threes is something that fans should expect this year. I do think he will still struggle with the long-ball at times, but I expect that ERA to be a full run lower if Happ returns to form for the Yankees.

2020 and Beyond

What will be really interesting is to watch what the Yankees do with Happ over the upcoming season. The Yankees will be getting James Paxton and Domingo German back at some point this year. Will Happ maintain his spot in the rotation? He does have a vesting option, so maybe the Yankees try to manipulate the innings to keep him from reaching that point to save the payroll for next season. Or maybe Happ will be so good that he forces the Yankees hand during 2020. Either way, I’m nowhere near as worried about Happ being in this rotation as I was in December. I think the Yankees are just fine with Happ being one of the back end starters of this rotation moving forward.

New York Yankees Opening Day Predictions: Pitching

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

As we inch our way closer and closer to the start of the regular season, speculations abound about who will cut the New York Yankees. With Severino, Paxton, and German all-seeing delays to their seasons (in Severino’s case, completely losing 2020), it’ll be interesting to see just how the team constructs their rotation between now and the end of German’s suspension.

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Don’t Go the Opener Route

The Yankees have been out in the open over their embrace of analytics. Which is why it was so confusing to see the Yankees (or any team) go the route of the opener. The opener runs completely against the notion of analytics in any professional sport. Throughout a 162 game season, you’re going to rest a reliever for throwing an inning of work on three consecutive nights. If this happens the night before an opener appearance, you set yourself back for the opener, as opener starts are all hands on deck, ever 4th or 5th day in 162 games. Their bullpen has been overused in 3 consecutive seasons, giving out during the playoffs when we need them the most. Treat the pen like a bullpen, and we’ll get back to the fall classic.

The Gimmies

Gerrit Cole is starting for the Yankees. He’s the best starting pitcher in baseball, and look at all the money the Yankees gave him?! Barring the start against the Tigers, he’s having an excellent Spring Training.

Masahiro Tanaka is also a gimme. The 7-year veteran loses his effectiveness around the All-Star break, and with the lack of depth in our rotation from last year makes the final year of his deal a necessity that he started.

JA Happ is having an excellent spring. So much so that people are forgetting entirely about how lackluster he was last season. If he can carry this into the regular season till, about, June, that’s all we need from him.

Jordan Montgomery is performing beyond expectations. I was surprised to see how much the Yankees are letting Monty cut loose, but it’s necessary for not only his development but the security of the rotation depends on it.

Can Garcia Make the Jump?

Deivi Garcia was spared the first round of cuts, putting him squarely in the fight between him, Loaisiga, and Cessa for the 5th spot in the rotation. Garcia ended 2019 in Scranton, but can he impress enough in the last few starts of the spring to leapfrog staples in the pen-like Loaisiga and Cessa? Or will this be Luis Cessa’s opportunity to show what he truly has as a starter? I think it will ultimately boil down to those two.

Let’s see what happens in the next 2.5 weeks.

New York Yankee Profiles: J.A. Happ and the possible rebirth of an ace

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

James Anthony Happ is the youngest of three Happ children; the other two are older sisters. He was born in Peru, Illinois, and attended St. Bede Academy, where he played baseball and basketball. He was a four-letter winner at the school in both sports. In his last year of high school, he was county Athlete of the year.

Happ played baseball for the Northwest Wildcats while attending Northwestern University. He made the All-Big ten conference in his first three years. In his last year, he compiled a 16-11 record with an ERA of 2.88 with 251 strikeouts compared to ninety walks. Happ decided to skip his senior year when he was drafted in the third round by the Phillies. Happ was a relatively average minor league type pitcher during his years with the Phillies. Midseason 2010 he was traded to the Houston Astros. He made a total of thirteen starts with the Astros in 2010. He went 5-4 with an ERA of 3.45. The following season was the worst of his career, posting a 6-15 record. In 2012 he improved some to a 7-9 record but was again traded, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays.

During the 2012 season, he appeared in only ten games due to a fractured foot, which set him down for the remainder of the season. On May 7, 2013, he was hit in the head with a line drive, collapsing immediately and laid on the mound for over ten minutes before being removed to the hospital. He was released the next day but put on the 60 day DL with a head contusion and laceration of the left ear. That year he made a total of eighteen starts and posted a 5-7 record. Other than getting hit in the head, Happ’s time with the Jays was unremarkable as well. After the season, he was again traded, this time to the Seattle Mariners. In 20 starts, he was 4-6, again unremarkable.

