The New York Yankees have been trying to bolster their rotation all year, but especially since Jordan Montgomery was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery.
Brian Cashman made his first move to enhance the rotation earlier this week in a roundabout fashion, acquiring Baltimore closer Zach Britton in exchange for 3 pitching prospects.
Cashman and Co. made their next move by bringing in Blue Jays’ lefty JA Happ to stabilize the back of the rotation.
The full trade is Happ to the Yankees in exchange for infielder Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney.
A fair enough trade both ways. I think the Yankees slightly overpaid, but that is what the market dictated. It isn’t like they gave up anybody who was going to be a stud for them anyway.
Drury has been ragdolled back and forth between the MLB team and Triple-A ever since he came clean about his vision problems. He’s a legitimate MLB player but long-term he was probably going to be super-utility guy at best with New York.
They bought high and sold low on him, but hey, that’s how it works out sometimes. Neither prospect they gave up had much chance to be a major impact on the Yankees. Nick Solak could one day become what Drury is now and Taylor Widener is a pitcher they liked, but they have so many arms in the minor leagues that they simply have to trade some of them.
Billy McKinney is in a similar spot. I like McKinney a lot. He was the second prospect the Yanks got in the Aroldis Chapman trade in 2016 with Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren. His future role with the Bombers was also uncertain, though, as he was likely to be a fourth outfielder at best in the long term.
McKinney is a nice prospect, but he’s worth moving in this deal. As much as I like him, I didn’t like him as a prospect more than I liked Dustin Fowler or Blake Rutherford who were both traded in 2017.
As for the Happ acquisition itself, he is not an ace, obviously, so some may be critical of that. However, he brings some much-needed stability to the back end of the rotation. He is better than the Luis Cessa/Domingo German/Jonathan Loaisiga combined-fifth-starter effort.
Also, here are some stats:
Happ 2018: 10-6, 4.18 ERA in 20 GS/114 IP, 35 BB/130 K, 1.175 WHIP.
German/Cessa/Loaisiga combined as MLB SP in 2018: 5-7, 5.16 ERA in 20 GS/99.1 IP, 38 BB/106 K, 1.289 WHIP.
Which would you rather have as your 5th starter?
— Lou DiPietro (@LouDiPietroYES) July 26, 2018
Happ is about an average starter at this point, but that is what the Yankees needed! He will be consistent as the fourth or fifth starter and I feel comfortable throwing him out there in a playoff game if Sonny Gray doesn’t continue this stretch.
We also shouldn’t neglect the fact that Happ is a lefty, which adds some value in Yankee Stadium due to dissuading opposing teams from starting lefties to take aim at the short porch.
Happ has also pitched in the AL East for quite some time, now. He is very familiar with the other teams and ballparks in the division, so he doesn’t have to learn how to approach those teams for the first time. Happ has strong numbers against the Red Sox, who the Yankees are trailing in the division race. He also has strong numbers against the Orioles and Rays, who have given the Yankees many fits this year.
Happ is making about $10 million this season, which is a fairly hefty price tag, but he is a free agent after this year, so they don’t have to worry about his contract for next year if he does poorly or they just don’t want him anymore. The contract also isn’t so monstrous that they can’t make another move if the opportunity presents itself.
Between the Yankees getting Happ and the Chicago Cubs trading for Cole Hamels, I think it is clear that the few ace-caliber arms (Jacob de Grom, Zack Wheeler, Carlos Martinez, Michael Fulmer, Jose Berrios) that were potentially available simply had unattainable price tags. If they were at all attainable, wouldn’t either of those two teams have held out for one of them?
If one of those teams caves in, though, and the price drops dramatically, the Yankees still have enough money below the luxury tax threshold to get a deal done, although they may have to get creative with the contract.
Overall, I like the Happ move. The Yankees got the guy that I think is the best overall option as a rental starter for two guys that had no big time future with the organization. They stabilized the back of the rotation, a need they have had all season, and are gearing up for their big playoff run once they get Judge and Sanchez back from injuries.
Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison