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SB Nation 2015 Off-Season GM Simulation: Varying Degrees of Success

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BK, Wick, Aaron, and myself hunkered down for the last 3 days as the fake-GM for the fake-Reds in a real simulation of the offseason. Things got weird.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

So, as is usual, we killed a lot of time this week pretending to be the decision makers for the Reds. It was hosted by our friends over at the other RR, Royals Review. You can read the ground rules and timeline we had to work with here. Just to point out a couple of things: we rewind to the end of the 2015 season, so those deals you've been reading about? Forget 'em.

All the teams had a recommended budget of an amount that is significant in some way, but I'll be damned if I can recall what that significance is. What you need to know is that the Reds recommended ceiling was $129,000,000. In short: we had some money to play with.

It's important to note before we go forward: the teams in this simulation all operate to varying degrees of realism. Several teams decided to sell off the entire team and build for the future. The Marlins, for instance, sold basically damn everything and ended up with like, 25 of the top 75 prospects in the game or something silly.

Others, however, took all that money that they had to play with, put it in a pile, and set fire to it. Keep in mind as you read on that we're living in an alternate world where the Cardinals backed up the Brinks truck to Jason Heyward to the tune of $310 million dollars over 11 years (with an opt-out option after five).

That's three hundred and ten. With a 3.

Justin Upton signed with the Yankees for 8 years, $230 million dollars. Ben Zobrist got over $100 million, and so on and so forth. And while these aren't totally, absolute batshit crazy moves, it does provide insight on how this simulation isn't the most rational of environments to be working in.

So let's get started.

Options declined:

Burke Badenhop, Skip Schumaker

Non-tenders:

Sam LeCure, Ryan Mattheus, Bennan Boesch, Jason Bourgeios

Out with the riff-raff. We begin by freeing up some money. The only one here that would've been nice to keep, in theory, would've been Badenhop. But, he's not getting kept for $4.5 million dollars, so he had to go.

Now, let's get into the transactions.

Arizona acquires Brandon Phillips, Ramon Cabrera, Pedro Villarreal, $5 million from Cincinnati for Brandon Drury, Taylor Clarke, and Rubby De La Rosa

So, our first big move was to send BP to Arizona, similar to what's been rumored over the past couple of weeks in real life. However, we really wanted no part of Aaron Hill, and wanted to see if we could get a decent prospect thrown in in the return. They were particularly interested in Ramon Cabrera, so we obliged for a throw in, and they also were particularly interested in dealing Rubby De La Rosa (from now on will be referred to Rubby Pizza), so we offered Pedro Villarreal in return. In addition for asking for Brandon Drury and Taylor Clarke (their 7th and 25th top rated prospects, respectively), we offered some money to offset some salaries since they'd be taking on Phillips's contract without sending one out in return.

We felt as though we got a decent return for Brandon and a couple of parts we weren't all that interested in keeping to begin with. Drury is a versatile infield piece that can play both at the corners and up the middle. Since being traded to the Diamondbacks in 2012 from the Braves (in the deal that saw Justin Upton go to ATL), Drury's bat has come alive. From MLB Pipeline:

An improved approach at the plate has been key to Drury's success, as his walk rate has spiked since becoming a D-back. With a quick, simple swing, Drury can drive balls into the gaps and over the fence for home run power, while maintaining a good average. While he is a below-average runner, Drury moves fairly well defensively and has improved his overall work at the hot corner, where his strong arm plays well.

Clarke is Arizona's 3rd round pick from earlier this year, so the jury is very much out on him, but in his first 21 innings of pro ball he allowed nary a run on 8 hits and only 4 walks. Rubby Pizza's not great, but he did notch 14 wins in 32 starts for the Diamondbacks last year, posting an 87 ERA+ one year after posting a 90 ERA+ in 100 innings with the Red Sox. Even the fake Reds are always willing to take a flyer on arms. Maybe some time in the bullpen can really bring out his stuff. Speaking of which...

Cincinnati acquires Erik Goedell from the NY Mets for Adam Duvall

So this is one big fat shrug emoticon, I suppose, but Goedell has serious upside for the pen. He's apparently got major league stuff, but there's a murky injury history and the fact that he just hasn't been able to put it together yet. Though, in the (very) limited time he's seen in the majors, he's done well.

Cleveland acquires Todd Frazier, Tanner Rainey from Cincinnati for Danny Salazar, Brady Aiken, Bobby Bradley

Now, we're talking.

