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Yankees mailbag: Trade markets for J.A. Happ, David Price

The answers to your Yankees holiday mailbag have arrived.

MLB: ALDS-Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I asked reasders to submit questions for our annual holiday edition of the Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag. We have three questions today—it would have been four if Dellin Betances hadn’t signed yesterday. So, before any other moves go down, why don’t you grab a seat by the fire, fix up some cocoa, and enjoy!

Larry asks: Isn’t J.A. Happ a better trade target for a team than David Price?

With Hyun-jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel off the board, teams looking for starters now have to pivot to the trade market. Both the Yankees and Red Sox, in attempts to shed salary, have veteran southpaws to offer up.

The Yankees reportedly pushed to trade Happ during the Winter Meetings. The 37-year-old had a terrible 2019 season, partly due to the rabbit ball. He remains an innings eater, though, and he would only be a one-year commitment for $17 million. Maybe a team in need of a veteran fifth starter, perhaps a National League club with a spacious ballpark, will find him an attractive alternative to the remaining crop of free agents.

Price, meanwhile, offers greater upside at a higher cost. He has three years and $96 million left on his contract. Teams interested in him would either hope the Red Sox can pay down some of his cost, or accept his pay schedule in exchange for fewer quality prospects. A team like the Angels, who were in heavy on Gerrit Cole, make a lot of sense for Price.

Overall, I think the Yankees will have an easier time moving Happ. More teams can take a pitcher on a one-year deal (yes, there’s an option, but it likely won’t vest) than can absorb Price’s contract. I’d bet on Price being a more impactful pitcher, but that doesn’t make him exactly easy to trade.

Yanks4ever asks: After the Winter Meetings, which division do you see as the most competitive?

The National League East stands out as the most competitive division, I’d say. The NL Central had a tight race last season, but the Brewers took steps back this winter, and the Cubs apparently are prepared to do the same. Several of the NL East teams, though, appear aggressively in search of improvements.

Take the Nationals and Braves for example. The Nats brought back Stephen Strasburg, and they appear engaged on Josh Donaldson. The Braves added Cole Hamels and a host of relievers, important considering their bullpen struggled last season. The Phillies, meanwhile, have gone out and imported Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius, plus Dellin Betances will join the Mets. Even the Marlins have made marginal upgrades! They’re officially the division to watch.

Ducky Buckin Fent asks: I have a question in regards to WAR (the baseball kind). If you put together a roster of 25 players all projected for 2.0 WAR, would that team then project to a 50-win season? Or, is there a point (in Cartesian terms the Y axis) that all teams start from and wins are added to that? Note: if there are easier numbers to work with feel free to substitute. It’s the concept not the specifics I’m curious about.

A totally replacement level team would win about 48 games, so that represents our baseline. In that case, an equation for a team with a roster filled with two-win players would look like this:

48 + (25 x 2) = 98

Your 25-man roster of two-win players would make a near division winner!