The Yankees have unsurprisingly declined their $17MM club option on left-hander J.A. Happ, reports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (Twitter link). The option did not come with a buyout figure, so the Yankees will simply allow Happ to hit free agency.
This has seemed the way Happ’s time in the Bronx would come to an end for a while. His contract, signed in December 2018 and containing a two-year, $34MM guarantee, came with a 2021 club option that would’ve vested had Happ started 27 games or thrown 165 innings in 2020. Prorated to ten starts and/or 62 innings during the shortened season, the southpaw was held to nine starts totaling 49.1 innings last year. That proved to be a source of frustration for Happ, who suggested the Yankees were deliberately curtailing his workload to keep the option from vesting. Whether or not that was the case, he did indeed come up short of those marks and will hit the open market.
To his credit, Happ was actually pretty productive in 2020. He pitched to a 3.47 ERA over those nine starts, albeit with some reasons to question his ability to continue to prevent runs at that level. Happ benefited from a .223 opponents batting average on balls in play and stranded a lofty 81.3% of the baserunners he allowed. A few more batted balls finding grass and less timely sequencing would have pushed that ERA closer to his 4.57 fielding independent pitching mark.
Nevertheless, the 38-year-old has been plenty durable the past few seasons and offered solid production at the back of teams’ rotations. His age limits his earning power (he might be capped at one-year offers), but Happ profiles as a solid candidate to bolster some team’s rotation depth.