We did what the real Reds are probably going to be very hesitant to do in the offseason, and that is deal Face of the Franchise Todd Frazier. Quite frankly, we got a deal from the Indians that we felt we couldn't pass up. Danny Salazar is a pitcher that can come in right away and is young, controllable, and ready to pitch 200 innings. He strikes out nearly 10 per 9, walks only 2.5, and posted an ERA+ of 123 in his first full year on the big league mound. Further, the Indians included former first round pick Brady Aiken. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Aiken won't see the mound until after 2016 gets underway and, while it's a risk, we bet on upside. As long as there are no set backs, we expect Aiken to return to true, top of the rotation form and be an ace among our many aces going forward. Bradley is years away yet, but he's a projectable sweet swinging lefty bat with power for days.

***

This is where I should note that things begin to get a little weird.

So, we just shed a lot of money, and that's on top of the money that we're being given to spend at the beginning of the sim. The offers we were receiving from teams for Chapman were less than spectacular, even though to begin with, we were shopping him hard. The market on Bruce was practically non-existent. So, it was at about this time we stopped asking ourselves, "Man, should we go spend some money?" to, "Screw it, let's go spend some money."

Now, realistically the Reds would be trying to cut payroll and save money for 2016, in what figures to be a lost year.

We're not the real Reds. And we wanted to win.

We checked in on the market for all the big bats, and found ourselves competitive in the early stages of Justin Upton's courting. We started looking around to all of the arms we'd stock piled (even more so than the real Reds with Salazar and Aiken aboard), and decided to go big game hunting. After shuffling around the market, we had a not-at-all-realistic-but-why-the-hell-not proposition: What about Giancarlo Stanton? $300,000,000 contracts don't scare the fake-Reds (and, more importantly, Stanton is only due to make $9 million in 2016. Who's got time to worry about 2017?)

So BK touched base with the fake-Marlins GM and, you remember what I said earlier about them selling off everything? They told us to make an offer.

After some back and forth, internally, about what kind of bounty we wanted to set, we basically told them, "take your pick." And then a glorious thing happened: the Marlins wanted four prospects not named Robert Stephenson. This portion of our Slack chat has been eaten by history, but I'm wanting to say the Marlins inquired about Jesse Winker, Tyler Stephenson, Brady Aiken, and one other top 10 guy. Floored that we'd be retaining BobSteve in an trade to get GIANCARLO F'N STANTON, it happened: The Marlins agreed to trade Stanton to the Reds.

There was a hang up, though: Giancarlo has a full no-trade clause (that he'd already exercised in another deal), so it wasn't a sure thing. In fact, he also had other destinations to choose from. But, seeing as though the Marlins had already shipped of Jose Fernandez, Christian Yellich, et al, we thought there was a good chance he'd come play with Aroldis Chapman and Joey Votto.

We'd decided at this point that we were going big for 2016. We were still in and could afford to sign Upton. We still wanted to dump Bruce's contract and use that as even more leverage, but there were still no rumblings for his service.

That's when we did this:

Cincinnati signs Johnny Cueto to a 6 year $130 million deal

So, if we're going big, go big, you know? Sure, it's not the smartest thing we could've done, with all those young arms waiting in the wings. But, none of those arms are Johnny Cueto (yet, at least), and we'd come to the conclusion that we were in for 2016.

Besides, how can you turn down all of the good feels it brings to re-sign Mr. John E. Cueto himself? He's now not only a shutdown ace anchor, but also a Clubhouse Leader(tm) who can show off his World Series ring to teammates and educate them on "what it takes" when they reach the postseason.

When you look at some of the other contract numbers that were dolled out... well, this one actually looks a helluva lot better.

***

So, the Stanton decision took forever. As you all know, it's a cold, cruel, fast world out there and as we waited, more and more bats were being swapped or inking deals. We got into preliminary talks with the Rays about Evan Longoria, but it turned out that they were about to break the prospect bank with what they'd get for him. Upton's market pushed north of $200 million, to which we replied, "lol nope" and moved on.

We kicked around some names for bench bats and depth.

Cincinnati signs Gerardo Parra to a 3 year $20 million deal

This seemed reasonable for Parra, all things considered, and since we were kind of hoping he wouldn't necessarily be an everyday starter, seemed too reasonable to pass up.

Upton signed for 8/$230 million at the same time.

Shortly thereafter, our plans fell into... we'll say a bit of turmoil, as Giancarlo Stanton used his no-trade and blocked his movement out of Miami.

This was met with some consternation in the fake-Reds deliberation room as we scrambled to figure out who our big bat acquisition was going to be. We went from dreams of having Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Votto in our fake-lineup to running out Joey Votto everyday to break Barry Bond's walk record.

