After a confusing span of events, J.A. Happ is officially returning to the New York Yankees. The 36-year-old left-hander is returning on a two-year, $34-million deal, with a vesting option for the third year. Andy Martino was the first to report the final agreement was done, pending a physical.
After being shipped to the Bronx at the trade deadline last summer, Happ was dominant for the remainder of the regular season. In 11 starts in New York, Happ didn’t take a loss and had an ERA of 2.69. His success, however, didn’t translate into October. In his third start against Boston in a span of a few weeks, he imploded, allowing five runs in just two innings, putting the Yankees in an early hole that eventually buried them in, losing in four games to their arch-rival.
Happ was a late-bloomer, not hitting his stride until the Pirates acquired him at the 2015 trade deadline. After he returned to Toronto, he has been a model of consistency, having a 3.44 ERA in the past three years, including his 2016 20-win season.
That consistency is something that the Yankees could use, given their rotation that has question marks from top to bottom. Which Luis Severino shows up: first half or second half? Can Masahiro Tanaka put together the ace potential we have seen so often for a full year? Can James Paxton stay healthy for once? Does CC Sabathia have the bones for one more run? J.A. Happ comes with few, something not many can say. You know what you’re getting out of him.
When he is on the mound, he dominates quietly. Happ doesn’t blow anyone away, he doesn’t have one of those looping breaking balls that make batters look silly, so how does he do it, but he still routinely gives his teams six-innings, three or fewer runs (or what is known as a “quality start.”)
On Tuesday night, it looked like Happ was going to end up in a different color of pinstripes. Reports came around that he was closing in on a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Then, early Wednesday morning, I whipped out my phone in chemistry class, and Ken Rosenthal dropped this bomb:
Okay, so it was happening. Great, Happ is coming back. I put my phone away, get back to learning about elements or whatever, and, I get another buzz:
Ken Rosenthal is the baseball guy. When he says something, it happens — a rare blunder from a great reporter. Over the remainder of the day, reports came from all over the place. One says the Yankees and Happ are close, another that many teams are still in the race. Late on Wednesday night, SNY’s Andy Martino finally gave us our answers:
So, after all that, Happ is back in pinstripes. Two years, $34-million, with a third-year vesting option, also at $17-million, based on starts or innings in 2020. The Yankees rotation is rounded out, but Brian Cashman won’t hang up the phone if he has the opportunity to improve the staff. Either way, a rotation of Severino, Tanaka, Paxton, Happ, CC, is a top rotation in the majors when healthy.