BREAKING: Yankees Nearing Deal for Starting Pitcher J.A. Happ
Moments ago, ESPN.com reported that the New York Yankees are finalizing a trade with the division rival Toronto Blue Jays for starting pitcher J.A. Happ. In exchange for Happ, the Yankees will send infielder Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney who is currently down at the Triple-A level. Given how much depth the Yankees have in their farm system, a move for a starting pitcher makes sense as they look to solidify their rotation and gain ground on the rival Boston Red Sox. New York currently owns the first wild-card spot over the Seattle Mariners by four games and trail Boston by 5.5 games in the division.
Both Billy McKinney and Brandon Drury played for the Yankees in their first series of the season before they both eventually succumbed to injuries early on. After his Major League debut on March 30th following an injury to outfielder Aaron Hicks, McKinney suffered a shoulder injury on March 31st when he crashed into the wall during the 1st inning against the Blue Jays while trying to make a catch. Since his injury, he has not seen the Major League stage again given the crowded outfield situation the Yankees have. With Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton all firmly in position to play each day (making one of the four the designated hitter), it is hard to find a spot for any prospects in the farm system that play outfield on the Major League roster barring injury. The logjam affected prospect Clint Frazier as well who has spent a majority of his time at the Triple-A level this season after rehabbing his concussion and has played in just 15 games for the Bombers before another injury earlier this month. As for McKinney, following his injury he made his way back to Triple-A and has appeared in 54 games, batting .230 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs.
Coming into the year, Brandon Drury was supposed to be the man at third base with the departure of Chase Headley. However following the McKinney injury, third base prospect Miguel Andujar was called up to the team and a short time after Drury hit the disabled list with migraines and blurry vision. In came Andujar to fill his spot and his outstanding play gave him the third base position even once Drury was healthy. Despite Drury being a guy who could play multiple positions, he also became expendable with the youth movement in the Yankee infield and finds himself on the move. On the season, Drury has played in just 18 games, hitting .176 with one home run and seven RBIs. He left yesterday's game versus the Tampa Bay Rays with a bruised hand and was listed as day-to-day.
On the flip side, the Yankees get some much-needed help for their pitching rotation. Following Jordan Montgomery's season-ending Tommy John surgery, the fifth starter for the Yankees has become a revolving door. Making a move for J.A. Happ helps to stabilize the pitching staff heading into the second half of the season. In Montgomery's place, Domingo German and Luis Cessa took over the fifth starter spot for periods of time but neither pitchers' performance was consistent enough to take a stranglehold on the spot. Now with Happ being added to the rotation, the Yankees rotation will consist of: Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Sonny Gray, and J.A. Happ. Happ will likely be the third starter in the rotation, but could very well be the second as well. By inserting the left-handed Happ as the team's second starter, it would split up the right-handers Severino and Tanaka from going back-to-back days. Additionally, it would allow New York's rotation to flip back and forth from righty to lefty each outing.
This season, J.A. Happ has been the number one starter for a Blue Jays team that currently sits at a mediocre 46-55 with little shot at contention moving forward this season. He has gone 10-6 this season in 20 starts with a 4.18 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 114 innings. The thing that stands out about the 35-year-old lefty is his career numbers versus the Red Sox with a 7-4 record and 2.98 ERA. According to ESPN.com, this season Happ has a 0.84 ERA against the Sox despite giving up five runs in his last outing against them since the runs were unearned. Despite the ERA being a bit on the higher end, Happ should be a reliable starter for the Yankees and a guy that can help in a starting rotation that has pitched to a 4.02 ERA combined which is 12th best in the league.
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