The Yankees need to improve their starting rotation, and the front office knows it. That’s why Brian Cashman is currently reaching out to teams not in contention, in the hopes of getting a deal started over the next month. According to a report from Fox Sports reporter Jon Morosi, the Yankees have spoken to the Blue Jays about J.A. Happ.
The 35-year-old left-hander has been Toronto’s best pitcher this year, and has enjoyed consistent success over the last three seasons with the Blue Jays. His 3.48 ERA in 82.2 innings would instantly make him one of the best starting pitchers in the Bronx. Specifically, Happ would have the third-highest ERA and the second-highest innings pitched. He is also enjoying a 10.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, which will hopefully help him supplement his tendencies to give up home runs at a rate of 1.1 HR/9.
#Yankees and #Mariners both interested in #BlueJays LHP J.A. Happ, source said, and here is one reason why: The AL rival #RedSox have an @MLB-best .813 OPS against RHP but only .672 against LHP. @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 18, 2018
According to Morosi, the Yankees are going to have competition for Happ’s services. The Seattle Mariners, who currently hold the second Wild Card seed and are just 1.5 games out of first place in the AL West, are also looking to improve their starting rotation. Happ has been very effective against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .189 wOBA so far this season, making him a prime target for teams looking to pacify a Red Sox team that has struggled against lefties. Of course, the Mariners may have the advantage over the Yankees, considering they aren’t division rivals.
Despite any red flags, Happ is exactly the kind of pitcher the Yankees should be targeting this summer. He will be a free agent after the season, meaning there won’t be any long-term implications, and Cashman can hopefully refrain from giving up any premiere talent in the system. Happ is also owed a prorated portion of his $13 million 2018 salary, so he would be able to fit into their $12 million window without threatening to pass the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
Overall, J.A. Happ has been a very solid pitcher since the 2015 season, accumulating a 123 ERA+ and 11.5 WAR over the last three and a half seasons. He’s already been worth 2.0 WAR three months into the season, so he would be an easy upgrade over who the Yankees have been running out there to this point. Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga are nice in the short-term, but the rotation needs a permanent upgrade. Adding Happ would fill the rotation until Masahiro Tanaka can come back from injury. From there you can wait and see what the farm system produces in the second half.