In the middle of the 2015 season he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where a mysteriously new Happ appeared, he went 7-2 in eleven starts posting an ERA of 1.85. During the winter, the Blue Jays wanted him back. The Jays paid him a bunch of money, and he won eleven wins before the All-Star break, the first to do that since Roy Halladay. In August of 2016, he tied Steven Strasburg for the most wins in the MLB. In 2017 he was named to the All-Star game.

During 2018 the Jays desperate for a third baseman, traded Happ to the New York Yankees for Brandon Drury. Happ ended the season 17-6 with both teams and 7-0 while with the New York Yankees. The Yankees resigned Happ through the 2020 season. Unfortunately, Happ’s 2019 season was not what the New York Yankees had hoped for as he rarely pitched deep into games and had a 12-8 record with a high ERA of 4.91. When Happ is hot, he can be lights out.
Interestingly, Happ is a Red Sox killer; he won all four of his starts against the Boston team.  The Yankees still have hope that he can return to the pitcher he was in 2018.  In September of 2019, he briefly did just that with a 1.65 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and an excellent K-BB%. The only noticeable change was that he relied upon his four-seamer more,  going from around 45% of all pitches to 56% in September.  With his newfound success, he went 3.2 innings in the postseason while giving up just one run in relief.

This year the New York Yankees have their rotation pretty well set ahead of spring training.  Newly acquired superstar Gerrit Cole will lead off a rotation of  Masahiro Tanaka,  J.A. Happ, Jordan Mongomery, and a yet to be determined fifth starter since the injuries and surgeries to Luis Severino and James Paxton.  If Happ can get 27 starts or pitch in 165 innings, he will be vested for the 2021 season.   Since 2016 Happ has been better than the average pitcher, and if he pitches well this season, he will remain in that third spot, at least until Domingo German returns from his suspension, or Paxton returns from back surgery.

Happ has the necessary stuff to be a successful pitcher, he is a five-pitch pitcher, and he uses all of them against right-hand hitters.  A four-seam fastball (89–95 mph), a two-seam fastball (89-93mph), a slider/cutter (83–86mph), a curveball (76–79mph), and a changeup (82-84mph).  He does not use the changeup against lefty hitters.  J.A. in his career is 121-90 with an ERA of 3.99 with 1,497 strikeouts.

During the offseason, Happ made some minor adjustments to his delivery and he also worked with the new Yankee pitching coach Matt Blake to hopefully allow fewer home runs than he gave up during the 2019 season.  He also worked on his mechanics with a special focus on his kinetic chain.  So far in this postseason, although it is still early, Happ is nothing short of ace material  He has pitched in three games for a total of nine innings.  In the span, he has allowed only one run, one walk, and four hits while striking out eleven players for a three-game ERA of 1.00.

Happ 37,  is married to his high school sweetheart wife Morgan who is a year younger and was also an Athlete in her days as a Lady Bruin.  The couple lives in their birthplace of Peru, Illinois.  They have three children, a son J.J., a daughter Bella and they gave birth to another child this past August. Happ has been successful in keeping himself far from rumors and controversies in his personal and professional life.

New York Yankees: J.A. Happ looks more than ready for the 2020 season

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees are just three weeks away until they open up the new season and there’s a lot to look forward to despite the recent injury news. J.A. Happ is someone who Yankee fans should be fired up about. Even though 2019 wasn’t his best year, he’s completely revamped his game and is looking like a new player entering the new season.

It was reported that Happ was not happy with his 2019 campaign and as soon as the season ended he wanted to get to work to revamp his delivery and mechanics. He was down in Tampa super early to work on this new “whippy” delivery that would allow him to get more spin and break on his pitches. As seen in the Spring Training games so far, it seems that this new delivery has been super effective.

Even though Happ’s sample size isn’t a ton, Happ has only allowed one earned run in each of his starts and looks like a totally different pitcher than last year. In nine innings pitched, Happ surrendered that one run while fanning 11 batters, allowing four hits, and one walk.

