J.A. Happ should help a Yankees starting rotation in need of arms

MLB columnist
Yahoo Sports

The New York Yankees, at once holding the third-best record in baseball and conducting themselves as though there were no time to lose, on Thursday added their second pitcher in 48 hours.

The latest – J.A. Happ, from the Toronto Blue Jays – is a 35-year-old left-hander with a 7.41 ERA over the past month, and also a 10-game winner with presentable strikeout, walk and peripheral-stat rates overall. He is, therefore, what one generally finds available this time of year: a bit of an uncertainty, with the likelihood he’d be better than one’s current alternatives, while also barreling toward free agency.

Five days before the trading deadline, two days after lengthening their bullpen with Baltimore’s Zach Britton, one day after the Boston Red Sox traded for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, the Yankees dealt infielder Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney to the Blue Jays for a chance to find out. They therefore pushed out a rotation that has questions after ace Luis Severino.

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Starting pitcher J.A. Happ was traded to the New York Yankees. (AP)
Starting pitcher J.A. Happ was traded to the New York Yankees. (AP)

CC Sabathia, 38, has been effective, and also is a five-plus-inning pitcher. Many are anymore, so. Masahiro Tanaka blew not one but two hamstrings running the bases in early June and missed about a month. He did shut out the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, a hopeful development for the Yankees. Sonny Gray has a 5.34 ERA. He has pitched better in his past two starts. Those were against the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets. So, take what you will from them. Prior to those, he let up 11 runs in 4 1/3 innings to the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Jordan Montgomery is gone for the season. Domingo German’s ERA is higher than Sonny Gray’s. Luis Cessa has made three starts, most recently a tidy 5 1/3-inning outing against the Rays. Jonathan Loaisiga has a sore shoulder.

All of which is to say, J.A. Happ should help, whether he ultimately falls between Severino and Sabathia, or between Sabathia and Tanaka, or somewhere after that.

In two starts this season against the Red Sox, he has an 0.84 ERA with 16 strikeouts and one walk. One of those starts was just before the all-star break, a start that lasted 3 2/3 innings and concluded with a Mookie Betts grand slam. Those runs were unearned, which does not mean the grand slam – or, for that matter, the two singles, the wild pitch and the walk preceding it – did not happen. In late April, he allowed a run and struck out 10 over seven innings to the Red Sox.

At stake for the team that does not win the AL East, no matter the record, is a play-in game. In the Yankees’ case, that would require spending Severino against probably the Seattle Mariners or Oakland A’s. They win that game, they then enter the division series with the ability to start Severino once.

The Yankees will continue to trawl the pitching market through Tuesday’s deadline and beyond. As many as six National League teams are in sell mode, as are nine in the American League. So, yeah, after a busy and likely fruitful 48 hours for the Yankees, there could be more to come.

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