The Yankees made the JA Happ signing official on Monday, announcing that the organization has signed the 36-year-old southpaw to a 2 year deal with a vesting option for the third year in 2021. The full terms of the contract have not yet been announced, at the time of this writing, but we had heard when they agreed to the terms last week that it was 2 years, $34M ($17M per year) and it would be another $17 million if the contract vests. I’ll assume those remain the terms.
The third year will likely vest as long as Happ maintains a fairly clean bill of health, so in all it will come out to 3 years for $51 million, a little more than the Rich Hill contract from a couple years ago, as far as total dollars (Hill’s contract is back-loaded, we are not sure how Happ’s deal is structured), which seems about fair for what Happ did last year and over the last few years. He was one of the most reliable starters in baseball and was the Yankees’ best and most reliable starter during his stint with the Bombers in 2018.
Some will complain that the move is not enough, and that may be fair, but I would say Happ is the safest signing, even if it is the least flashy. The Yankees’ starting five in the rotation now looks like this, on paper:
- Luis Severino
- James Paxton
- Masahiro Tanaka
- JA Happ
- CC Sabathia
Lest we forget that Jordan Montgomery will be back sometime mid-season (June?), and pitched to a very solid 3.88 ERA (116 ERA+) in 155.1 MLB-innings as a 24-year-old rookie in 2017.
Some say that bringing back four of the same five starters is hardly an upgrade, but keep in mind we get a full season of Happ this time around and Paxton is as true of an ace as you’ll find when he’s remained healthy. I still think they’ll grab one more guy to serve in a swingman-type role and as insurance beyond Monty for if someone gets injured. It sounds like they were interested in a Lance Lynn reunion before he received an inexplicable 3 year, $30 million contract from the Texas Rangers, so someone like that (would they keep Sonny for that role? *ducks*).
A full year of Happ and adding Paxton is a big upgrade over 2018’s rotation, whether you want to admit it or not. They aren’t done adding to the rotation and they still very well could trade for an ace (Kluber, Bauer, Syndergaard, Bumgarner, idk) either before the season or by the trade deadline. The team you enter the season with is seldom the team you have in the postseason. Now that they technically have five starters, I also think this gives them leverage, to some extent, in negotiations for those aces, since they now don’t “need” them, which could be cool, if that’s how it shakes out.
Moreover, with the signings that we’ve had so far, which one sounds the best to you?
- Patrick Corbin: 6 years, $140M
- Nathan Eovaldi: 4 years, $68M
- Happ: 2 years (3 if option vests), $34M ($51M if option vests)
- Lynn: 3 years, $30M
I suppose we don’t yet know what Dallas Keuchel’s deal will be, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess that we won’t like the way that one looks either. Happ’s is clearly the least risky, given length of the contract, age, and health. The Yankees, theoretically, will be able to trade Happ in the final year of that contract at age-38, if need be, I reckon. We’ll see. If they win a World Series in these first two years I don’t care about the third. This is a good signing, albeit perhaps not great.
To open up a spot for Happ on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated RHP Parker Bridwell for assignment. If you claim you actually care about that, stop lying. It’s clear, now, that Bridwell was a conduit for moving on from Ronald Torreyes now without the fervor that would have come from bringing him into Spring Training then releasing him before the season. It was necessary. If Toe is essentially the cost of Happ, that’s fine.
The next order of business is turning to the bullpen and middle infield positions and deciding how they will replace David Robertson, Zach Britton, and about half a year of Didi Gregorius.