J.A. Happ, Yankees Agree to Reported 2-Year, $34 Million Deal with Option

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured Columnist

New York Yankees pitcher J.A. Happ works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

After making a strong impression down the stretch last season, left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ has returned to the New York Yankees.

New York announced the deal Monday after Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported Dec. 12 that the two sides were closing in on what was believed to be a three-year contract, pending a physical.

At the time, Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted the contract is for two years and $34 million with an option for 2021. The option is reliant on games started or innings pitched in 2020 and would be for $17 million if he reaches the threshold.

The 36-year-old split the 2018 season between the Toronto Blue Jays and Yankees. He was named to his first All-Star team after posting a 4.29 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 109 innings for the Blue Jays. 

The Yankees acquired Happ on July 26 to boost their starting rotation for the stretch run. He was everything New York could have hoped for after the deal. He ranked fourth among all American League starters with a 2.62 ERA, eighth with 9.44 strikeouts per nine innings and 11th with 1.5 FanGraphs wins above replacement after the All-Star break. 

Yankees manager Aaron Boone raved about Happ's abilities in August, per Tyler Kepner of the New York Times:

"This is a guy I was really hoping we'd be able to get. So him coming here and having success, I kind of expected it, just because of the high regard I have for him as a pitcher. He's a guy with quality stuff but just a real simple, athletic, repeatable delivery, a really good demeanor on the mound. Whether he makes a great pitch or not, he's able to just stay in rhythm and turn the page."

Happ has a long track record of success pitching mostly in Major League Baseball's deepest division. The southpaw has posted 3.71 ERA since 2013, with five of those seasons coming in the AL East. He's been durable, making at least 25 starts each year since 2014. 

The only downside for him at this point in his career is age. There will inevitably be a point when his consistency drops off, but nothing he's done recently suggests any immediate concern for the 2019 campaign. 

Adding Happ gives the Yankees a proven veteran who has pitched in 11 playoff games. He is a stabilizing presence and can be a critical piece who gets them back to the postseason next season. It should be noted Happ was shelled in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox this year and has a 1-2 career postseason record with a 5.48 ERA and 1.875 WHIP. 

With Happ in the fold, the Yanks seemingly have their rotation set for 2019. The veteran lefty figures to slot in as the No. 4 starter behind Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and the recently acquired James Paxton while being ahead of a fellow veteran southpaw in CC Sabathia.

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