SAN DIEGO — As a way to potentially fit Gerrit Cole more comfortably into their payroll — specifically for luxury-tax purposes — the Yankees continue to shop J.A. Happ, as The Post first reported last month.
Two executives from outside teams described the Yankees as actively looking to trade Happ.
Happ completed the first season of a two-year, $34 million contract in 2019, so he counts $17 million toward the luxury-tax payroll. The Yankees know that in 2020 they will be over the first luxury-tax threshold of $208 million and probably the second penalty level of $228 million as well. But if they were able to move even most of Happ’s contract, then they probably can avoid the top penalty level of a payroll above $248 million.
Happ is not an easy sell. He had a 4.91 ERA last season. He is 37. He has a 2021 vesting option for $17 million that triggers at 165 innings or 27 starts. But he is durable. He was good down the regular-season stretch, with a 2.23 ERA in his final six games (five starts), particularly dominating lefties.
Following the 2017 season, the Yankees attached prospect Bryan Mitchell to Chase Headley in a trade to get the Padres to take on the full $13…