Jay Blue: Blue Jays' return for Happ 'underwhelming'

 Left-hander J.A. Happ was dealt by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees on Thursday. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Left-hander J.A. Happ was dealt by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees on Thursday. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

July 26, 2018

By Jay Blue

Blue Jays from Away

The Toronto Blue Jays made their second trade of the day on Thursday, sending starting pitcher J.A. Happ to the New York Yankees for utility-man Brandon Drury and prospecty outfielder Billy McKinney.

We'll start with Drury, who, at 25 years old, has amassed 0.9 rWAR over 307 games in four seasons with Arizona and the Yankees. Drury hit the best playing as an every-day player with the Diamondbacks in 2016 and 2017, posting a .275/.323/.453 slash line, hitting 68 doubles, three triples and 29 home runs in 269 games. He's played mostly second base (at least for the Diamondbacks) but also got significant time in left and right field as well as third base. For the Yankees, in 18 games, Drury has played first base, second base and third base.

Drury was having issues with migraines and blurred visions prior to his February trade from the Diamondbacks that was diagnosed as an irritated nerve between his head and neck and, after hitting .217/.333/.391 in eight games at the start of the year, he was put on the DL. It was noted that the emergence of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar allowed the Yankees to take their time with Drury getting back to the majors. Drury spent the time from April 25 to June 28 in the minors, hitting .306/.413/.477, mostly in triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and returned to the major leagues on June 30, only to go back to the minors for a week on July 13. Drury has hit .176/.263/.275 in 57 big league appearances this season.

Also coming back in the deal is outfielder Billy McKinney. McKinney, 23, is ranked as the Yankees' 20th best prospect (by MLB.com) and he's also dealt with injury, going on the DL with a shoulder injury after crashing into the wall to make a catch against the Blue Jays on March 31. Working his way back, McKinney has hit .227/.297/.498 in 56 games in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, showing some power with 13 home runs, eight doubles and five triples.

Originally drafted by the Oakland A's, McKinney signed for $1.8 million as the 24th overall pick in 2013 and was traded to the Cubs in the Addison Russell deal for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel and then was traded to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. He lost the end of the 2015 season, fracturing his kneecap and, according to MLB.com, that sent him into a "long funk at the plate." McKinney will probably be a corner outfielder long term and he's got solid power and will probably not hit for a very high average (MLB.com gives him a 45 scouting grade for "hit"). It has already been mentioned that he strikes out a fair bit (24.6% at the triple-A level this year) and can be compared to Teoscar Hernandez and/or Randal Grichuk.

Is this the deal we were looking for? Probably not. It seems to be an underwhelming return for J.A. Happ. With Drury a major leaguer for the two years before this one, he'll have to compete with Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Devon Travis for playing time this year (unless one or more are traded).

Since McKinney is not a centre fielder, he'll have to compete with guys like Teoscar Hernandez, Curtis Granderson (unless he's traded), Randal Grichuk, Dwight Smith Jr. Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), and Anthony Alford for playing time at triple-A or the major leagues.

Both players add depth to the Blue Jays' ranks but the question is whether either player can contribute positively at the major league level or just be insurance or emergency players.

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Jay Blue

A lifelong Toronto Blue Jays fan, Jay Blue started blogging about the Jays when he was living in Berlin, Germany. He founded his own blog, Blue Jays from Away, to write about developments with his home town team, focusing on the Jays' minor league system. When he's not watching baseball, he is usually on the diamond umpiring or he's pursuing his research interests in the field of ethnomusicology.