The annual SB Nation Off Season Simulation project occurred last week. I was selected/volunteered to run the Orioles. You can read about the parameters and the rules here. Basically, every team has a SB Nation writer assigned to them. That writer makes all the decisions for the team. This includes Qualifying Offers, Trades, Free Agents, etc. The simulation runs as if you are starting with your team from the end of the regular season and goes from there.
It was a crazy whirlwind project for me and I was only one team. The brave man who runs it, Max Rieper of Royals Review, must have had it worse than me. Below is a summary of my moves and my thought process during the simulation. First and foremost, I was working with a budget of about $130 million in my mind, I figure that is near the realistic limit for the Orioles this off season. The off season did not go exactly as I had planned and I am still not sure how I did. So you can help me out by berating me in the comments about how stupid I was.
The Qualifying Offers/Tenders and Non-Tenders
This was the first big decision I made. By the time the sim ran I knew that Matt Wieters had already accepted his $15.8 million qualifying offer and it was intimated strongly that he would also accept it in the simulation. So I could have avoided his $15.8 million landmine, but I had argued on these pages and others that he should have received the qualifying offer in real life so it would have felt disingenuous to not offer in the simulation. And, in fact he did accept the offer in the simulation although the writer running the Nationals did say he offered Wieters a four year deal which surprised me. I guess simulation Wieters is also betting big on himself.
I also gave qualifying offers to Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen and they both declined. So I netted two draft picks, not all bad. I contemplated giving Darren O'Day a qualifying offer, but I decided that it was not worth the risk because if he had accepted, my budget would have been shot completely shot on him and Wieters.
I ended up not tendering contracts to David Lough, Paul Janish, and Brian Matusz. These were purely money saving maneuvers. The millions can add up quickly. I tendered contracts to Manny Machado, Ryan Flaherty, Vance Worley, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach. Nothing too shocking.
The first day of this whole endeavor was really the day before the simulation even started because that's when the trade talks begin. I really had not done much prior research for this, which was admittedly stupid, so I floated some names and some needs and had the market come to me. I said that Dylan Bundy, Zach Britton, JJ Hardy, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez were available to some degree. Most of those were money saving ideas. The Bundy one was just to see what offers might come back. I said my needs were upper level prospects, corner outfielders, starting pitching, and relief pitching.
Almost immediately I started talking to the Astros about Chris Carter and the Cubs about Chris Coghlan. I thought the asking price on Coghlan was insane so I moved on pretty quickly. I like Chris Carter and while he's not a transcendent player, he can play first base for me. The Astros asked for Mychal Givens and I countered with Brad Brach and they said that was too low. Then they traded Jon Singleton so the price for Carter went I up. I floated Britton and they said that was not enough for Carter so I moved on because that price was going to get too high as well.
I also had pretty heavy trade talks for Carlos Gonzalez (I offered Hunter Harvey and Chance Sisco), Christian Yelich (I offered Dylan Bundy, Ryan Mountcastle, and Jonah Heim), and Marcell Ozuna (I offered Dylan Bundy and Jonah Heim). The Gonzalez deal was the one I was most excited about because the Rockies offered to pay his entire 2016 salary. But, the Rockies ended up accepting another offer before I could counter. The same thing occurred with Yelich and Ozuna. The perils of trying to buy with a very thin farm system.
I did execute three trades. First, I traded Mychal Givens to the Phillies for Roman Quinn and Franklyn Kilome. Quinn and Kilome are two of the Phillies top ten prospects and easily would be in the Orioles top 10 if not top 5. I figured a relief prospect, even one as good as Givens, could not have possibly had a higher value than that. A bunch of other teams contacted me about Givens as well. He was easily the most asked about player. The haul I thought was pretty good. Quinn is a solid outfield prospect and Kilome is an interesting arm with a big fastball and good curve that can probably stick as a starter.
Second, I traded Caleb Joseph to the Pirates for Jared Hughes and Steven Brault. I figured with Wieters in the fold and Chance Sisco at AA, I did not need Joseph for 2016 or beyond and I needed a reliever to replace the recently departed Givens. Hughes has been a solid reliever for a long time and Brault was one of the pitchers the Orioles traded for Travis Snider so I wanted to bring him back into the fold. Hughes has got two years of control left after 2016 and Brault had a nice year at AA so I thought that was also a pretty good haul for a backup catcher.
