About a month ago, I asked Pinstripe Alley readers if they thought that the Yankees should bring J.A. Happ back in 2019. A whopping 92% of readers voted yes. I agreed with the majority at the time. Based on the moves the Bombers have made since that poll, though, there are now several good reasons why the southpaw doesn’t fit.
First and foremost, the Yankees already added a veteran lefty to the rotation. Their first pitching decision came in the form of signing CC Sabathia to a one-year deal. There was a time where I could imagine them bringing back both Happ and Sabathia, then filling the final rotation spot with one of the minor leaguers. However, that would have amounted to bringing the 2018 staff back for another year. As we all know, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is foolish.
The trade for James Paxton seems to indicate that the Yankees won’t be settling for a just mediocre rotation again this year. The best case scenario is obviously that Sabathia will be the worst pitcher on the staff. Now that they have four starters slotted into place (Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Paxton, and Sabathia), Happ just isn’t a big enough improvement. It would be a total waste to trade for Big Maple and not finish the one-two punch by adding the best arm available.
Don’t get me wrong, Happ was great down the stretch. He faltered during the ALDS, but he is no ace, and it was a lot to be tasked with starting Game One. On the other hand, Happ is 36 now, and you can’t count on him being that good again. In terms of fWAR, 2018 was the second best season of his career (3.2). He is likely to end up with a multi-year deal, and there’s no telling when he might run out of gas. The reality is that if the Yankees bring him back, Happ will be just okay, rather than the elite arm that Brian Cashman is looking for.
The best thing that the Yankees can do at this point is keep their eyes on the prize and reel in Patrick Corbin. He is the superior lefty on the market, and while he will be more costly than Happ, he is also just 29 and with greater potential. If you are low on Corbin and think that his terrific 2018 season was a fluke, maybe Josh Diemert can convince you otherwise.
Happ was a breath of fresh air at a time when Sevy was struggling, Luis Cessa was making spot starts, and the team was playing .500 ball. He did his job, but it’s time for the Yankees to move on.