Is Heyward a no-brainer for Yankees?

The Yankees have changed the way they operate, there’s no question about that.

Gone are the days when George Steinbrenner would wine and dine the premier free agents himself and open the checkbook at will. His son, Hal, is not operating with deep pockets, and the luxury tax costs have piled up over the years.

Nobody expects the club to spend much this winter, but there’s one big reason why it should, and his name is Jason Heyward.

Let’s start by establishing just how rare it is to find a player like Heyward on the free-agent market.

Heyward has six seasons under his belt with 97 career home runs and 86 steals, but he is still only 26 years old and will be for much of this season. When looking at this winter’s free agents, there are around 20 hitters who are younger than 30 years old, just three are younger than 28 (according to MLBTradeRumors.com), and of those three, none even come close to the pedigree of Heyward.

And it doesn’t get much different in 2017. At the moment, there are just two potential free agents at the end of this coming season that will be younger than 30 — catchers Salvador Perez, who the Royals are already talking potential extension with, and Wilson Ramos.

An established star outfielder who arguably hasn’t even yet reached his prime and had a WAR (Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com) of 6.2 and 6.5 in 2014 and ’15, respectively, is beyond rare on the free-agent market. He has power, he has speed, and he is probably the best defensive right fielder in baseball. According to Fangraphs.com, he led all RFs in UZR (ultimate zone rating, which attempts to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up in the field) at +20.2, coming in second among outfielders only to Kevin Kiermaier, who is widely considered the best in the bigs.

The main reason he’s likely coming relatively cheap, if you can consider the expected 7-year, $200-plus million contract coming his way cheap (hint: in today’s league, it is) is because of his career .268 batting average. But he hit a career-best .293 last season with a .359 OBP, and he has cut down on his strikeout percentage for four straight seasons.

Critics will also cite injuries, a big reason why he disappointed after his rookie season, but he played in 154 games last season, so there is no more concern with him as there is for any athlete.

So what’s the drawback? On the surface, there really isn’t one. Heyward is that rare free agent that teams will absolutely regret passing on. But the Yankees, it’s the money, and the roster space.

The team is desperately trying to get under the luxury tax threshold ($189 million in 2016), and with aged star contracts still on the payroll — Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million) and Carlos Beltran ($15 million) through ’16, Alex Rodriguez ($20 million) and CC Sabathia ($25 million) in ’16 and ’17 — money is still tight.

LuxuryTax2015
Infographic via Forbes.com

Looking at the current Yankees outfielders, Jacoby Ellsbury and his monstrous contract are entrenched in center field for quite some time, as is left fielder Brett Gardner, who is coming off an All-Star season despite a terrible second half.

Then you have Beltran. The veteran slugger was one of the Yankees’ best hitters down the stretch last year, but it became painfully clear that he really shouldn’t be in the outfield anymore — especially not for 130-plus games. The problem is that A-Rod is already a full-time DH, and Teixeira clearly can’t last a full season playing in the field either. It’s an unfortunate logjam and one that the Yankees have to deal with in 2016. Basically, with A-Rod likely locked in at DH most of the time, there are two spots for Beltran — right field and the bench.

If the Yankees signed Heyward, I think most people would be OK with Beltran being on the bench. He’ll get his time here and there, and with the obvious likelihood of injury with all these old guys running around, there will likely eventually be space for him — and again, this is just a problem for one year. Beltran and Teixeira (woohoo!) are gone after this season, so you’ll have money and roster space available.

Gardner has been involved in trade rumors as the Yankees look to bolster their starting rotation, and moving him could not only clear up some money (he has a base salary of $13 million) depending on who they get in return, but also free up space in the outfield.

There is also the impending breakout of top prospect Aaron Judge. He is also a right fielder and has true power potential. But he has just over 200 at-bats at the Triple-A level, and he hit just .228 there, so there’s still work to do. And if the Yanks add Heyward, a simple adjustment to left field couldn’t be that difficult for Judge, could it?

If the Yankees can just bite the bullet for one year and deal with the luxury tax expenses and potential logjam, then you have your star right fielder of the present and future in Heyward.

