When the Yankees traded for J.A. Happ last year, the move made a lot of sense. Starting pitching was a serious weakness, and Happ was somehow the best available option. He immediately made the team better. The left-hander was also great down the stretch. The best part about the deal, in my opinion, was that it was a short-term rental. Happ for a few months was fine because the Bombers weren’t stuck with a pitcher on the wrong side of 35 for multiple years.
Well, now they are. After a false start reported by Ken Rosenthal this morning, Mark Feinsand just confirmed that the Yankees agreed to bring Happ back on a two-year deal. The contract is said to have an option for a third year that would be based on innings pitched. The false report on a three-year deal that we heard earlier left a bad taste in my mouth, but this sounds a lot more palatable.
With that being said, I can’t help but look at the rotation now and feel somewhat disappointed. Yesterday, we had rumors about a three-way trade that would send Noah Syndergaard to the other New York team. Cleveland has indicated that they’re willing to trade the vast majority of their starting pitchers. Brian Cashman said earlier that adding a starting pitcher wouldn’t necessarily stop him from adding another. I hope he has something up his sleeve, because Happ doesn’t really fit the bill for that second “elite” arm that Cashman said he was looking for.
Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia just doesn’t feel like a win-now rotation. Who knows what to expect from Sevy at this point, especially after his disastrous second half. We can hope that he fixes his issue with tipping pitches, but that can’t be the sole reason that he fell off a cliff. Sabathia’s knee will require him to make at least two stints on the disabled list. Not to mention that Tanaka has been up and down over the past few years.
It’s unlikely that Happ will be able to keep up the level of play that we saw after the trade, either. He’s a career 105 ERA+ pitcher, and posted a 163 ERA+ in New York. He hadn’t put up numbers anywhere near that since he was with Pittsburgh in 2015. On the plus side, Happ is preferable to Lance Lynn. He’ll still be nearly 38 during the last year of this deal though.
There is a lot of offseason left, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do next. I would guess that we’ll see them bring in one of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller, or Zach Britton. At this point, though, it looks like they are going to try to stay under the luxury tax threshold. I’ll only believe that isn’t the case when the ink is dry on a deal for Manny Machado.