John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
After re-signing with the Yankees, J.A. Happ will be a perfectly fine No. 4 starter in the Bronx. And such a deal makes more sense than giving Patrick Corbin six years at something approaching the $140 million he received from the Nationals.
It probably just doesn't sound quite as appealing to Yankee fans after all the buzz about a potential trade for Noah Syndergaard the last couple of days.
Same goes for the weeks of speculation about trading for Corey Kluber that apparently goes by the wayside now.
In short, the Yankees aren't making the sexy move here, which probably means they'll be big-game hunting at the July trade deadline once again, when Madison Bumgarner could be a hot commodity.
In the meantime, while Happ fills out their 2019 rotation nicely as a reliable starter, his signing again raises a lingering question in the Bronx: Do the Yankees have an ace?
James Paxton? Acquired from the Mariners in November, he certainly has the ability and the stuff. But a big part of being an ace is logging 200 innings a year, and because of injuries, the big lefty has never thrown more than 160.
Luis Severino? He was arguably the best starter in the AL the first half of the 2018 season, but his penchant for long slumps and lack of success in the postseason both have become troubling trends.
Masahiro Tanaka? He has proven big-game toughness, but there's no getting around his diminished fastball, which may or may not be the result of the ligament tear in his elbow. That leaves him little margin for error with his splitter and slider.
CC Sabathia? He's earned huge respect for re-inventing himself, still pitching at a high level for at least the majority of his starts. But his age and fragile knees make him more of a No. 5 starter than anything at this point.
None of this means the Yankees aren't capable of winning a championship with this starting rotation.
Indeed, if Paxton gets to October healthy, he could be that Game 1 starter the Yankees lacked last season, capable of dominating the Red Sox, Astros, or whoever else. And clearly Severino could take that final step toward consistent dominance in 2019, so there is a lot to like about the Yankees' pitching.
There's just not much of a wow factor, especially compared to Syndergaard, Kluber, or even Trevor Bauer. No doubt the asking price on Syndergaard was through the roof, even in that proposed three-team deal with the Marlins. And the same goes for what the Indians are asking for Kluber or Bauer.
Still, Brodie Van Wagenen does seem to want to remove the stigma about the Mets dealing with the team across town. And SNY's Andy Martino is reporting that the Yankees continue to show interest in Mets' pitching beyond Syndergaard, meaning Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz.
The problem with Wheeler is that, because he's a year away from free agency, he's not going to command the type of value in a trade that he offers in potential performance for the Mets in 2019. That could change by July, depending whether the Mets are in contention for the postseason.
Perhaps more than anything, then, the Happ signing buys the Yankees time, likely giving them enough pitching to get to the July 31st trading deadline as contenders. In turn, they could be looking to upgrade their rotation as they have the last two seasons.
At that point you never know who might be available. The most tantalizing possibility is Bumgarner, especially if he re-establishes himself after a couple of injury-plagued seasons, during which his fastball velocity has fallen a couple of ticks to the 90-mph range.
At that time, the Giants are also likely to feel more comfortable about trading one of their postseason heroes from past years than they do now, if the ballclub is headed for a third straight losing season which seems likely.
And Bumgarner probably would command more of a return at the deadline, when at least a few contenders are always desperate for a starting pitcher that could put them over the top.
One way or another, the Yankees almost certainly will add more pitching, whether it's now or during the season. And at least to some extent, that's a commentary on their young pitching they had hoped would provide answers for them by now.
As it is, Jordan Montgomery tore his elbow ligament last season and needed Tommy John surgery. Justus Sheffield failed to progress as hoped, mostly in terms of command, and was included in the Paxton deal. Chance Adams' stock fell last season as his fastball velocity dipped significantly. And finally, Albert Abreu's 2018 season was derailed by a shoulder injury.
As such, Cashman was open about needing two starting pitchers this offseason, and re-signing Happ and adding Paxton accomplishes that goal.
Yet, because of the bigger names out there, it's hard not to think about what might have been. Or what still lies ahead.