If Happ is able to come into the season and light it up for the New York Yankees, it could really take a load off the offense with these current injuries. The rotation would be a lot more comfortable too since Severino and Paxton are missing significant time. The heat would also be taken off the bullpen if Happ is able to get deep into games which is something the rotation struggled with last season.

I think a lot of people forget that Happ is an MLB veteran that is going into his 14th year in the big leagues. This is a guy who went 20-4 in 2016 with the Blue Jays and didn’t lose a game in 2018 for the Yankees when he was traded over from Toronto. It’s very possible that 2019 was just an offseason and he could totally turn it around this year.

An all-star type season for Happ this year is very possible. It shouldn’t be surprising if he comes out and is lights out for the Yankees this year.

New York Yankees 2020 Season Preview: JA Happ

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

JA Happ is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2019 season with a big one in 2020 for the New York Yankees. It’s super important that he does so, especially with early injuries to the starting rotation.

2019 was by no means a season to remember for JA Happ. Despite a 12-8 record, his ERA was near five. He made thirty starts and one relief appearance over 161.1 innings, striking out 140. We also began to see his velocity dip a bit into the low 90s. Before 2019, he always sat in the mid-90s with his fastballs.

Because of his poor 2019 season, Happ was switched to the bullpen for the postseason, where he appeared three times.

The 37-year-old of Peru, Illinois, has one year left on his contract and a vesting option for the 2021 season. Happ will be paid $17 million in 2020.

2020 Expectations:

Over the offseason, Happ was the center of a lot of trade rumors. He never got dealt, and that was mainly due to Brian Cashman knowing that James Paxton will start the season on the IL. Once everyone reported to camp, Luis Severino had more arm issues, and he will now miss the entire 2020 season.

All of this puts Happ in a position to start the season in the three or four spot in the rotation, dependent on if Jordan Montgomery will pitch before or after him.

The Yankees need Happ to be a lot better in 2020 and try to get his ERA down in the threes. It would be great if he could get some velocity back, but it may be hard with his age. If he can’t get it back, he needs to develop his offspeed stuff more. Hopefully, these are things that new pitching coach Matt Blake can work out with him.

JA Happ is a vital piece to the Yankees roster, and the team needs a big year out of him in 2020.

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman proved us all wrong this offseason

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

When the beginning of the 2020 offseason began, everyone knew the signing of an ace starting pitcher would be in the near future. General manager Brian Cashman made it known that the New York Yankees wouldn’t go quietly into the night. Unloading $324 million on Gerrit Cole sent a vibration throughout the MLB that shattered records.

Cashman made Cole the highest-paid pitcher in league history, but one of his better decisions came toward the end of the starting rotation. While most clamored on about J.A. Happ and why he should be released/traded effective immediately, Cashman stood his ground, likely informed of the discomfort Luis Severino had been facing this offseason.

Happ had a tumultuous 2019 campaign, finished with a 12-8 record, 34 homers allowed (career-high), and a 5.57 ERA through August. The Yankees barely used him in the postseason due to his inefficacy on the mound.

The New York Yankees might be getting the old J.A. Happ back:

This spring has told a different story for Happ and his lack of confidence from last season. His fastball has been excellent, painting corners and generating easy outs.

“I really wanted to throw strikes from the get go,” Happ told reporters after his outing. “I’m better when I do that. So that’s my main focus … attacking.

Happ threw 30 strikes out of 40 total pitches, which he was happy with. The lone run J.A. allowed on Thursday came by a pop-fly that sneakily landed right before the right-field foul line, allowing a double and a run scored. However, the other nine hitters that walked up to the plate were retired. He forced six ground-outs, two strikeouts, and a fly ball.

“The crispness on his fastball, which we saw return kind of return to that J.A. Happ level late last season, I feel it’s carried over into this spring so far,” Boone said.

The Yanks desperately need Happ to return to his 2018 form, as losing Severino for the entire season and James Paxton for months will undoubtedly hurt the efficiency of the rotation.

Early Take Aways From Yankees Spring Training

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

The Yankees are currently 0-2, but it’s still Spring Training. The record won’t count against the Yanks come to Opening Day, so no one needs to panic… yet. While we’re still young in the Spring Training schedule, here are some early storylines to watch as scrimmage play continues.

