Hello again Camden Chat,
Once a year I emerge from the ranks of the lurkers to participate in the annual SB Nation GM Sim, an exercise in fun, baseball GM'ing, and a bit of ridiculousness, but mostly fun. For those unfamiliar, it's run every year by Max Rieper, the editor over at CC's sister site, Royals Review. The rules are fairly simple. We rewind to the end of the regular season, with Max acting as the agent for all pending free agents. The volunteer GM's make trades amongst themselves and make offers to free agents. Max doesn't negotiate long-term deals with players currently under contract, so extending someone like Trey or Means wouldn't be allowed. The entire thing is run over a 3 day period.
We didn't have a recommended budget for this coming year from Max, but I know the drill well enough now to know not to go crazy on spending. Wanting to stay realistic in this thing is sometimes a futile goal but we do our best to abide by how the real life teams might act. The Orioles don't have any current players under contract for the coming year, just arb eligible guys and a bunch of younger pre-arb players.
I entered this year's version of the sim with a little bit less of a plan than in past years, preferring instead to see where things ended up. I knew I didn't HAVE to trade anybody, since the only pending FA after the coming year is Trey and I don't think he'll be traded. He would have been difficult to find the right deal for, regardless. The guys I specifically wanted to shop were Santander and Means, two players that I think could command strong returns. I will delve more into my reasons for wanting to trade these two in particular a little later on. I knew that Mullins would only move if I was given the moon in an offer, and that I wasn't moving prospects. I did consider for a quick moment whether I should get involved in bidding wars for some of the marquee free agent SS's. As they come to a close, every rebuild typically adds some high-profile players to augment their homegrown core, and with Correa, Seager, Baez, Story and a whole bunch of others available, I considered but did not pursue this avenue.
In terms of free agency, I did make a couple longer term offers to some players with an eye towards 2024 or so, which did not end up being accepted. My goals in free agency were to find some pitching, a veteran catcher with good defensive chops, and undervalued players cut by other teams. Without further ado, here's how it went.
The Baltimore Orioles non-tender Pedro Severino and Pat Valaika
A non-tender basically happens when a club doesn't think an arbitration eligible player is worth the salary they're projected for. Pedro Severino was slated to make $3.1M in 2021 and Pat the Bat was on the books for $1.3M I believe. I think Pedro was a great clubhouse guy, and at times had an infectious personality and played the game the right way. Unfortunately, that didn't make up for the number of passed balls allowed. He might be fine somewhere as a backup, but I can find a backup who plays adequate defense, provides slightly less offense, and costs about $3M less. Pat to me has been given a lot of chances and has done very little to nothing with them, which is a bummer but I've got like three guys at Norfolk who can do the same thing and won't need to earn over $1M.
Major League Free Agent Signings
The Baltimore Orioles sign SP Kwang-Hyun Kim to a 2 year, $5M deal.
Kim wasn't necessarily a target at the beginning of the sim. He's 33 years old and is coming off a season where he pitched 106 innings of sub 3.50 ERA baseball. More importantly, at least to me, his ground ball percentage hovered near 50% for the last two seasons, making his skills more transferable to Camden. For such a low price, I was pleased to bring him in and make him a part of our rotation, given how poorly things went last year.
The Baltimore Orioles sign OF Clint Frazier to a 1 year, $3M deal.
Some may hate this signing. I kind of don't like it myself, it carries some risks. But the upside of the chance that Frazier figures it out outweighs the $3M investment, for me. Frazier was non-tendered by the Yankees and no one else seemed to really take note. He never really got the amount of playing time he probably should have in NY, and has battled some unlucky/strange injuries. I think he can rebuild his value here.
Minor League Free Agent Signings
The Baltimore Orioles sign C Manny Pina to a minor league contract
Pina was signed for his glove as soon as I had non-tendered Sevy. Let's just get this out of the way: Pina is a bit of a liability with the bat in his hands. He occasionally runs into one (13 homers in 2021) but bats consistently south of .200, though he does hit lefties well. He is an above-average defender who knows how to handle a young pitching staff, and he's the perfect stopgap until Adley makes it to Camden.
The Baltimore Orioles sign SP Mike Fiers to a minor league contract
Fiers is known for two things, and neither of those things is about being a good pitcher. He's known for blowing the whistle on the Astros cheating scandal first and foremost, and he's known for having the most god-awful facial hair I have EVER seen in my life. Seriously, look up a picture. Regardless, Fiers could chew innings for a club that had trouble finding pitchers to fill rotation spots, especially down the stretch.
The Baltimore Orioles sign IF Jonathan Villar to a minor league contract
Call me crazy, but I don't think Kelvin Gutierrez showed me enough last season for me to want to enter 2022 with him as the starter. Old friend Jonathan Villar had some of his best years here in Baltimore, and like Pina could be a strong veteran clubhouse presence for a team that's young and on the way up. I considered handing the 3B job to Jahmai Jones outright but he didn't show me enough last season in the minors or the majors for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The Baltimore Orioles sign RP Nick Vincent to a minor league contract
Older guy who can still sling it a bit, potential trade piece in July.
The Baltimore Orioles sign RP Andrew Miller to a minor league contract
Sentimental reunion with a guy who might still have something left in the tank, and who could be a trade piece if he manages to perform.
The Baltimore Orioles sign RP Mychal Givens to a minor league contract
The Baltimore Orioles sign SP/RP Jhoulys Chacin to a minor league contract
Last minor league signing was Chacin, a guy who was an effective starter for a number of years on and off before absolutely imploding in 2019 and being relegated to the bullpen in 2021. We signed him as a starter depth piece, on the off chance he still has something left in the tank. At only 33, he's young enough to potentially find his stride again. And even if he doesn't, the same mantra applies to ALL of these deals. There's no such thing as a bad minor league contract.
