Yanks try to keep Happ, a ‘Death Star’ ready to pivot
LAS VEGAS (AP) — As Brian Cashman tried to close a $34 million, two-year deal to keep left-hander J.A. Happ, the New York Yankees general manager made clear Wednesday he could shift his focus from pitching to high-priced free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado at any moment.
“We are prepared to pivot and react at any moment if things change,” Cashman said. “You know where my current focuses are, but at the same time we’re a fully operational Death Star.”
Cashman has said all offseason he has more than enough outfielders. Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, said earlier in the day the Yankees had not told him they were uninterested in his top free agent of the offseason. Employing yet another of his increasingly flamboyant metaphors, Boras said the amount of teams currently seeking Harper is not nearly as noteworthy as those bidding at negotiations’ end.
Happ is a more imminent target for a rotation projected to include Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and James Paxton, acquired from Seattle in a trade. A first-time All-Star, Happ was acquired from Toronto on July 26 as a summer rental and went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts for New York. He did lose at Boston in the Division Series opener, allowing five runs in two innings.
Now 36, Happ is negotiating a contract that would pay $17 million in each of the next two seasons and include a $17 million option for 2021 that could become guaranteed based on starts and innings in 2020.
“A real pro,” Cashman said. “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.”
Cashman has expressed interest in Machado since Didi Gregorius had Tommy John surgery in October, an injury likely to sideline the shortstop for at least half the season. Machado is expected to get the second-largest contract among this offseason’s free-agent class.
The Yankees also have been speaking with the crosstown rival Mets, a club they rarely deal with on trade topics. Multi-team swaps involving Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto have been discussed.
“Brian and I have had a lot of discussions about a lot of different things, and I don’t think he would waste my time and I think I would waste his time without an appetite and a willingness to try to see where we could line up,” new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “Whether that happens this offseason or this week, time will tell. But I certainly don’t think there will be closed doors for us being able to work together going forward.”