Blue Jays: Let’s evaluate the Happ-Drury-McKinney swap, shall we?
With the Blue Jays designating Billy McKinney for assignment on Friday, let’s look back at the trade that brought him to Toronto in 2018.
It was still the fairly early stages of the rebuild when the Blue Jays traded J.A. Happ to the New York Yankees, and another tangible sign that Ross Atkins and the front office were tearing down the roster.
On July 26, 2018 they sent the veteran left-hander to their division rivals in the Yankees, receiving two players in return. Happ was on an expiring contract at the time, but it was still a bit of a surprise that the Blue Jays didn’t really get a minor league package in return. Instead the Yankees sent Brandon Drury, who had a few years of MLB experience, and Billy McKinney, who was ready for a big league opportunity after thriving in Triple-A but being blocked by other outfielders in New York. If the Blue Jays couldn’t find a prospect package to their liking then it made sense on some levels, but I wasn’t a fan of the move at the time.
How has it worked out for both sides?
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Let’s start with the Blue Jays’ end of the deal, where I likely don’t have to tell many of you that it hasn’t gone so well for Drury and McKinney since the trade. The front office made the decision to outright Drury from the roster earlier this season due to his continued struggles, and on Friday they designated McKinney for assignment, making him available on the waiver wire if another team wants to swoop in to pick him up.
Were the decisions warranted? Well, I’ll let you make that judgement for yourself.
2020: .152/.184/.358 in 46 AB
As a Blue Jay: .208/.253/.353 in 490 AB
2020: .667/.667/.667 in three AB
As a Blue Jay: .230/.291/.439 in 369 AB
In fairness to McKinney, he obviously performed just fine in his lone appearance in the big leagues this year. However, with the emergence of Teoscar Hernandez and the solid play from Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the outfield is in pretty good shape when everyone is healthy. While Hernandez is still on the IL, Charlie Montoyo will use a combination of Derek Fisher, Jonathan Davis, and Cavan Biggio, and keeping McKinney’s spot on the 40-man roster just didn’t make sense any more.
As for Drury, unfortunately the 28-year-old was unable to make good on the promise that he flashed at times in a Blue Jay uniform, and it’s understandable that patience finally ran out. Defence was rarely a problem at third base, second base, or anywhere else he was asked to line up, but he just couldn’t contribute enough at the plate to warrant more playing time, and eventually, even a spot on the roster.
Clearly the Blue Jays didn’t get a whole lot on their end of the deal, so how about Happ and the Yankees?
Unfortunately it sounds like the relationship has soured a bit this year with Happ looking like he’ll miss the contract incentives that would give him another year in 2021 at 17 million. Things may not end on a high note, but there was a time the two parties were getting along just fine. In fact, Happ rewarded the Yankees by going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA over 11 starts for the remainder of the 2018 season, helping them earn a Wild Card berth where they eventually lost to the Oakland A’s.
It was good enough to earn him a new deal with the Bronx Bombers that guaranteed him two years and 34 million, with the aforementioned option for 2021 based on incentives that could take it up to three years and 51 million. According to spotrac.com, that meant he needed to hit either 62 innings or 10 starts for this pro-rated season, and it looks like he’ll fall a little short, even if that was by design. It would be hard not to blame the Yankees for wanting to clear that money from the books though, as he went just 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA in 2019, not quite living up to his usual standard, or his contract. He’s been solid enough with a 4.31 ERA and a 1.213 WHIP through six starts in 2020, but he would have to be pretty outstanding down the stretch to change the situation at this point.
Having said all of that, who won the trade? As much as I hate to give them credit for anything, I’d likely have to hand this one to Brian Cashman and the Yankees. We do have to remember that Happ was on an expiring contract at the time of the trade and he re-upped in New York, but even what he provided for the Yankees down the stretch in 2018 was more valuable than the Blue Jays ever received on their end. You can’t win ’em all, and this was one trade that just didn’t work out for the Blue Jays.