Yankees acquire JA Happ from Blue Jays to bolster rotation
NEW YORK — To the New York Yankees, lefty J.A. Happ put check marks in a lot of boxes — familiar with the AL East, comfortable in the postseason and perhaps most importantly, successful against the Boston Red Sox.
Hours after ace reliever Zach Britton donned pinstripes for the first time, the Yankees also acquired the starting pitcher they sought. They got Happ from Toronto on Thursday for infielder Brandon Drury and minor league outfielder Billy McKinney.
“We definitely satisfied some needs here,” New York general manager Brian Cashman said.
The Yankees began the day 5½ games behind AL East-leading Boston. They were just 14-14 in their previous 28 games.
Happ, who turns 36 in October, is 10-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 20 starts and was a first-time All-Star. He joins a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Sonny Gray. Manager Aaron Boone said it hasn’t been determined when Happ will make his Yankees debut.
Happ was 0-3 in his last four starts, and had been hit hard this month by the Yankees and Boston — an error severely cost him. Despite that dip, Cashman said he saw “more upside.”
“He was on the wish list,” Cashman said.
Happ is 7-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 19 games against the Red Sox. He is 14-8 with a 3.98 ERA in 32 starts over the last three years against AL East opponents and also has pitched 10 postseason games with Toronto and Philadelphia.
“I think that certainly helps and that’s part of who he is, part of his resume if you will,” Boone said. “You’re getting a guy that’s experienced, that obviously likes pitching in big ballgames and has been a part of that.”
“So that’s part of the resume but you’re also looking at the talent and what you think you’re getting. And from the talent standpoint, as a pitcher, we feel like we picked like a good one,” he said.
The Yankees play 10 more games against the Red Sox this season and hope to overtake their longtime rivals to avoid a one-and-done matchup in the wild-card game.
Happ has a $13 million salary in the final season of a $36 million, three-year contract, and the Yankees are responsible for the remaining $4,543,011.
Britton reported to the Yankees two days after he was acquired from Baltimore for three pitching prospects. The lefty added $4,387,097 to the Yankees payroll.
New York began the season with a $179 million payroll for purposes of the luxury tax, which left the team room to add salaries and remain under the $197 million threshold.
Britton joins a strong bullpen that includes closer Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and more. Chapman will stay in the closer’s role.
“I’m ready for whatever situation,” Britton said. “I understand what Chapman has done in this game.”
The 30-year-old Britton had surgery on his right Achilles last December and made his season debut on June 12. He is 1-0 with four saves and a 3.45 ERA in 16 games, and hadn’t permitted a run in his last eight appearances, giving up three hits in eight innings.
“I’m starting to feel like myself,” he said.
Britton was dominant in 2016, with a 0.54 ERA and 47 saves in 47 chances. He converted an AL-record 60 straight save opportunities from October 2015 to last Aug. 21.
Drury, who turns 26 next month, was acquired by the Yankees from Arizona in February and began the season as their starting third baseman. He went on the disabled list after the team’s eighth game because of blurred vision and migraines, and he lost his job to big-hitting rookie Miguel Andujar.
Drury played in just 10 games for New York since and spent most of the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit .176 with one home run and seven RBIs in 18 games for the Yankees.
“Definitely not what I expected the season to be like as a Yankee,” he said.
“It wasn’t what I planned,” he said. “I had bad breaks along the way.”
Wearing a T-shirt that read “We Play To Win,” Drury shook hands with several clubhouse workers as he prepared to pack. He was set to be in the starting lineup Friday night when Toronto, with a 46-55 record, visits the Chicago White Sox.
“This is a big leaguer,” Boone said. “Hopefully, this is a fresh opportunity.”
The 23-year-old McKinney was selected by Oakland with the 24th overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft, was traded to the Chicago Cubs with Addison Russell and Dan Straily for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in July 2014, then dealt to the Yankees along with Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren for Chapman in July 2016.
McKinney has played two games for the Yankees, filling in on March 30-31 because of injuries to other outfielders. He is hitting .230 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs in 62 games this year for Class A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Scranton.
The Blue Jays made another trade Thursday, sending right-handed reliever Seunghwan Oh to Colorado for minor league infielder Chad Spanberger, outfielder Forrest Wall and a player to be named or cash.
The Yankees optioned righty Luis Cessa to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and selected the contract of outfielder Shane Robinson from the minor league club.
Also, rookie right-hander Domingo German, who made 13 starts for the Yankees before recently being sent to Triple-A, exited Scranton’s game after one inning with what Cashman said was biceps tendinitis.