It was reported on Tuesday that the New York Yankees are “actively” trying to trade away J.A. Happ and the $17 million in salary he’s owed next season.
Happ, of course, was acquired by the Yankees for the wildly underwhelming package of Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney prior to the 2018 trade deadline. The lefty would go on to be a key addition to New York’s rotation, posting a 2.69 over 11 starts down in the stretch without picking up a single loss.
That showing was good enough for the Yankees to ink him to a two-year deal worth $17 million annually, plus a vesting option for 2021 if he pitches 165 innings or makes 27 starts. There isn’t a buyout attached to the deal, though, so the commitment really is just one more year if the team wants it to be.
But after an ugly 2019 season, the Yankees want to rid themselves of this commitment. Happ posted a 4.91 ERA last year, which was the worst showing of his career since he got things all sorted out in Pittsburgh back in 2015. Happ has always been more of a pitch-to-contact type of guy rather than somebody who strikes everybody out, but, a slight decline in his velocity last year resulted in him allowing more homers than usual.
Anyways, rather than baking on a rebound, the Yankees are ready to move on. They’ll even likely add a prospect to Happ in order to entice somebody to take him off their hands. Enter the Blue Jays.
Plenty of National League teams would like J.A. Happ. Toronto has also inquired about yet another Happ term.
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) December 10, 2019
As I discussed in yesterday’s Daily Duce, the Jays are in a position with a bunch of payroll flexibility to take on some bad deals, either as reclamation projects or as ways to buy prospects from teams like the Yankees who want to save some cash. As nice as the idea of bringing J.A. Happ around for Round Three in Toronto, this would ultimately just be helping the Yankees load up to sign Gerrit Cole.
Maybe Happ bounces back and becomes a good middle-of-the-rotation guy in a familiar environment. Maybe he’s a really nice veteran to have around all of the young arms breaking into the Majors. Maybe the prospect the Jays get in return is even better than the two guys they got in return for Happ in the first place. Who the fuck cares! Stop helping the Yankees, goddamit! Stop making life easier for a team that absolutely doesn’t need things to be any easier!
If we’re living in a world in which the Yankees are scared to offer Cole the billion dollars he’s asking for because they don’t want to go above the luxury tax, so leave them be! The Yankees have never in the history of Western Civilization been afraid to spend cash, but, right now, it seems that they are! I mean, the Yankees are sitting here being uncharacteristically stingy, and the Jays, their perennial shitty little brother, are going to help nudge them back into a position to ultimately beat them into the ground even more?!
No team in Major League Baseball should actively be helping the Yankees get out from under their bad contracts so that they can succeed in hoarding the elite free agents. But a division rival doing it? What the hell? Are you really so averse to doing a little bit of bidding in free agency that you’d rather go get your middle-of-the-rotation arm by literally helping the Yankees sign the best goddamn pitcher the free-agent market has seen in years?
Look, I’d love to be able to use the Jays Ace Happ nickname again, but fuck me, not at the cost of seeing Gerrit Cole pitch for the Yankees for the next seven or eight or whatever years. Here’s the guy the Padres got back in order to help the Yankees not pay Chase Headley in 2018. Is it worth it?