Andujar Off to Hot Start He Needs

As I repeatedly stressed, the battle for third base is far from decided. What Urshela and Andujar do this spring will determine who our opening day third baseman is. Urshela is currently hitless. Andujar has only one hit, but it’s a home run. I’ve continually stressed that Urshela needs to show last year wasn’t a fluke offensively if he wants playing time. And if Andujar can show even a 20% improvement defensively from 2018, while outhitting Urshela, it’ll be a tough call to justify keeping Urshela as the opening day starter at third.

Happ Looks Good

The Yankees will need to get creative to fill the void between now and June when we’ll get German and Paxton back. While I still believe it was a mistake hanging on to JA Happ, his 2 scoreless innings with 3 K’s is helping to feed some optimism.

Cessa and Loaisiga Make Strong Cases for Starter Spot

I don’t want to think about another season without Luis Severino, but it seems likely to happen. So, with both Cessa and Loaisiga looking strong in their innings of work, it’s hopeful to think one of them will leap up to be a viable, long term, option in the rotation.

The Injury Bug is Back Again

The Yankees were besieged by injuries last season. How they managed to pull off over 100 wins is still impressive by all stretches of the imagination. But it would appear that the injury bug is back.

Judge, Paxton, Severino. These are three names we did not want to see experiencing any kind of pain/injury before scrimmage play began. Judge’s shoulder seems to be healing. He has been able to start throwing, and is starting to hit. If he experienced no further discomfort, we’ll see him in right soon enough.

Word is still inconclusive about how long Severino will be out, or just how bad the problem in his forearm/elbow is. The perplexing dilemma about Sevy is the discomfort is coming when he throws his changeup, not his fast OR curveball. Hopefully, we’ll start March with some good news.

Paxton may be able to rehab early enough in the year to return by May. Should Paxton’s recovery be that fast, coupled with German coming back by June, the Yankees are poised to have a lethal and very fresh rotation down the stretch in September?

 

Recaps will continue every Monday, as performances, storylines, and news develop for the start of the Yankees 2020 season.

Yankees’ J.A. Happ Performs Adequately, the Offense Not so Much

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

Before the inevitable armada of negative comments floods the cities and streets of social media, let’s take deep breathes and look at the positives…or the single positive result that was present from the New York Yankees’ loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Although the Yankees only managed to score 1 run in 9 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, this was only the first day of Spring Training. While some players started training as early as November to prepare for the 2020 season, many players are still readjusting to the lengthy and grueling period of time know as baseball season.

It’s worth noting that important key pieces, such as DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres, only had two plate appearances and require ample time to prepare themselves for opening day.

There is also common knowledge that Aaron Judge, along with other weapons such as Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit, didn’t start today and will not play every single game. Not to mention, a majority of the players taking on the main roles were minor leaguers with little to no experience in the majors.

Most of this is basic information, so that leads us to the prime question: what were the positives?

There is exactly one and only one positive, and that honor belongs to J.A. Happ.

Happ pitched with excellence and precision on the mound. Through 2 innings pitched, Happ gave up no runs, no hits and struck out 3 batters. While it’s only one game and doesn’t mount up to much, this was refreshing for both Happ and Yankee fans across the globe.

In 2019, Happ struggled immensely with his location, giving up 1.90 home runs per 9 innings and posting a 4.91 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 1.30 WHIP and a 4.72 SIERA through 161.1 innings pitched.

Both his fastball velocity and fastball spin have dropped in the last 2 years, which could explain the drastic spike in home runs he gave up in 2019. It’s also worth mentioning that his strikeout percentage, hard hit percentage, exit velocity, expected slugging, expected batting average and expected weighted on-base average have all decreased significantly.

Regardless, Happ has put the past behind him and is focusing on improving his abilities as a starting pitcher before opening day arrives.

In general, the Yankees were nonexistent at the plate, only cashing in 3 hits with 1 solo bomb driven in by Chris Gittens in the bottom of the 9th. Not much to explain other than it’s Spring Training and that this team will be fully equipped and prepared for when opening day strikes their doorstep.