J.A. Happ took the mound today with $17 million on his mind. Pitching a gem, will the pitching starved Yankees allow Happ a chance to qualify?
In recent days, J.A. Happ has diplomatically tried to make his case against the Yankees, questioning if the team is “holding back” on using him to ensure Happ doesn’t reach the contract qualifiers required the Yankees to pick up a $17 million option for 2021.
The option kicks in if Happ pitches 165 innings or makes 27 starts in 2020. Allowing for the pandemic shortened season, those numbers now are pro-rated to benchmarks of 10 starts or 61 1/3 innings for the third year to kick in.
Including today’s stellar seven-inning outing against the Mets, Happ now totals four starts and 19.2 innings on the season.
We’ll do the math in a minute to what the odds are for Happ to reach those plateaus, but first, here’s Happ questioning his treatment by the Yankees, as reported by Brian Koch:
“It actually doesn’t take too much to figure out sort of what could be going on. … I think I can help our team. I’d like to be out there every five days.”
J.A. Happ: As Always, The Numbers Don’t Lie
On paper, J.A. Happ has a good case except for one thing – how does he prove a negative? It’s easy to prove a positive – so and so was seen fleeing from the scene of a bank robbery and captured by police. Case closed.
For the Yankees to be “guilty” in Happ’s case, he would need to show there is an intent by the Yankees to limit his innings so the team can pocket a substantial amount of money.
J.A. Happ, if anything, has given the Yankees all the fodder they need to say – show us some production and (then) we’ll reward you the money.
Happ likely responds, in the last two years, I’ve gone 19-8 for you (Yankees). Alas, in his three starts before today, J.A. Happ was 1-1 with a bawdy 6.91 ERA. The Yankees hang their hat on the what have you done for me lately numbers.
Yankees: After Today’s Gem – What Now?
Now comes the intriguing part of the narrative, though. What is the Yankee’s stance on Happ after today’s gem, a game won the Yankees by a score of 2-1?
At first glance, the question is a no-brainer. How can the pitching starved Yankees not give Happ a regular turn in the rotation from here on in through the close of the season on September 27?
But an even more intriguing question is whether or not the Yankees have already “won” if they intended to disqualify Happ.
At 17-13, the Yankees have 30 games remaining on their schedule, beginning with tomorrow’s doubleheader with the Mets.
Assuming that J.A. Happ goes every fifth day with 28 games remaining, he will make five more starts, fall just short of the required ten.
How about innings – can he reach 61 1/3?
Realistically, the answer is no, and J.A. Happ will likely be pitching elsewhere next season.
The math says Happ needs 42 innings to reach the desired plateau. Over a maximum of five remaining starts, Happ needs two complete games (he only has four in his career), and three outings in which he goes eight innings.
In sum, the Yankees either waited too long with J.A. Happ, or they waited just right.
It smells, but it doesn’t necessarily smell like the Yankees, who are not noted for penny-pinching and franchise behavior that punishes one of their own.
J.A. Happ: Still The Master Of Contol
All is not lost for J.A. Happ, however, and there’s still a chance he can stay with the Yankees next year – if he wants to stay.
As a free agent to be, the Yankees can extend Happ a counteroffer, though the amount is sure to be significantly less than the $17 million that is on the table now.
Typically, in these situations, the player harbors resentment against his current team, deciding to move on to greener pastures.
But nobody has greener anything like the Yankees, and if the team decides to, an offer of $11 million or so could be in play.
After all, J.A. Happ, at 37 (today), can only command so much on the open market. Including the Yankees, he’s already touched base with six major league teams over fourteen years in the big leagues.
Happ has already pocketed $90 million, and if he decided to walk away from the game tomorrow, he’s done alright for himself and his family.
J.A. Happ: A Glimpse Into The Human Side Of Baseball
These are the stories that constitute a significant component of Reflections On Baseball – the ones that have a human element to them – and the ones we seldom hear about.
They are the stories that go on behind the scenes and away from the robots who take the field every night for the team we root for.
Those stories are magnified when a season is played through a pandemic, with players forced to accommodate new protocols or stay home, as many players have opted to do.
However, the lingering question in this one is whether or not the Yankees screwed J.A. Happ.
If they did, shame on the most storied franchise in major league history.
And if they did, J.A. Happ still has the ball in his hand, and the future belongs to him to write.