The third trade was easily my best one. After floating Jimenez on the trade block I got a hit from the Cardinals. They considered him a backup plan and would only do a deal as a salary dump which I was fine with. I reached out and asked if they were still interested in him after about a day or so and they offered Jon Jay and I took it almost without hesitation. Jay had a horrendous 2015, but has had some success all over the outfield. Also importantly, he is only due $7 million this season and is a free agent after that. I saved the Orioles $24 million in bad Ubaldo money and got at least a solid relatively cheap platoon guy for it.
With all of the outfielder and first baseman trades swirling around for about the first day or so I did not have a great plan of attack going in. I knew I wanted to go after Steve Pearce, John Jaso, and O'Day. My big ticket target was Jordan Zimmermann because I figured his price would not go insanely high as someone like David Price or Zack Greinke. O'Day ended up with a 4 year $29 million deal with a fifth year option. I decided to not top that so he went to the Pirates. I offered Pearce a 2 year $8 million deal and he accepted pretty quickly. I negotiated with Jaso for a while and ended up at a 2 year $11 million deal which I was happy about. Pearce and Jaso are merely platoon players, but the low commitment I think provides good value.
The Zimmermann negotiation went on for a while. I tried to cheap out at first and offered a 5 year $90 million deal, but that was way too low. I incrementally increased my offer and almost offered a seventh year after prolonged negotiations, but I really did not want to get into that long term of a deal. My final offer was 6 years and $144 million which was accepted. I got the ace I wanted. That free agent deal was actually voted as the best deal of the simulation by the other writers running the teams. So at least someone thinks I did something right.
As my trades fell apart one by one I realized I was going to have to make a run at some other free agents. I bid on Byun-Ho Park, but the Nationals crushed my offer and gave him a 5 year $85 million deal (that includes a posting fee). I made a run at Mike Napoli as well, but he went back to Texas on a 2 year $12 million deal which was too rich for my blood for an aging Napoli. So then I went foreign to fill out my lineup.
Not all of the Korean and Japanese free agents are subject to posting so I went after the ones that weren't. At first I signed first baseman Dae Ho Lee to a 3 year $24 million deal which in retrospect was too much. I really needed a first baseman so I offered as much as I could right away because I needed a guy, which is a terrible way to run a team. Lee accepted that deal so now I have a 33 year old 300 lb. Korean first baseman so I'm pretty happy about that regardless of the monetary commitment. Then I make a run at Hyun-Soo Kim and offer a 3 year deal with $12 million guaranteed (that I back loaded to make the 2015 budget work) and a $8 million fourth year option. He eventually took that deal which elated me. He is a left handed corner outfielder with great on base skills.
At the end of the day, I felt like the Koreans were the best options because they were going to come cheaper than some other options and they have way more upside in my mind. Like I said, I probably overpaid for Lee, but it is not a contract that will sink anybody.
Lastly, I threw out minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training like they were going out of style. The players that accepted were Daniel Nava, Paul Janish, Ryan Webb, Neal Cotts, Matt Thornton, and Garrett Jones. Some players I have liked over the years that maybe hit it big in Spring Training and make the team.
You can probably tell that after 1600 words, I had a lot of fun doing this. It can be a little ridiculous and break down at the extremes. For instance, David Price received a 7 year $259 million deal from the Diamondbacks and Jason Heyward received a 11 year $310 million contract from the Cardinals. Also, I was involved in some pretty minor trades, but some were outrageous. You can see all the moves here.
As for myself, I needed to do some better planning rather than read and react to the trade market. I think I ended up with a better lineup. But, my rotation is still pretty bland. With the Jimenez trade Vance Worley was pushed to the starting rotation which even with Zimmerman at the top might not be much better than the 2015 rotation. Also, I would probably take back the Givens trade as well especially because I did not land O'Day, but those prospects tempted me too much at the time.
Here is my Spreadsheet I was working with so you can see the lineup and the starting rotation and the final payroll figures. I had a ton of fun doing all of this and please feel free to let me know how I could have done better.