Yankees Bolster Rotation By Acquiring J.A. Happ From Blue Jays
In their quest to patch as many holes as possible before the playoffs, the Yankees have begun making midseason acquisitions. They started on July 24 by trading three pitching prospects to the Orioles for reliever Zach Britton, then doubled-down on southpaws on Thursday by prying lefty J.A. Happ from the Blue Jays.
Happ should plug the hole created by the underperformance of righthander Sonny Gray—acquired from the A's at this time last year—and Jordan Montgomery's lengthy absence due to the Tommy John surgery he had in the early portion of this year. Domingo German was also inconsistent in that role this season, and was sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier this month.
For the Blue Jays, dealing Happ is just the next step in the selling process. In addition to trading righthanded reliever Seung-Hwan Oh to the Rockies earlier Thursday, Fox Sports has reported the team has discussed dealing Marcus Stroman as well.
However, the players the Blue Jays acquired from the Yankees—third baseman Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney—are not far-off prospects; Drury is an established major leaguer who was forced to the minors through a combination of injury and the emergence of Miguel Andujar at third base, and McKinney saw brief big league time before an early injury forced him out of action for a lengthy period of time.
J.A. Happ, LHP
Happ, a first-time All-Star this year, boasts a pedestrian ERA of 4.18 but also carries with him some fine peripherals. He carries a K/9 ratio of 10.26, exactly the same mark as current Yankees ace Luis Severino. His BB/9 is 2.76, or exactly the same mark as Red Sox lefty David Price through the same number of starts and an almost identical number of innings (Price has recorded one more out). He's also been particularly lethal on lefties, holding them to a .521 OPS this season. He's also been stingy against opponents in the American League East, save for his new team, which almost certainly figured into the decision-making process.
What Happens To Veterans Displaced By Elite MLB Prospects?
In most cases, the incumbent veteran doesn't stick around for too long.
BLUE JAYS ACQUIRE:
Brandon Drury, 3B
The Yankees acquired Drury from the Diamondbacks this past offseason in a three-way deal with the Rays that cost them righthander Taylor Widener (to Arizona) and infielder Nick Solak (to Tampa Bay). At the time, he seemed like a good bet to get most of the reps at third base while then-prospect Andujar got more seasoning at Triple-A. Drury came down with a particularly nasty case of migraines that caused blurry vision, which sent him to the disabled list to figure out the root of the problem. In the meantime, Andujar emerged as a consistent force at third base. With Andujar blocking his path, Drury became a trade asset. His acquisition gives Toronto an established, cost-controlled asset who is versatile enough to play multiple spots on the infield.
Billy McKinney, OF
McKinney was part of the four-player package—headlined by infielder Gleyber Torres—that the Yankees acquired from the Cubs two years ago in exchange for closer Aroldis Chapman. Originally selected by the A's in the first round of the 2013 draft, McKinney was sent to Chicago as part of the group used to acquire righthanders Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. He broke out in the second half of the 2017 season and made his major league debut early this year with the Yankees. His breakout in 2017 was in part due to improved hitting mechanics, though scouts then said he still showed vulnerability against breaking pitches. He doesn't own a standout tool, but has enough ingredients to have a future as a fourth outfielder.