The New York Yankees are on the cusp of signing free agent pitcher JA Happ to a two-year deal worth $17 million a year.

JA Happ
JA Happ pitching in the Bronx last summer for the Yankees. (Image: Julie Jacobson/AP)

In 11 starts with the Yankees last season, the left-handed Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. In 12 MLB seasons with seven different teams, the 36-year old Happ has a 109-82 career record with a 3.90 ERA.

With the addition of Happ, the Yankees starting rotation looks fierce with Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia. The Yankees also boast one of the top bullpens in baseball anchored by Aroldis Chapman.

According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Yankees are 13-2 odds to win the 2019 World Series.

Welcome Back, Happ

The Yankees acquired JA Happ shortly after the 2018 All-Star break when the Toronto Blue Jays traded Happ to the Yankees for 3B Brandon Drury and OF Billy McKinney. Happ was in the final year of an expiring contract and the Yankees knew they were renting him for the postseason.

In one start in the ALDS, the Boston Red Sox rocked Happ for five runs in only two innings. Despite the one bad start in the playoffs, the Yankees were extremely happy with Happ’s contributions. Overall last season with the Yankees and Blue Jays, Happ went 17-6 and tossed 177.2 innings with a 3.65 ERA.

According to beat reporter Joel Sherman, the Yankees originally offered Happ a two-year contract worth $34 million. They are currently negotiating a deal that includes an option on the third year.

“Happ’s a real pro,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman. “He had a veteran presence within that clubhouse, knew exactly what was necessary and brought it every five days in the most competitive division in all of baseball.”

Happ grew up 100 miles southwest of Chicago. He played collegiate baseball at Northwestern University before the Phillies drafted him in 2004. Instilled with a working-class sensibility, Happ wanted to fit in with other New Yorkers, so after a game he rode the subway from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to his hotel in Manhattan. A photo of Happ riding the subway went viral, and fans instantly fell in love with him.

Busy Offseason

The top free agent arms have been gobbled up. The Red Sox are serious about winning another World Series and they signed Nathan Eovaldi to a four-year deal worth $68 million. The Washington Nationals snatched Patrick Corbin away from the Yankees. The Nats outbid the Yanks and offered the Diamondbacks pitcher and life-long Yankees fan a six-year deal worth $140 million.

Shortly after the season ended, the Yankees re-signed veteran CC Sabathia to a one-year deal worth $9 million. Sabathia, the Yankees’ leader in the clubhouse, will be playing his final season before retiring.

When Cashman heard that the Seattle Mariners were having a fire sale, he called GM Jerry Dipoto and inquired about James Paxton. The Yankees traded away their top prospect, Justus Sheffield, in exchange for the lefty flamethrower who tossed a no hitter last season.

Bryce or Manny?

The Yankees set the MLB single-season home run record thanks to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez. The Bronx Bombers can definitely hit, but they were shopping for arms.The Yankees were trying to work out a trade with the Cleveland Indians to acquire Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. With the addition of Happ, they are no longer in the market for a pitcher.

However, the focus moves on to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The Yankees stated their intentions to not pursue Harper, but they entertained the idea of signing Machado. With Didi Gregorious sidelined after Tommy John surgery, the Yankees have a glaring hole at shortstop.

No Three-Way with Mets

Over the weekend, the New York City tabloids blew up with multiple stories about the Yankees seeking a three-way trade with the Mets and Miami Marlins. Cashman talked with Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen about a possible blockbuster trade.

The Yankees had their eye on the Noah Syndergaard, who won 13 games for the Mets last season. The Yanks hoped to work out a multi-team deal with the Marlins in which the Marlins ship their catcher JT Realmuto to New York in exchange for prospects, and the Yanks would acquire Syndergaard.

When trade talks fell apart with the Mets, Cashman grabbed the best pitcher on the market and made a deal with Happ.