The New York Yankees have acquired pitcher J.A. Happ from the Toronto Blue Jays for AAA outfielder Billy McKinney and infielder Brandon Drury, per multiple reports. Happ, a 35 year old lefthander who is a free agent after this season, was generally seen as the best available short-term starting pitching option on the trade market this deadline, though he didn’t bring a real significant return.
This doesn’t bode well for the Texas Rangers, as they continue to shop Cole Hamels. Hamels was seen as having slipped behind Happ in terms of desirability, because of Hamels’ higher financial cost, his no-trade clause, and his deteriorating performance — Happ’s 4.18 ERA and 3.84 FIP are significantly better than Hamels’ 4.72 ERA and 5.20 FIP. The Yankees had been mentioned as a team interested in Hamels, but with the acquisition of Happ, they would appear to be an unlikely trade partner at this point.
I think the expectation should be that, even if the Rangers subsidize a good portion of Hamels’ salary, he will bring a lower return than what Happ fetched. McKinney, a 23 year old Plano product who was a first round pick of the Oakland A’s in 2013, has been traded in July for the third time in the last five years. He was part of the package that was headlined by Addison Russell when the A’s landed Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in 2014, and then was shipped to the Yankees as a secondary piece in the deal that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs from the Yankees. He’s a corner outfielder who likely will end up in left field, but he’s seen his offense decline this season, as he’s slashed .230/.294/.502 in the International League. The mid-season update from MLB Pipeline had McKinney as the #20 guy in the Yankees system, and he didn’t crack the Baseball America top 10 list for the Yankees.
Drury, who turns 26 next month, was acquired by New York as part of a three team deal in February, and appeared slated to be the Yankees’ third baseman this season. Instead, he’s been passed over by internal options and has spent most of the year in AAA.
The Jays appear to have gotten a potential replacement for Josh Donaldson at third base going forward, assuming he leaves after the 2018 season as a free agent, as well as a buy-low outfielder in McKinney who they will be hoping can rebound and re-capture some value. This also could result in suitors who were viewing Hamels as a fall-back option if they couldn’t land Happ to increase their interest in the veteran Ranger lefty. However, this doesn’t bode well for the Rangers’ hopes of getting impact talent back from Hamels — more likely, it would be a degree of salary relief and middling prospects.