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About those Fake Reds: SBN Winter Meetings end of year check-in

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We made some trades, did some stuff, moved some things. How'd that turn out?

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Way back in November, a Red Reporter oligarchy composed of Beek, Johnny Weez, Charlie Scrabbles, and I joined members from the other SB Nation baseball blogholes for the 2nd edition of Royals Review's Winter Meetings simulation.  Basically, we got to fake be in fake charge of the Fake Cincinnati Reds roster and payroll with an eye towards the 2015 season, and we had three days to form the best possible roster based on realistic-ish salaries, trade returns, and market demand.

We tried to put our heads together to out-headbutt the competition, but there was obviously a very real chance we'd just out-butthead them.  I mean, it was the 2015 Reds ship we were tasked with captaining, and given how the real product on the field turned out, the expectations shouldn't have owned real estate on the moon.

With the real regular season having wrapped over the weekend, I thought it'd be worth revisiting some of the moves we made to see how they look with telescopic hindsight.  So, here goes.

Administrative Notes

As BK noted in the primer linked to above, we had to make a number of personnel decisions before we even got started since Walt Jocketty just loooooves adding option years onto the back-end of player contracts.

We did the obvious in declining the 2015 options on both Ryan Ludwick and Jack Hannahan, both of which were solid decisions.  And, of course, we picked up Johnny Cueto's $10 million 2015 option because we all paid attention in Eyeball Slicing 101 back in college.  We non-tendered Logan Ondrusek, too, because we knew the Reds bullpen would be historibad whether he was part of it or not because money was tight and we thought we had better options for cheaper.

Moves, Deals, & Decisions

- Traded P Ben Lively and P Ismael Guillon to the Tampa Bay Rays for OF Matt Joyce

In his five seasons in Tampa, Matt Joyce had mauled RHP to the tune of roughly .255/.350/.455, played reasonably OK corner OF defense, and smacked about 15-16 dingers a season while playing in a pitcher's park.  That had made him a roughly 2-2.5 WAR player per season, but he was only set to make $4.9 million in his final season of arbitration in 2015, and we thought that was a bargain.

Well, it was a bargain, but the real Joyce's production fell off a cliff in 2015 once he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels.

Joyce hit just .gross/.ouch/.wow in 2015, his BABIP tanking to a ridiculous .215 - well below what had been a career mark of about .285 - and limited playing time was the only thing that kept his bWAR from being lower than -1.0.  In other words, having him on a 2015 roster would've been a bust, the only silver lining being that he'd have continued a long line of awful LF play for the Reds.

Lively, of course, eventually got real-swapped for real-LF Marlon Byrd, so our judgement that selling high on him after his breakout 2014 would be OK was pretty sound.  Still, this leaves us at 0 for 1 on the move scoreboard.

- Traded P Homer Bailey to the Toronto Blue Jays for SS Richard Urena and P John Stilson

That telescopic hindsight I talked about above?  It's looking at this deal and giving high-fives all around.

Homer followed up his disappointing and surgically cut short 2014 season by tearing his UCL and needing Tommy John surgery in the real 2015, his already bloated contract losing one more year of youthful production that it desperately needed when signed.  We dumped him and the entirety of the $80+ million due his way onto the Fake Blue Jays,

In return we got Urena, a 19 year old lauded for his glove work who managed to hit .266 and blast 15 dingers in just 91 games at Class A Lansing before struggling a bit in a small sample after his call-up to A+.  He walks not, but his season saw him move up to #6 in MLB.com's rankings of the top prospects in the Blue Jays farm system, and his upside es immenso.

Stilson was the wild card in this, since his shoulder has held him back over the course of his young career despite his 1st round draft pick talent (he dropped to the 3rd round because of shoulder issues from his college days).  He was coming off season ending surgery in 2014 - as was Bailey - and his shoulder kept him sidelined for much of 2015, too.  He's a bullpen arm at this point if his labrum ever heals, but he'd be one with an electric arm if that materializes.

More important than the return, really, was freeing up salary in this move, since it would allow us to look into signing Johnny Cueto to an extension (though extensions weren't part of the simulation).  This one gets us to 1 for 2.

- Signed OF Chris Denorfia to 1 year, $1 million contract; signed SS Stephen Drew to 1 year, $4 million contract

We brought Deno back in part for sentimental reasons, but also because the 35 year old just keeps right on truckin'.  He still plays solid defense and, who knows, the .301/.333/.412 he hit against RHP for the real Chicago Cubs in 2015 may have been enough to get him in the lineup in LF and bench the struggling Joyce for our Fake Reds.  He's a plus bench signing, if not.

Drew was brought in on a flier after his awful 2014, with our intentions for him to serve as middle infield depth since there was no Eugenio Suarez on our Fake Reds (since the SS prospect we targeted, Urena, was a bit farther from big league ready).  Drew had a confounding 2015 for the New York Yankees in the real world, blasting 17 dingers but hitting a putrid .201.  As a depth move, though, that's an upgrade over what the bench had looked like, and that's what we had in mind.

I'm pairing these two moves together since they were both intended as "bench improvement" deals, and together they make us 2 for 3.

- Traded SP Mat Latos to the Boston Red Sox for P Collin McHugh, SP Kyle Crick, SP Jhoulys Chacin, and RP Edward Mujica

Beek noted in the original recap that McHugh landed in Boston in this simulation when the wheelin' dealin' Red Sox shipped Yoenis Cespedes to Houston, but the Boston GMs in this simulation were feeling the heat from their constituents to add a more name-brand top-flight starter despite the bevy of arms they'd compiled in previous deals.

So, we obliged.

Compared to the Latos deal the Reds got in the real world - Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach from the Miami Marlins - our fake deal looks pretty rosy.  McHugh backed up his 4 WAR rookie campaign from 2014 with a 3 WAR year in 2015 with Houston, and he is exactly the kind of #2/3 starter the Reds hope Disco turns into.  Crick - who Boston had plucked from the Giants for Jackie Bradley, Jr. - has an electric arm (11.0 K/9 in the minors) that struggles to find the strike zone, but he's been a Top 100 prospect for three years since being a 1st round pick in 2011.  Chacin was included to offset salary, and though his arm often falls off, he logged 26.2 innings of 3.38 ball for Arizona in 2015 after spending much of the year in the minors for some reason (and has a 5.8 bWAR season under his belt).  Mujica, finally, is a veteran bullpen arm who mixed "meh" with "blah" for a 4.75 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with Boston and Oakland in real-world 2015, but he was merely a dollar-for-dollar throw in to make the deal work.

You're well aware of how Latos fared in 2015, and that makes this fake trade an out and out victory and us 3 for 4 on your scorecards.

Wrap

None of these deals likely put the Fake Reds ahead of their Fake NL Central rivals, and that's an obstacle we knew we'd struggle to overcome.  And since this was meant as just a 1-year simulation, we tried our damnedest to pluck Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, only to be outbid by teams with much, much deeper farm systems (he ended up with the Red Sox).  So, we made some moves that made 2015 palatable and opened up a world of possibilities beyond by freeing up a big hunk o' salary.

There was no Fake July 31st trade deadline, so there's no way to know if we flip Cueto or Leake or hold on to them for Qualifying Offers and draft pick compensation, but that's something the braintrust would've brainthought about.  In all, it ended up being a series of moves mirrored what the real Reds actually pulled off, which isn't too surprising given how tight both budgets were and how limited the prospect cache was.