J.A. Happ now plays for the New York Yankees. Would you believe it? The pitcher everyone said the Yankees would get all season long -- well, they got him!
LHP J.A. Happ to NYY in exchange for IF Brandon Drury and minor league OF Billy McKinney is the official deal. My initial reaction was "thank God we finally got a starter to shore up the rotation." If Happ can pitch even 5 innings of 3-run ball during his starts the rest of the way, we've got a bullpen with about 80 closers now who can create some sort of reliever conga line for each game's second half. Happ's whole job is just to avoid blow-ups i.e. forget how he pitched in July.
My second reaction was "We traded Brandon Drury for what - 10 starts of J.A. Happ?" Billy McKinney, who cares, but Drury's a real talent! I mean, he's no Andujar, or Didi, or Torres, or Bird, or Gardner, or Stanton, or Judge, but he's a good baseball player! I thought, surely, Drury would end up being tossed into some large spare parts package of high-upside, MLB-ready players for a controllable, available-out-of-the-blue number one or number two starter. Throw Drury, OF Clint Frazier, RHP Tommy Kahnle, RHP Albert Abreu, and RHP Domingo German together, and maybe you have the base for a deal that might bring in the kind of arm that can change a playoff round. It's probably wishful thinking that the Yanks could deal entirely from places of strength and wind up with a new stud pitcher without hurting themselves too much in any area -- so my guess is a more likely package would include one of the allegedly "untouchable" prospects like OF Estevan Florial or RHP Justus Sheffield, if they were really aiming to bring back somebody of significant value.
All in all, I think that the deal was worth it for a number of reasons:
1. Sending away Drury in the Happ deal doesn't preclude the Yanks from further upgrading the rotation. The Yankees still have plenty of trade chips (as mentioned before) and if somebody comes on the market, they can still blow a rebuilding GM away with an offer.
2. Every game matters, so the Yankees needed someone who could keep them in the game/won't blow up in the early innings. The Yankees and Red Sox, as everyone knows, are battling it out in the AL East. The loser will have to play a one-game death match against the other AL Wildcard game and a guaranteed pass to the Division Series would be much more preferable. Inexperienced arms like those of Domingo German and Luis Cessa are prone to blow-ups. With the 'pen the Yankees have now, plus their powerful lineup, all they need is a starter who can keep them in the game through 5 or 6 innings. Thus far in 2018, Happ has a 3.27 ERA (.216/.272/.407) the first time through the order, a 3.43 ERA (.241/.320/.381) the second time around, and a 6.33 ERA (.216/.273/.356) the third time through. Add in a 10.26 K/9 rate (a career high if the season ended today), and I'm not too worried about this guy melting down and taking the team out of the game. Righties do seem to hit him harder, though, 1.23 WHIP/.296 BABIP v. RHB and 0.96 WHIP/.237 BABIP v. LHB, so having one of the many right-handed firemen on hand to replace him if he hits a tough stretch in the order will be important.
3. He beats Boston. A 2.98 ERA with a .226/.310/.380 line ain't half bad.
4. Drury didn't fit anywhere. The Yanks needed Happ now - at 5.5 GB in the East, they couldn't wait any longer to strengthen their rotation. Drury, on the other hand, has no path to helping the 2018 team. Unless the Yanks decided to drop Neil Walker, who seems to always be in the middle of a rally, but is incapable of getting his batting average to .250, there was really no room for the guy. Add in the fact that Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade are perfectly capable utility players, and Drury was expendable. If the Yankees sent him for Happ, chances are he wasn't going to fetch all that much more if they waited it out. And, with no route to playing time, it wasn't like the dude was going to have a chance to re-establish value at the major league level. That said, now that he's gone, the Jets fan in me is certain that Miguel Andujar's going to break a leg and Drury is going to be the exact players the Yankees need, but he'll be long gone and it'll be the day after the non-waiver trade deadline.
So, there's lots of good stuff here. Happ's no Jacob Degrom, but he's also no Domingo German, and if that's a 2 or 3 win difference, it could be huge in terms of playoff repercussions. It will be interesting to see how well he pitches down the stretch, especially if the Yankees make it past the Wild Card round, as you have to wonder what it would take for him to make it as one of the playoff starters. There are my thoughts for now, now let's see what the lefty can do at Yankee Stadium. Pitching for opposing teams at Yankee Stadium, dude has a 3.94 ERA, but with an opponents' batting line of .209/.291/.403. He's going to be just fine in the Bronx.