At one point in the simulation, the GM of the Pirates was looking to deal McCutchen, so we sent a last ditch deal for him as our blockbuster move, but they'd decided to keep him. At this point, we were asking everybody about everything... and coming up short.

Anthony Rendon. Manny Machado. Nolen Arenado. Yasiel Puig. Joc Pederson. Corey Seager.

Nope.

Of course, being the helpful assistant GM he is, Aaron Michael wasn't going away until he'd made it known who he wanted to target: Mike Trout. In fact, he mentioned this enough times it lead to this friendly exchange:

Aaron Michael [2:25 PM]
Let's get Mike Trout.

Wick Terrell [2:26 PM]
stop fucking saying Mike Trout

The Angels, bless their little fake GM'ing hearts, actually listened to an offer for Mike Trout. I'm fairly certain we threw in the powerstacks and the Roebling Bridge, but in the least surprising move of all time, the Angels declined moving him.

We spun our wheels for a while thereafter, waiting on replies to some offers and just trying to figure out where in the heck we were going to get our big bat.

At one point I threw out A.J. Pollock's name, which for some reason got us talking about Michael Brantley, because reasons. The Indians had just traded us FOR Todd Frazier, so we thought trading away Brantley seemed like the inverse of the strategy they were taking.

But, because everything is worth a shot, we asked Cleveland about Brantley, and they were very receptive. Talks went into the night and resumed the next morning, up to the point to where we'd all but basically agreed to terms that would send prospects their way and Michael Brantley our way.

Our designs on getting an IMPACT BAT were realized.

Until Cleveland got cold feet. Ultimately, that deal wouldn't get done. And we were almost all out of time.

***

At this point, we gave up the ghost and got re-serious about trading Aroldis Chapman.

NY Yankees acquire Aroldis Chapman from Cincinnati for MIchael Pineda, Slade Heathcott, and John Ryan Murphy

Did I mention that the market on Chapman wasn't robust?

Pineda looked like a stud on surprisingly good Yankees team in the first half of the season before falling apart in the second half. He's got the stuff to be a top of the rotation arm, and he showed the longest glimpses of that in 2015 than he has over the rest of his career. Hey, we're the Reds, we take fliers on arms. John Ryan Murphy enters as an immediate upgrade over Tucker Barnhart and could prove to be a capable everyday catcher if Devin Mesoraco were to ail again (not that we were giving that much thought for the purposes of this simulation). Slade Heathcott was the Yankees first round selection way back in 2009. A high school draftee, Heathcott has spent all this time in the minors mainly due to a myriad of injuries, but the tools are all there. If he ever manages to stay healthy (and he's only 24), he's got serious star potential in the big leagues.

We finished up by signing Chad Qualls to a 2 year, $6 million dollar deal and Sean Rodriguez for 1 year, $1 million, and Fernando Rodney to 1 year, $2 million. Because, you know, depth.

***

So, in short, it didn't work out exactly like we envisioned it. Waiting around for deals that never materialized surely didn't help. When you've only got 72 hours to figure out how to build your team, things move quickly. A lot of upper tier prospects that could've been dealt for Chapman went quickly in mega deals that were nowhere on our radar.

But, all things considered, we're still in pretty good shape. Our final payroll came out to $107 million dollars, which is a lot in the real world, but well short of our recommendation for this purpose. So, I guess you could say we saved money.

The pitching is terrific: Johnny Cueto/Danny Salazar/Michael Pineda/Anthony DeSclafani/Rasiel Iglesias is obviously very solid. Homer Bailey would join, whenever he makes it back, and we still have that whole bevvy of real life Reds pitching talent in the coffers (to include Brady Aiken), any of which could be shuffled around and/or dealt whenever saw fit.

The offense is, well...

Billy Hamilton
Joey Votto
Devin Mesoraco
Jay Bruce
Eugenio Suarez
Zack Cozart
Geraldo Parra
Brandon Drury
P

There's plenty of bench players and depth to be thrown around, for sure. Oh, we also made minor league deals:

Minor League deals: Justin deFratus, Chris HeiseyJonny Gomes (we're getting the band back together!), Joba ChamberlainJarrod SaltalamacchiaBrian DuensingEdward Mujica, and Bud Norris.

There is flexibility, but the offense is projected to struggle again without breakout seasons from multiple participants.

A wild card team is certainly possible. I'd have to study more of the moves from the simulation to see how was obviously punting and who became obviously stronger throughout the sim.

But anyway, that's 2700 words about how we Made The Reds Great Again. Although, I'm sure all of you could've done better, and I look forward to hearing about it.

Links of note: