Yankees reportedly shopping Happ to clear salary, sign Cole

Field Level Media

December 10, 2019 at 4:45 pm.

Focused on signing Gerrit Cole to a massive contract, the New York Yankees are actively pursuing trades to unload salary from their current 2020 roster.

According to MLB Network, left-handed starter J.A. Happ is being shopped aggressively by the Yankees. Unloading Happ’s $17 million salary for next season opens more than a spot in the rotation, as it also gets the Yankees halfway to what is expected to be Cole’s annual average salary.

The Washington Nationals set a new landmark for starting pitcher salaries on Monday with a seven-year agreement with Stephen Strasburg valued at $35 million annually. Although some of the money in the $245 million contract with Strasburg is deferred per reports, the total set a new salary standard for starting pitchers.

The 37-year-old Happ also holds a $17 million option for 2021. The vesting option automatically triggers if Happ makes 27 starts or pitches 165 innings in 2020. Last season, Happ started 30 games and pitched 161 1/3 innings.

Cole, 29, was 20-5 last season, leading the AL with a 2.50 ERA and the majors with 326 strikeouts. He was an All-Star for the third time, finished second to teammate Justin Verlander in Cy Young voting, and helped lead the Astros to within a game of winning their second World Series in three seasons.

According to reports, the Los Angeles Angels are preparing for a bidding war with the Yankees for Cole’s services. The Los Angeles Dodgers also have interest in Cole, among other pricey targets, per the report.

Cole is 94-52 with a 3.22 ERA in 192 games (all starts) in seven seasons. He has 1,336 strikeouts in 1,195 innings pitched. He spent five seasons with Pittsburgh after the Pirates drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011. The team traded him to the Astros in January 2018.