Harper, Machado, and more: Reassessing the 2018-19 MLB free agents

Sep 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) waits in the outfield before the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) waits in the outfield before the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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J.A. Happ. Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
J.A. Happ. Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /

Examining the contract: J.A. Happ, New York Yankees, two years, $34 million

Happ was 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 31 starts in 2018, peaking the Yankees’ interest.

The left-hander looked like a good bet. At the moment he signed that two-year deal, he had a 73-46 career record and an ERA around 3.50 with a proven ability to work 150 innings at minimum.

But unless the guy’s name is Max Scherzer, signing a pitcher to a big-dollar deal almost always carries with it an element of risk.

Over two seasons with the Yankees, Happ was okay – a 14-10 record, 4.56 ERA in 210 innings – but hardly star-quality.

When the Yankees sign a free agent pitcher, the first presumption is that the signing will contribute to a postseason berth, and the second is that the pitcher will do well in his postseason appearances. Happ fulfilled the first requirement; the Yanks won the AL East in 2019 and took the Wild Card in 2020.

The second requirement was a steeper hill. Happ made five postseason appearances, one of them a start, totaling just 8.1 innings and giving up 10 runs.

The market didn’t think much of Happ’s performance. Last winter, he had to swallow a one-year, $8 million dollar with the Twins. Traded to St. Louis in midseason, he finished 10-8 with a 5.79 ERA and is again available, if anybody cares.