The Baltimore Orioles trade OF Anthony Santander to the Detroit Tigers for SP Ty Madden and SS Cristian Santana
Like I said above, I knew I didn't need to move anyone unless I got the value I was looking for. And I got it here for Santander. He's been a solid contributor, but with so many injuries plaguing him in the past few years, I think it's reasonable to question whether he'll ever be able to contribute over a full season. I'm not saying he can't, or even that he probably won't, but I'd rather move him for prospects while he still has a relatively strong track record in his recent rear view mirror.
The return here is the key. Madden fell to the 32nd overall pick at the end of the first round in the 2021 draft. A starter who pitched for Texas, Madden is a guy who has a wide range of outcomes, but many of them point to a future impact starter. He hasn't pitched in the minors yet since he was just drafted this season, but with a first round pick pedigree and a lot of projection this kid could be special. Santana was just signed by the Tigers in this past J2 signing period. He's a 17 year old SS out of the Dominican Republic with a lot of hit/power upside. Santana hit .269 with 9 homers and 12 steals over his first 170 at bats in the Tigers minors system. He's currently the Tigers #6 prospect, but I expect him to move up as he gets older and better. Madden is the Tigers #8 on Fangraphs, meaning we pulled in two top ten org prospects from a strong organization for Santander.
The Baltimore Orioles trade RP Paul Fry to the Mariners for Kristian Cardozo
I was shocked to get anything for Fry after he imploded in 2021. Looking back on his resume, the shortened 2020 season was really the only one I felt "good" about so I was fine moving him for a lottery ticket. Cardozo signed for $600K in the 2019 J2 signing period, and has only thrown 50 innings at the minor league level, sporting a 3.62 ERA.
The Baltimore Orioles trade SP John Means to the Reds for Emerson Hancock, Austin Hendrick, and Michel Triana
I was planning to hold Means right down to the wire since no one was meeting my asking price. Milwaukee, Houston, and Texas all came extremely close, but in the end a couple bailed out and I was left with offers from Cincy and Texas. The Reds had acquired Hancock from the Mariners in a separate deal earlier on in the sim. Hancock was selected 6th overall by the Mariners in the 2020 draft, just four picks after the Orioles took Heston Kjerstad. He's lived up to that so far as well, throwing to a 2.62 ERA over nearly 50 innings pitched. My one concern on Hancock is his lower strikeout numbers, but I believe he has the potential to be an impact starter in the big leagues. Additionally he should move quickly, allowing his timeline to sync up with Grayson, Hall, Adley, and the crew. Hendrick, the second piece in this deal, was selected in that same draft at #12, six picks after Hancock. Hendrick has gotten off to a bit of a slow start to his minors career, but has incredible power upside in the OF corners. Finally, Triana was the last piece, a throw-in lottery ticket signed out of Cuba during the 2019 J2 period, with big power potential.
With that, we wrapped up the 3 day sim. There were a couple near misses, mostly in free agency. As I said at the front, we're getting to about the time in the rebuild where many teams start adding via free agency to complement the up and coming core. While I did not make any attempts at any of the big shortstops on the market, I did inquire into a couple guys who I thought were being undervalued. Noah Syndergaard signed for 2 years/$26M and Anthony Rizzo signed for 3 years/$33M. I was willing to go around 4/$36M - 4/$40M for either of those guys, but neither wanted to come play in Baltimore and/or took the slightly higher year over year value.
To recap, here's my projected opening day roster for the O's for 2022, post-sim.
C Manny Pina
1B Trey Mancini
2B Ramon Urias
3B Jonathan Villar
SS Jorge Mateo
LF Clint Frazier
CF Cedric Mullins
RF Austin Hays
DH Ryan Mountcastle
Bench Austin Wynns
Bench Jahmai Jones
Bench Kelvin Gutierrez
Bench Ryan McKenna
SP Kwang-Hyun Kim
SP Bruce Zimmermann
SP Mike Fiers
SP Jhoulys Chacin (or Akin/Kremer/Lowther/Wells/Baumann, depending on Spring results)
SP See above among those rookies
RP Cole Sulser
RP Tanner Scott
RP Tyler Wells
RP Dillon Tate
RP Andrew Miller
RP Mychal Givens
RP Nick Vincent
RP Jorge Lopez
The rotation could be filled out by any combination of rookies in the last three spots. Fiers and Chacin being on minors contracts means if Kremer/Akin/Lowther/Wells/Baumann or any of that batch earns a spot in the spring, they'll get it. I'd rather see them do well to be honest, but the team needs to try to win some baseball games.
We improved the current team and improved the prospect depth. It hurts losing Means and Santander. Santander is typically injured and to be blunt, I don't think he can produce over a full season. Means hurts more obviously, but looking through the eyes of a GM rather than a fan, I see a 28 year old pitcher who has shown flashes of being a #2/ace type of pitcher, but after the spider-tack incident this past year wasn't really the same guy, which scares me. He's also in first arb, meaning that by the team the cavalry is fully here in 2024 or so he'll be in his final season with the team. Bluntly, this team is not going to compete until 2023 at the earliest, more likely is 2024. Why not flip Means like we did with Erik Bedard all those years ago for guys who can help put the finishing touches on a hopefully successful rebuild?
How do you think I did? Comment below, and thanks so much for reading!