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.

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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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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)

Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading: Matt Joyce, Gaby Sanchez

Full story as published 5/19/11 on KFFL.com

By Rich Arleo

Some batters and pitchers on the other teams in your fantasy baseball league are becoming real drags. A few MLB players on your fantasy baseball team are performing better than you expected. Is it time to move in? KFFL.com’s Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading series is your accomplice when it’s time to do shady business in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game.

Sell

Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays

Has the 26-year-old finally found the sweet stroke many have been waiting for the past few years? Joyce is raking to the tune of a .365 average and .434 OBP with 26 runs, seven home runs and 21 RBIs.

Taking a look at Joyce’s minor league stats, in 519 games played he hit just .275. He had decent power numbers, but the average was never anything special, although he had a nice OBP of .362. He should hit for some decent power, but the pace that Joyce is on seems unsustainable, especially since his contact rate is hovering around 77 percent.

Florida Marlins 1B Gaby Sanchez
Sanchez has shown this before

Also, owners can’t forget the injury concerns with Joyce. He suffered through elbow issues last year and had a calf strain suffered prior to the start of 2009 that lingered, plus occasional back pain. He has been healthy thus far, but the injury concerns are certainly there.

Joyce’s bat has been somewhat highly regarded since his days with the Detroit Tigers, so there are plenty of owners who think this could finally be the year. It certainly could be, but if you find one of them and can get a safer, quality option in return, it may be worthwhile.

Hold

Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins

After a solid rookie season, the 27-year-old first baseman has become a must-start in all leagues, with a .325 average, a .406 OBP, seven home runs, 25 runs and 26 RBIs.

One big criticism of Sanchez is that he doesn’t have the power you expect from the first base position, but with seven home runs already, he’s on pace to hit more than 25. He’s being more selective at the plate, walking at a higher rate (11.7 percent) and an improved BB/K ratio of 0.81. His swing percentage at balls outside the strike zone is at 27.6, down from 34.8 percent last year.

Sanchez is hitting fourth in a decent Florida lineup, which means plenty of opportunities to drive in and score runs, especially once the struggling Hanley Ramirez figures things out at the plate. While his average on balls in play (.352) will certainly begin to normalize, his strong foundation should soften the ball. His HR/RB percentage (13.7) isn’t outrageous to predict a massive fall-off.

With Sanchez, it looks like a case of a player avoiding a sophomore slump. The signs are showing that in the majors he’s become the more patient, selective hitter he was in the minors, and it’s paying off. Unless you find Sanchez’s No. 1 fan, who’s willing to pay a respectable price for him, and not a skeptic who projects him to become James Loney, keep him and enjoy what should continue to be a breakout season.

– See more at: http://www.kffl.com/a.php/127778/fantasy-baseball/Fantasy-Baseball-Insider-Trading–Matt-Joyce–Gaby-Sanchez#sthash.flIlUpge.dpuf

2013 Fantasy Baseball: Don’t Sleep on Matt Harvey

Full story as published 2/16/13 on Rantsports.com

By Rich Arleo

The New York Mets don’t boast a large amount of relevant fantasy baseball players, but they do have a particularly interesting young pitcher in Matt Harvey.

Harvey, a tall right-hander, made his debut last July and finished out the season strong for the Mets while helping some fantasy teams in a late-season push. In 10 starts, the 24-year-old won only three games but had an impressive 10.62 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) ratio with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He showed great strikeout ability in his quick ascension through the minor leagues, and he was able to translate that to the majors.

Harvey did have a little bit of luck. He had 81.3 percent of runners left on base while hitters had a low .262 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) against him. You could say that some of his success was from hitters’ unfamiliarity with the rookie. What’s encouraging, however, is the high strikeout rate and solid K/BB ratio. His 2.69 K/BB rate would have landed him in the top 20 in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify.

Hitters had a lot of trouble making contact on his pitches as he managed an incredible swinging-strike percentage of 12. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander had an 11.7 swinging-strike percentage last season. He has a fastball that touches the mid-to-high 90s consistently and a tight slider that can hit 90 MPH as well. As long as he keeps his velocity up and can continue to control that slider, there’s no reason to believe he won’t become the Mets’ ace this season.

He is worth around $10 in auction leagues and is likely worth a pick near the 10th round in standard leagues. There’s always the risk that hitters catch on a bit, and he isn’t going to rack up a ton of wins on the Mets, but he absolutely has the stuff to be a dominant strikeout pitcher in 2013 and for years to come.

Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/fantasy/2013/02/16/2013-fantasy-baseball-dont-sleep-on-matt-harvey/?8TzxZkkeCKm8WiD8.99

2013 Fantasy Football Breakout Players: David Wilson

Full Post as Published 5/29/13 on Brunoboys.net and USAToday.com.

By Rich Arleo

Every year, fantasy football owners enter their drafts searching for the next big star. These aren’t the guys taken in the Round 1, but players who are ready to take that next step and become top fantasy football picks for years to come. We like to call them fantasy football breakout players.

Leading up to 2013 fantasy football drafts, we will take a look at different players that are ready to break out this season.
David Wilson, RB New York Giants

After being selected in the Round 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, many fantasy football players eyed Wilson as a possible starter for their teams. As a rookie, Wilson saw work immediately in Week 1, but lost a big fumble in the game (a bugaboo of his in college) and was immediately put in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse.

The rookie saw just seven touches in the first four games and gained 10 total yards. In Week 5, he again was given just two carries but he took one of them 40 yards in to the end zone, showing off the talent he clearly has for the first time in the NFL. Wilson ran seven times in a blowout victory the next week before touching the ball just 14 combined times in the next six days.

After shining in another blowout victory—running for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries—Coughlin had a bit more confidence in him as the season wound down. The coach didn’t have much of a choice with Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown both ailing, but the bottom line is that Wilson got his chance and ran with it. He finished the season with 358 yards on only 71 carries (5.0 yards per carry) with five touchdowns.

Now, with Bradshaw gone, Wilson looks to have every chance to step up and be the primary ball carrier in New York. Brown is still on the team and will likely see his fair share of work, however Wilson’s combination of power and speed makes him the more enticing option. Wilson pleased his coaches by being fumble free after Week 1 and he is mentality prepared to continue that hot finish he had last year.

With a full season under his belt, and no true competition, Wilson should be considered a top-20 running back with tons of upside. Fantasy football owners should draft Wilson as a RB2 entering the season and if he breakouts like we think he is capable of, expect even more. He is dynamic enough to be a top-tier RB2 option with the ability to be an top-10 fantasy football running back for years to come. Owners who play in fantasy football dynasty leagues should target him even higher than re-draft leagues.

Ward Melville Pulls Away From Smithtown West to Clinch County Title

(Full story as published June 2, 2013 on Three Village Patch)

By Rich Arleo

Seven-goal run caps 11-6 victory for Patriots.

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A goal by Ward Melville senior captain Christian Mazzone with 11 seconds left in a tightly-contested first half helped turn the tide as part of a seven-goal run, sparking the Patriots to an 11-6 win in the Class A County Championship.

The game started off in a defensive struggle before a scoring flurry just over five minutes into the first. Ward Melville struck first at 7:25 with a goal by Kevin McKeever off an assist from Mazzone and then grabbed a two-goal lead just 30 seconds later when Brendan Hegarty buried one. It took Smithtown just 20 seconds to answer back, however, and stop the run with a goal of their own.

The Bulls were able to grab a 4-3 lead with a goal by John Day with 8:44 left in the second quarter, but it was the last time they would have the advantage. After Ward Melville’s Jack Bruckner tied it with just under five minutes left, goalie Daniel Nemirov made a huge save on a one-on-one chance which led to a transition and the game-winning goal from Mazzone with 11 seconds left in the half.

“I feel like whenever I can do my job in the cage and get a quick alley we’ll be able to get some transition which really turns the tables,” Nemirov said. “That was a two-goal swing to end the half which really gave us momentum in the locker room.”

The Patriots then scored five more unanswered to put the game to bed.

“We were feeling good at halftime,” Nemirov said. “We were right where we wanted to be in a perfect spot to take the win and we did the job.”

Head coach Michael Hoppey also credited the save and goal to end the half as a momentum swing, but was sure to note that it was their play in the third quarter that really clinched the win.

“We hadn’t been in alot of close games but we were anticipating it,” he said. “I think we played our best quarter of the year in the third quarter. This has been a big hurdle for us getting out of Suffolk County, a lot of time that’s the toughest game.”

Amidst speculation that he would be retiring after 32 years with the Three Village School District, a drenched Hoppey said shortly after his water-cooler shower, “It’s not official yet, we’re still figuring it out.”

Ward Melville moves on to play Massapequa Saturday at Hofstra for the Class A Long Island Championship.

“We looked at the tape of Massapequa and they’re a very good team,” Hoppey said, “so we’ve got our work cut out for us Saturday.”