What’s the alternative? If you don’t sign Heyward, you put up with awful right-field defense this season and cross your fingers that Judge realizes his potential by 2017. It’s that or you either continue the awful cycle of signing underwhelming aging free agents,  or hope and pray Bryce Harper hits the market in 2018, and that you have the $300-400 million to throw at him.

 

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Brooklyn College Professor Pens Biography on Shirley Chisholm

(Article published on Park Slope Patch on Jan. 28, 2014)

Barbara Winslow is a professor of Women’s Studies at Brooklyn College and a 30-year resident of Park Slope who is responsible for starting and running the Shirley Chisholm Project/Brooklyn Women’s Activism at Brooklyn College.

She was asked to pen the first biography in 40 years on Chisholm for Carol Berkin’s series of books, ‘Lives of American Women’, and jumped at the chance.

Chisholm, who was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1924, became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and became the first woman to run for president in 1972. She was a sought-after public speaker and co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) who once remarked that, “Women in this country must become revolutionaries. We must refuse to accept the old, the traditional roles and stereotypes.”

Patch had the opportunity to speak with Professor Winslow about Chisholm, the impact she had on her life and the new book, ‘Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change’.

When did you start the Shirley Chisholm Project, and what are some of your biggest achievements with the project to date?

I started the project in 2006, and I would say the overall greatest accomplishment is keeping Shirley Chisholm’s name alive and reintroducing her to a new generation of people in Brooklyn and across the country to whom she was. We also have the largest collection of archival material about Chisholm as part of the project in our library.

We do extraordinary public events around Shirley Chisholm day in November and have had Gloria Steinem, Anita Hill, Melissa Harris-Perry and others come and speak about the importance of Ms. Chisholm and her legacy.

Given your ties to Ms. Chisholm, when did you decide to write her bio and what was it that made you finally decide to do so?

I was asked to write this bio by Carol Berkin, who was a presidential professor at Baruch College before she retired. She was originating a series of books, ‘Lives of American Women’, and wanted me to do one on Shirley Chisholm. As soon as she asked, it took me a ‘New York nanosecond’ to say yes.

What is it about her that’s inspired you so much, and what do you hope readers take from your book?

I was in a liberation group in Seattle, Wash. in 1972 when she ran for president. I believe our group sent $15 to her campaign, which in 1972 was the equivalent of sending her hundreds of dollars, so that was very exciting. She inspired me 40 years ago. 

When I was teaching in Brooklyn College, I was reminded that she was a graduate of the college. When I proposed we name a women’s study for research (in her name) I was astounded that many of my colleagues, professors of women’s studies did not know who she was. I was galvanized to create this project so that her life and legacy would not be forgotten. While Chisholm is the focus right now, lives of so many other women need to be written about and understood too. 

I think what’s important about this book is that not only is it the first scholarly biography of her, but the book is part of a series that is designed to bring women’s lives into the school’s curriculum, and that’s what I’m very proud of.

Yankees Prove Commitment to Winning, Surpass $189 Mil With Tanaka

(Story published Jan. 22, 2014 on YanksGoYard.com)

All off-season long the question remained; would the New York Yankees spend just enough to make it look like they were committed to winning, or would they spend what they needed to in order to be a real contender in 2014?

Yankee fans have been hearing about the $189 million cap for a few years now, as that’s the number they needed to stay under in order to avoid having their luxury tax rate climb to even bigger numbers. It was a goal set in place a few years ago, but the Yankees’ failures in the past put them in a difficult position. Their farm system hasn’t developed a legitimate major league talent since setup man David Robertson (the verdict is still out on Ivan Nova), and overspending in past years has left them paying big money to aging stars.

The New York Yankees did not make the playoffs last year, and that’s not acceptable in Yankeeland. So when the team went out and spent big money on Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, it was nice, but it wasn’t enough. Then the Yankees brought in Carlos Beltran to cement a rock solid lineup, but it still wasn’t enough to win. Even with all that, the team needed more starting pitching. So would they try to be thrifty and find quality starting pitchers for cheap, or would they be the Yankees and get the guy everyone knew they needed?

