One of the biggest positions in need of an upgrade for the Yankees going into 2018 was the rotation. After losing Jordan Montgomery to Tommy John surgery, upgrading the rotation became the top priority. New York was able to slide younger pitchers into the rotation and get decent production. Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and Luis Cessa have all made starts in place of the injured Montgomery, though none of them have been able to secure a permanent role in the rotation.
The Yankees were hoping to get a big-name starter and all but lock up at least an appearance in the World Series, but they haven’t had success in attempting to acquire Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets or Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays, and they would have preferred one of them compared to the rest of the available starting pitchers on the market. But they were still able to shore up their rotation by getting JA Happ from their division rival Toronto Blue Jays
. Happ should be a good addition to the Yankees rotation. He’s 10-6 with a 4.18 ERA, and an unusually high 10.3 K/9, having struck out 130 batters over 114.0 innings spanning 20 starts this season.
Toronto will acquire infielder Brandon Drury, who the Yankees acquired in the offseason in a three-team deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay with intentions of him being their everyday third baseman. But after the 25-year-old came forward about a serious migraine issue he’s been suffering from for years, the Yankees sent him to the DL to get himself fixed and called up their top third base prospect Miguel Andujar. The rookie immediately took off and ran away with the starting job at the hot corner, and although Drury had extensive playing time at second base in Arizona, the 21-year-old superstar prospect Gleyber Torres has played exceptionally well with the big league club, leaving Drury nowhere to play in New York.
Drury spent most of the season with New York’s Triple-A affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .292 with 6 home runs, 32 RBI, and 20 total XBH in 61 games. But Drury is an MLB quality player and, unfortunately, he’s been stuck in the minors during his time with the Yankees. The good news is he should expect to see plenty of playing time with Toronto. He’s seen extensive time at second and third and played a few games at first base this season. He has even seen limited action in both corner outfield spots during his time with Arizona, which will give the Blue Jays a lot of versatility with Drury. He also brings a quality bat, one that has had many teams rave over his gap-to-gap power. This led the Yankees to believe some of those doubles would turn into home runs at Yankee Stadium. Toronto feels the same way about Drury and their home ballpark the Rogers Centre.
The other piece in the deal is outfielder Billy McKinney. McKinney, the Yankees #20 prospect, made his MLB debut in Toronto in late March, going 1/4 but injuring his shoulder when he collided with the outfield wall trying to make a catch. That required a stint on the DL, and he has since returned. McKinney has since struggled with his batting average, managing only a .230 average through 64 games in the Yankees minor league system though he spent most of his time at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 23-year-old will go to Toronto with 13 home runs and 35 RBI at the Triple-A level. This has been a down season for McKinney after breaking out last year with a crisp .306 average, 10 home runs, and 35 RBI in 55 Triple-A games.
The Yankees weren’t able to get the top-quality arm they wanted, but Happ adds much-needed stability in the rotation. Toronto gets two quality position players who should help them almost immediately, so it could easily be classified as a win-win deal for both teams. New York gets a starting pitcher who gives them a solid five-man rotation going into the most important time of the season for them, and Toronto gets young, controllable, big-league talent to help them and their struggling offense.
The Yankees have now made two big trades to bolster their pitching in recent days, having acquired Orioles closer Zach Britton on Tuesday, and now Happ. They appear ready to make their big push into August and attempt to overtake the Red Sox for the division lead, hoping to avoid having to play in the win or go home AL Wild Card Game.
For Toronto, this may be a sign they’re rebuilding their club, and they now have two quality hitters to add to their youth movement.
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