Last week, I volunteered to play as the Orioles over on Royals Review's Winter Meetings sim game. Basically, a blogger or two from each baseball SBN site played as their team, with the host, RoyalsRetro, playing as all free agents, and we were given a week to do whatever we wanted with our pretend teams. The only rules: All rosters reset to November 1, and we had to act realistically.
For me, that meant putting a hard budget on my Shadow Orioles at $105 million, which is about where the actual Orioles were projected (by MLBTradeRumors) to be after arbitration if they had kept all arb eligible players and signed nobody to new deals. As a believer in the plexiglass principle - that the O's are very likely to not be nearly as successful next year without major changes - this left me in a bind. Any free agent signings would need to be either minor league signings, or would need corresponding payroll shed somewhere. So here's what I did, in chronological order:
Baltimore Orioles tender Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Jason Hammel, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Nolan Reimold, Brian Matusz, and Steve Pearce.
Baltimore Orioles non-tender Omar Quintanilla and Lew Ford.
Baltimore Orioles pick up option of P Luis Ayala
Baltimore Orioles decline option on 3B Mark Reynolds.
Baltimore Orioles tender IF Robert Andino and C Taylor Teagarden.
Detroit Tigers trade OF Andy Dirks, OF Tyler Collins, and P Andrew Oliver to Baltimore for SS JJ Hardy.
Baltimore Orioles sign 3B Mark Reynolds to a 1 year/$7.5 million deal.
Baltimore Orioles sign OF Juan Rivera, OF Nyjer Morgan, and 1B Travis Ishikawa to minor league deals.
Baltimore Orioles sign P Carl Pavano to a 1 year/$5 million deal.
Baltimore Orioles sign IF Placido Polanco to a 1 year/$2 million deal with incentives that could go up to $4 million.
In all, I ended up with $8.4 million in savings; $7 million from trading Hardy and $1.4 from resigning Reynolds cheaper than his projected arbitration salary. I used most of that on Polanco, Pavano, Dirks, and Oliver, so my final payroll is a little over a projected $100 million.
So here's the thing with all of this, because mostly it was fun and pointless and I don't think any of you really care about the glorified boardgame I played last week. There are a couple of real-world takeaways that I think are worth exploring:
1) The pressure to do something is most definitely there.
2) Capitalism! The market really dictates everything.
3) It was a lot more complicated than I imagined, and it was really easy to get overwhelmed, especially when trying to juggle four or five different deals at once.
4) The winner's curse is real.
5) Trying to stay level-headed and avoid tunnel-vision is difficult.
In an overly-simplistic nutshell, being a major league front office is hard. In the past, I've been extremely critical of the Orioles' front office for doing dumb things and saying dumb things and generally being dumb. I think, if I had played in this sim even a year ago finding out how difficult all of this is would have just reinforced that concept; Oh, of course the Orioles are dumb, look at how hard it is not to be dumb.
Today, though, I have more experience actually working with some real front office types and I think that the bar being so high for front office actually ensures that there are no stupid baseball teams. Even the teams you or I think are really bad and dumb will surprise you with how on-the-ball they really are. That doesn't mean they can't make a mistake, but it does mean that if you're first reaction to a big trade is "Oh, they just got fleeced" - like the reaction on twitter last night to the James Shields trade sometimes felt - then the truth is that you are probably the one being dumb, not the front office, and you need to work harder at examining every angle to every action.