On Wednesday, the Yankees got who they needed in Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka was the true test of whether or not ownership was truly committed to winning, or whether they were just concerned about the bottom line.

In the past with George Steinbrenner at the helm, that was never a question. But in the past few years under his son Hal Steinbrenner’s leadership, it was a valid question. He spoke often about cutting payroll and rumors have even circled that he is looking to sell the team. They won in 2009 just months George’s passing, but there hasn’t been much success since.

The Yankees truly are looking to change that, and everyone in the organization proved that today by giving Tanaka the fifth-highest contract for a starting pitcher in history–albeit to a guy who hasn’t even thrown a pitch in the major leagues yet.

But it was what needed to be done. Tanaka was expected to get well over $100 million based on his reputation, and rightfully so. The 25-year-old was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.943 WHIP and 183 strikeouts last year for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japanese Pacific League. This his third straight season with an ERA under two.

Sure there are questions about how the stuff will translate to the majors, but everyone knew he was the best free agent pitcher out there and would set the market. Settling for a Matt Garza or an Ervin Santana would’ve been just that, settling. Tanaka is the guy with the “ace” potential, and he is now a Yankee.

This will all play out in the next few years and we’ll know soon enough whether or not this move was the right one. What matters now is that fans can rest easy knowing the team made the move it had to make in order to have a shot at hoisting up the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the year.

Some Yankees Officials Not Sold on Tanaka?

(Story posted Jan. 20, 2014 on Yanksgoyard.com)

By Rich Arleo

Since rumors began that Masahiro Tanaka could be coming to Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees have been linked to the 25-year-old Japanese phenom, and rightfully so.

With just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, the Yankees only have three spots in their rotation filled by C.C Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. Tanaka, the most high profile Japanese import since Yu Darvish, has been deemed a “can’t miss” but many and seems to be the perfect fit for the Yanks.

Unfortunately, it may not be such a unanimous decision in the organization. According to a recent report in the New York Post, one official has his doubts.

(Click here for full post on Yanksgoyard.com)

At the Polls: Residents Hoping to Avoid Contingency

(Full story as published  June 19, 2012 at 10:20 PM)

For the second time in just over a month, Mount Sinai School District residents headed to the polls to vote on a budget for the 2012-13′ school year.

With the original tax cap-piercing budget failing to receive supermajority approval, concerned community members flocked to the polls hoping to avoid another failed budget, which would lead to contingency for the district.

A resident for 14 years, Joe Rutolph thinks it’s imperative this budget passes to avoid additional cuts, but he wasn’t surprised the first one failed.

“We knew it was going to be close,” he said. “Getting 60-percent of anyone to vote either way is a lot to get, and I think it was a crapshoot so to speak. We were hoping it would pass but certainly you could understand for some of the older folks who don’t have kids in school, the amount of money that we pay in taxes is high, you could see both sides.

“If this one doesn’t pass the amount of cuts that will take place to all the programs, it will be just too deep.”

Maureen and Jim Clark currently don’t have children in the district, yet still support the proposed budget.

“We are very much pro education, so we supported it the last time even with the larger increase to try to maintain programs and we supported it now,” Jim Clark said.

“It is a very fine school district,” Maureen added. “It’s produced some wonderful students and you have to give what you can to keep it going like that.”

With 20 years in Mount Sinai under her belt, Laura Williams, a teacher at another district on the island, is also crossing her fingers that contingency won’t be needed.

“Yes, it is imperative this passes,” she said.  “I have two in high school for next year, so I think it should pass, without a doubt.”

Some were surprised that it has gone this far, and the district is hoping the support is enough to get an already lower budget approved.

Polls remain open in the Elementary School gymnasium until 9 p.m. Tuesday. Stay tuned to Patch for breaking results later in the evening.

Miller Place Board Adopts Budget Under Cap Without Full-Day Kindergarten

(Full story as published 4/4/13)

The proposal of full-day kindergarten in the 2013-14 school budget in Miller Place has been a hot topic since first proposed by Superintendent Marianne Higuera. On Wednesday the Board of Education made a decision to adopt a budget without the proposal.

