There are two things I'd like to emphasize before jumping into the details of our week spent at the helm of the Fake Cincinnati Reds, so indulge me here for a minute.
First, and foremost, many thanks to Max (RoyalsRetro) from Royals Review for coordinating and facilitating this whole idea. I can't even begin to imagine fielding emails from all 30 franchises and responding in quick enough fashion to make this all work; the Fake Reds braintrust itself traded roughly 300 emails over the 4 day simulation. For a budget conscious baseball nerd who loves prospects and proper valuations (like me), this was your (our) Valhalla, and Max provided us a platform that was pretty freaking awesome, including shared Google Docs featuring up to date Free Agent lists, spreadsheeted budgets broken down by team, and full transaction listings. I'm pretty sure the guy hasn't had a lick of sleep all week, but it sure made for a damn fun, and realistic, simulation, which leads me to the second thing.
I can't imagine being in charge of a Major League Baseball franchise. It's one thing to suggest ideas that add up on paper and wonder why teams don't do them; it's another thing entirely to have 30 teams simultaneously doing the same thing and expecting things to fall in place accordingly. Every time you think you have something in play, it gets tweaked and restarted, and attempting to plan a timeline of what moves to make first, second, and third becomes nearly impossible. Squeezing every offseason move into 4 days just escalated that, and things got crazy quickly. Props to GM BK for being on the ball during the week to make sure we weren't left behind, and as a result, we came out with a pretty damn spiffy looking roster as the final bell tolled.
I'll drop a few quick notes on the meaningful specifics of this before getting to the juicy parts. Each and every team was given a 10% boost from their 2013 payroll as a baseline for this, which sounds cool until you realize that just means every FA price you had targeted actually rose by 10%, too. This was also just a 2014 simulation, so there were very few, if any, teams that went into full rebuild mode; therefore, it was harder to pry established players away from teams with prospects farther than a year away from the big leagues because they ultimately didn't matter in this sim. To the team...
TRANSACTIONS (Listed in Chronological Order)
- Extended 1 year, $14.1 million Qualifying Offer to OF Shin-Soo Choo (DECLINED)
- Non-tendered OF Xavier Paul
- Non-tendered C Corky Miller
- Traded 2B Brandon Phillips to LAD for P Zach Lee
- Traded 1B/3B Neftali Soto to TBR for OF David DeJesus
- Traded OF Ryan Ludwick, P Tony Cingrani to SEA for 2B Nick Franklin
- Signed OF Curtis Granderson to 4 year, $68 million contract
- Signed IF Paul Janish to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
- Signed C Corky Miller to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
- Signed Grady Sizemore to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
- Signed P Bronson Arroyo to 1 year, $9 million contract w/club option for 2015 at $10 million ($1 million buyout)
- Signed IF Willie Bloomquist to 1 year, $1 million contract
- Signed P Aaron Harang to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
- Signed P Manny Parra to 1 year, $800 K contract
- Signed IF Kevin Frandsen to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
- Traded P Logan Ondrusek to Houston for some minor league pitcher we'll never hear from again
METHOD TO THE MADNESS
We began the simulation with a budget of roughly $116 million for the 2014 season, and as we walked in the virtual door of the Winter Meetings our payroll stood at slightly under $103 million. After watching Shin-Soo Choo decline his QO and seeing Bronson Arroyo (who was not offered a QO) and Cesar Izturis officially enter Free Agency, we had a little over $13 million of payroll space and serious issues to deal with both positionally and in lineup construction. As you all might have guessed, we quickly identified CF, LF, and pitching as points of emphasis, with the need for improved offense as the overriding factor.
It is also important to note that while we were willing to have Billy Hamilton as a piece on the 25 man roster to start 2014, we preferred to have the option to start him in AAA if we could find credible upgrades. Also, while we were willing to consider moving Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation, we still aimed at entering the 2014 season with at least 5 realistic starting pitchers to allow for Chapman to anchor the bullpen.
Another key component we looked for during assembly was positional versatility to allow for maximum lineup flexibility. We all have a major crush on Rays' do-everything Ben Zobrist, and we believe that Todd Frazier has the ability to be a comparable, albeit slightly less capable player. Similarly, both DeJesus and Granderson (along with Heisey) can play multiple OF positions, including CF, allowing for good matchups to be exploited and bad ones to be avoided; I think we all agreed that too many players played too many games last year to the detriment of their, and the team's, performance, and this flexibility should help mitigate that.
We're pretty happy with the team we ended up with. Granderson was obviously our biggest get, and while he's not a 1 for 1 replacement or comparable to Choo, he's a versatile OF who we signed for half Choo's price that can provide solid defense and a ton of power potential with GABP's short RF porch. DeJesus, who we've Fake targeted for years, is either an upgrade in LF or a stopgap CF to buy time for Billy Hamilton, and he's mashed RHP to the tune of a career OPS over .800 during his decade long career.
We also managed to trade Brandon Phillips and the entirety of the $50 million owed him and got promising Top 70 pitching prospect Zach Lee in return. Having Lee, who will start in AAA, helped partially soothe the pain felt from losing Tony Cingrani in the trade to Seattle, as Lee's current status and progression is nearly identical to where Cingrani sat this time a year ago. Seeing Cinnerman go was easily the toughest decision in all of this, but including him with the $13 million owed to Ryan Ludwick's bum shoulder allowed us to find BP's replacement in Nick Franklin, a switch hitting 2B (who came up as a SS prospect regarded as highly as Xander Bogaerts and Hak-Ju Lee) who has 5 controllable team years remaining after a promising 2.3 WAR rookie season; he's hit everywhere he's been, and he'll do that as a Fake Red, too. We found Bronson Arroyo unwanted and undervalued, and scooped him up at a dirt cheap rate given what other pitchers were signing for. Willie Bloomquist can be a competent RH utility guy better than Cesar Izturis, Wilson Valdez, and the laundry list of other has-been utility guys we've seen in the past, and Manny Parra comes back to the Reds at a cheaper rate than what he got last season.
We tried to swing hard for the fences, too. We really wanted Adrian Beltre, but the Rangers wouldn't budge. We tried for Pablo Sandoval, but Brisbee was a fuddy duddy stick in the mud who wouldn't let it happen. We pursued Choo, but he ultimately signed for an absurd 7 years and $137 million with the Fake Mets, which blew even our wildest budget dreams and even topped Jacoby Ellsbury's 7 year, $120 million deal with the Fake Mariners. We couldn't get a reasonable return for Homer Bailey, so we kept him, and we also got priced out of (or balked at) other potential deals for David Price, Mark Ellis, Cliff Lee, Jurickson Profar, Andre Ethier, Asdrubal Cabrera, Kevin Youkilis, and Omar Infante, among others.
Ultimately, we're left with a 25 man roster that should look something like this:
IF: Joey Votto, Nick Franklin, Zach Cozart, Todd Frazier, Willie Bloomquist, Jack Hannahan
OF: Jay Bruce, David DeJesus, Curtis Granderson, Chris Heisey, Derrick Robinson
C: Ryan Hanigan, Devin Mesoraco
SP: Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo
RP: Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra
All told, our payroll sits at $116,450,000 which is as close to right-on budget as we could've hoped for. We shed Ludwick, BP, and Ondrusek, upgraded in LF, found a competent replacement for Choo, allowed Hamilton a chance to get a few more AAA PAs, and formed a starting rotation that we think is as good as there is in baseball.
Not bad, guys. Not bad at all.