Keeping J.A. Happ Proving To Be Yankees Best Offseason Move

J.A. Happ
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After a record-setting number of injuries in 2019, the New York Yankees were hoping for better health in 2020, but that appears nothing more than wishful thinking now. Brian Cashman told the media Tuesday that Luis Severino will need Tommy John surgery. With Severino joining James Paxton on the injured list, it is evident that the team will need to rely on J.A. Happ more than initially expected.

Cashman has indicated that the team will stay internal to address the situation.

“You rely on your depth,” said Cashman. “I wouldn’t expect any domino effect or cause and effect in terms of us being able to go marketplace. The winter marketplace this time of year, it doesn’t exist.”

Earlier in the offseason, Cashman endorsed Happ as a member of the rotation despite the pitcher’s name being rumored in trade talks.

“Obviously, I do think Happ is gonna be better for us than in the first half of last year,” said Cashman on a January episode of YES Network’s “Yankees Hot Stove.”

September Improvements

J.A. Happ was an exceptional pickup for the Yankees at the trade deadline in 2018. As Severino suffered a second half stretch of futility, Happ came in and stabilized the rotation. In 68.2 second half innings pitched, he pitched to a 2.62 ERA with a 4.50 K/BB ratio, going 7-0. 

That regular season success did not translate into 2019. His overall numbers show a 4.91 ERA and a 2.86 K/BB ratio. 

Despite the struggles, Happ did show that same promise in his final-five starts in 2019. 27.1 innings pitched only yielded five earned runs for the veteran. 

Now the Yankees will need him to channel the late-season success he has had over the last two seasons in order to keep the rotation stable for the beginning of the season. 

Reinventing oneself is never easy, but he has done it before. From 2011-2014, his ERA sat at 4.75 with a 2.08 K/BB ratio, including an 83 ERA+. From 2015-2018, he was able to make adjustments and earn Cy Young votes and an All-Star selection. His ERA dropped to 3.48 for that stretch with a 120 ERA+ and a 3.21 K/BB ratio.

If he can find that form, those numbers will be sufficient in the middle of the rotation, especially given the offensive power this team possesses. 

Experience Among Youth

While Happ’s future on the team appeared uncertain a few months ago, his presence is needed now more than ever, further signifying the importance of not trading him. He was expected to be a number-five starting pitcher, he now slots in at number three. 

Gerrit Cole, Severino, Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka were all projected ahead of him, but now just Cole and Tanaka remain. As a result, a combination of Jordan Montgomery, Mike King, Luis Cessa, and a potential opener will now follow Happ in the rotation. All of those options combined have pitched in eight seasons compared to Happ’s 13.

Experience such as that is crucial when being asked to step up from a back-end starting pitcher to a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Without him, the Yankees would have to rely on those options for 60% of their rotation to start the season. 

Injuries can never be predicted and that makes the lack of a J.A. Happ trade this offseason that much more important for the team. Although 2019 was a season worth forgetting for Happ, a pitcher with his experience is ideal to have around in the situation that the Yankees find themselves in.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images