After including kindergarten in the superintendent’s budget, the school board listened to varying community views on the topic for about a month before ultimately deciding against it.

“We are all cognizant of the educational merits of doing it, but at this particular time the sustainability issue is just too much for this board to pass,” said trustee Michael Unger.

The budget would have been $67,757,777, a 4.3-percent increase, with full-day kindergarten. Instead, the adopted budget of around $67.3 million will be an increase of 3.64 percent from last year.

“They are putting together the best educational program they can for 2013-’14 and I support their decisions,” Higuera said of the board’s adoption.

The budget not only retains all staff and programs, but also includes other initiatives and comes in under the tax levy cap. The district’s maximum allowable tax levy increase was 4.3 percent but the board managed to reduce the increase to 3.94 percent after initally projecting to be at the cap.

“The board really put a lot of thought and energy into offering the best educational programs for the district they could at the time and also considered the economic and fiscal constraints in the community,” Higuera said. “Their decision to come in under the tax cap was reflective of their beliefs.”

While full-day kindergarten is in the rear-view mirror for this upcoming budget, Unger noted that time taken to analyze the program was beneficial and it is something they will look at again in future budgets. They will also have to monitor whether or not they will still have the New York State Conversion Aid for the program in upcoming years.

“We’re going to keep in contact with legislators to find out the possibility of the aid going away,” Unger said. “The good thing is we looked at it now in detail. It’s important for the community to know that it’s now fully in our laps and we’re going to continue to look at it.”

Debate Persists On Contentious Miller Place Kindergarten Proposal

(Full story as published 3/14/13 on Miller Place-Rocky Point Patch)

Full-Day kindergarten continued to be the topic of contention at Wednesday’s second budget workshop as the district pitched the proposal again while now including a four-year projection.

Clearly the most controversial topic after the first workshop, the program would come at no cost to the district the first year and little cost in 2014-‘15 thanks to Kindergarten Conversion State Aid that would be received. The first two years of full-day kindergarten would come at a net cost of $105,370 thanks to a projected $750,000 in aid.

After the original meeting the board and residents asked for a projection extended past the first two years of the program. Superintendent Marianne Higuera delivered that on Wednesday. The projections showed that the total net cost of the program to the district over four years would come to $975,513. Teachers, parents and other residents spoke and shared their support or opposition with the proposal with the superintendents and the board.

“I’m concerned about its stability and what it’s going to do to us in three years,” said parent Lori Murphy. “We’ve made a lot of progress this year. How is it possible we can say that we can sustain that and it’s not going to pit everyone against each other once again in years three, four and five?”

Assistant Superintendent Susan Hodun also delivered a presentation on the effects of a full-day program, which included a comparison of the half-day and full-day schedule for students. The current half-day program lasts from 9:15 to 11:45 a.m. and includes four half-hour lessons. The full-day program would last until 3:45 p.m. and include 10 half-hour lessons as well as a 50-minute lunch and recess for the kids.

“I know that people will say, in the past we’ve always had half-day kindergarten and it’s worked, but we’re moving ahead now,” said parent Lauren Getz. “We need to give these children the opportunity and the resources to be the great citizens that I know that they can be.”

Another parent, Lisa McNulty, added, “It’s the time. This is the opportunity to go full-day and see how well our children can do by first, second and third grade.”

The Board of Education is continuing to look at all aspects of the superintendent’s proposal before adopting a budget, including the kindergarten proposal. According to projections, the proposed budget would be $67,757,777 with full-day kindergarten and $67,320,399 without. The budget includes other new initiatives and zero cuts.

“Personally I don’t think the board’s made a decision yet,” board member Michael Unger said regarding the kindergarten proposal. “I think clearly we feel that the educational impact is something you can’t argue. The other side though is the sustainability. Where are we going to be in three years?”

Budget adoption is scheduled for March 20, but at the request of some residents, the board is considering pushing the adoption back in order to leave more time for public comment.