The New York Yankees are rumored to want to deal starting pitcher J.A. Happ. Should the Milwaukee Brewers look to add him for their rotation?
The New York Yankees signed starter J.A. Happ to a two-year deal worth $34 million. His deal comes with a vesting option for 2021 that would activate if he throws 165 innings or makes 27 starts in 2020. His option is worth another $17 million. The Yankees would very much like to clear this contract so they can add top free agent Gerrit Cole and mitigate their luxury tax payment. Should the Milwaukee Brewers look to add Happ for pennies on the dollar?
How did Happ perform in 2019?
Happ managed a 4.91 ERA in 30 starts and one relief appearance in his first year in New York. He threw 161 1/3 innings, struck out 140, walked 49, and was tagged for 34(!) homers.
Happ was equally rough at home and away. He managed a 5.01 ERA in New York, and a 4.81 ERA in road games. The big lefty was killed by right-handed hitters, who slashed .268/.327/.503 against him last year.
2019 was Happ’s age 37 season, but his velocity is still relatively unchanged. His fastball still sits in the 93 MPH-to-91 MPH range, and it’s still his best pitch.
What would it take to get Happ?
Based on reports, the Yankees are really motivated to get Happ off their payroll. He can likely be had for a couple of warm bodies from the Dominican Summer League, or a couple ‘not-a-prospect’s. The Yankees may even be willing to eat some of the money owed to Happ, making him even more cost effective for a budget conscious team such as the Milwaukee Brewers.
Does Happ fit the Brewers rotation?
Happ is a left-handed veteran starter with a track record of taking the ball every fifth day. The Brewers could slot him in front of Eric Lauer as their fourth starter, and have a solid rotation…if they can add a front line starter like Dallas Keuchel or Madison Bumgarner.
The only sticking point is Happ’s vesting option. The Brewers would not want to owe Happ $17 million in 2021 if they can avoid it. They would need the Yankees to cover at least half of his 2021 option in order for the deal to make sense.
Adding Happ would provide the Brewers with a capable veteran to slot into the back of their rotation. The prospects heading back to the Yankees would likely be lower level lottery tickets, and the cost would likely be paid for, at least in part, by New York. The Brewers would still need pitching, but bringing Happ into the fold would be a step in the right direction.