New York is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately town, but Brian Cashman didn’t let J.A. Happ’s subpar recent performances deter him from trading for the lefthander on Thursday.
Cashman is more interested in Happ’s immediate future than his recent past, which is why the Yankees pulled the trigger on their second big trade in three days, acquiring the 35-year-old starter from the Toronto Blue Jays for third baseman Brandon Drury and outfield prospect Billy McKinney.
The Happ deal was agreed to at about the same time that reliever Zach Britton was meeting the media at Yankee Stadium in his first full day in pinstripes. Cashman added Britton on Tuesday in a deal that sent three prospects to Baltimore.
Drury was the first person to officially announce the deal when he appeared at his locker and confirmed that he was headed to Toronto. The Yankees announced the trade a few minutes later.
Happ is 10-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 20 starts this season. His numbers looked much better a month ago, as he lifted his record to 10-3, 3.62 when he beat the Astros on June 25. Happ, who made the All-Star team for the first time this season, is 0-3 with a 7.41 ERA in four July starts, including an 8-5 loss to the Yankees in which he allowed six runs in 2 2⁄3 innings.
No biggie, Cashman said. In fact, he said he tried to use Happ’s recent struggles as a way to get Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins to lower his asking price. Atkins didn’t budge, Cashman said, adding that he blinked first because in a weak starting pitching market, he didn’t want Happ ending up on another contender.
“It’s certainly something I was utilizing to the best of my abilities — at least I tried to — in my negotiating tactics with Ross Atkins,” Cashman said. “But I think Ross Atkins at the same time recognized he had one of the better available starters on the marketplace. So he held firm the last few number of days in terms of what his ask from us was. It was like a little bit of a staring-down contest towards the end.”
Cashman and manager Aaron Boone cited Happ’s experience in the AL East against the Red Sox and in the postseason as reasons they wanted to get him. Another possible factor that they didn’t cite: Happ has been traded at midseason before, from Seattle to Pittsburgh in 2015, and he went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts for the Pirates down the stretch.
The Yankees will take that, thank you very much.
“I’m really excited about this,” Boone said. “This is a guy who’s obviously had a really good career, is having a good year this year, we think in a lot of ways pitching even better than his numbers might even suggest. Just getting off the phone with him — I’ve talked to him twice already — hearing the excitement in his voice to get here and be a part of this. Look, we think he’s a guy who’s going to hopefully give us innings and be a guy that we can lean on to give us quality starts and fortify our rotation.”
Some other Happ numbers: He has made 10 career postseason appearances (three starts) and is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA. In 2016, he made two postseason starts for Toronto and went 1-1, 2.70.
Also, Happ is 7-4, 2.98 against the Red Sox, who led the second-place Yankees by 5 ½ games going into Thursday. The Yankees have 10 games left against Boston.
“I think that certainly helps and is part of who he is and is part of his resume,” Boone said. “You know that you’re getting a guy that’s experienced, [who] obviously likes pitching in big ballgames.”
Happ, who is 102-82 with a 3.95 ERA in 12 seasons, is in line to pitch Saturday, but Boone said his Yankees debut might not take place until Sunday or even Tuesday (the Yankees are off on Monday).
Drury, 25, hit .176 and lost his third-base job to Miguel Andujar in April after revealing he was suffering from severe migraines and blurred vision. After establishing himself as a solid major-leaguer with the Diamondbacks during the previous two seasons, he played 61 games in the minors to only 18 in the majors this year and had no spot on the Yankees.
“I’m excited,” Drury said. “I’m excited to get over there and get in the lineup and finish the season strong with the Blue Jays.”
McKinney, 23, made his big-league debut for the Yankees at Toronto’s Rogers Centre on March 30 before crashing into the leftfield wall there the next day and spraining his left shoulder. McKinney returned to Triple-A after spending nearly two months on the disabled list.
Teams: Toronto (6 years)
Career vs. Boston
INNINGS: 105 2⁄3