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Recapping the 2017 GM Winter Meetings Simulation - Part 3 The GMs’ Thoughts

Looking at the moves in context and getting feedback from the GMs on how they feel the simulation played out.

When all the trading and signing was said and done, the team looked drastically different. Chances are, the team is not a contender in 2017, but it has the pieces that it could contend if a few things broke Arizona’s way.

New 25-man

Position Players:
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Chris Owings
SS: Nick Ahmed
3B: Jake Lamb*
LF: Michael Saunders
CF: A.J. Pollock
RF: Mitch Haniger
C: Carlos Perez


Socrates Brito*
Chris Herrmann*
Kyle Jensen
Brandon Drury

Tyson Ross
R.A. Dickey
Steven Wright
Erasmo Ramirez
Ivan Nova/Robbie Ray

***It should be noted here that I am not advocating kicking Ray from the rotation. I fully expect that Robbie Ray would push on of the other five from the rotation in spring training. If he doesn’t, then one of two things have happened. Either Ray has imploded, in which case, we are thankful for the starting depth, or the Diamondbacks have caught lightning in a bottle with the rotation, and Ray is enviable rotation depth.


Italics indicate players that can, at the team's discretion, leave for free agency at the end of 2017.



New Prospects:

#1: Jorge Mateo (#18 overall)
#2: Jason Groome (#30 overall/#1 LHP)
#3: Matt Andriese
#6: Luis Torrens
#11: Trey Michalczewski
#21: Courtney Hawkins
#22: Brian Clark

In addition to the infusion of young talent and prospects, the Diamondbacks clear (after arbitration raises) roughly $30 million to spend on the much better 2018 FA market, or to spend on extending talent that they already have. 2018 should also see the likes of Alex Young, Taylor Clarke, Brad Keller, Cody Reed, and Wei-Chieh Huang all joining Robbie Ray, Steven Wright, Erasmo Ramirez, and Matt Andriese in a heated competition for starting rotation slots, with only Ramirez entering his final year of arbitration. This should give the Diamondbacks both continued depth and trade fodder to continue to improve the farm system and address areas of thin talent, such as athletic outfielders.

While this is not an ideal scenario, it does walk the fine line between a full-on rebuild that could end up becoming a decade-long slump, and going for it with limited talent. The rotation should be an upgrade over 2016, and the bullpen should be as dominant as any in the game over the last several years. If the Diamondbacks can generate enough offense with Pollock, Goldschmidt, Lamb, Saunders, and Owings leading the way, the bullpen might just be able to shorten games enough that the Diamondbacks could be surprise competitors in 2017. If thigs are not so cheery, the Diamondbacks have no shortage of players that should all be very easy to trade for another significant infusion of assets at the trade deadline.

From Makakilo:

What was the GM sim like? For me it was nearly constant and fast-paced evaluation of players, trades, and free agents mixed with fun and surprises. James was the wizard of trades. How he got other teams to include their high ranked prospects in trades was amazing. He would ask me what I thought of a potential trade and sometimes rework an emerging deal. I had multiple websites open so I could quickly look at the players objectively.

We decided not to go for a full rebuild for three reasons. First, with improvements it is possible for the team to play in the post-season. Second, we wanted a path similar to the real team. Likely, the Diamondbacks will go for it, and evaluate at mid-season whether to do a full rebuild. Third, last year's only imperative was not to trade Goldy. We decided it was an imperative this year, too.

A second imperative for the GM sim was "Must Trade Tomas." Before the GM sim started, James had identified 2 teams in an article (Orioles and Mariners) and I had identified 3 teams (Yankees, Rangers, and Blue Jays) who were good trade candidates, and which players I wanted back. Mostly I wanted a catching prospect (like Steve Baron, Kyle Higashioka, or Francisco Diaz) or third base prospect (like Juan Kelly or Tim Lopes). I posted that Tomas was available with four bullet points why he was great offensively, especially in the second half of this season.

  • In 2016, Yasmany Tomas hit 31 home runs and 83 RBIs.

  • The second half of 2016 he batted .294/.329/.584 with a wRC+ of 133 and 18 homers in 258 PAs.

  • Since July 24th, the 25-year-old has been one of the elite sluggers in the game with a .934 OPS, 17 homers and 12 doubles in 225 plate appearances

  • Tomas improved his fly ball percentage (8%) and his hard hit rate (10%) to support his power. His 41% hard hit rate ranked eighth in the majors.

Two different teams, Nationals and Angels, expressed interest. Apparently there was broad interest in Tomas despite my predicted lack of interest in power hitters. Trading Tomas was much quicker than expected! We even got a great return for Tomas in Angels’ catcher Carlos Perez!

A third imperative was to improve pitching. I applied metrics to trade candidates to evaluate fit with the Diamondbacks. Nevertheless, other considerations were sometimes more important than metrics. For example, RDLR was seriously a non-tender candidate. If we could trade him the team would get something instead of nothing. We asked about Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush. The Padres offered Kevin Quackenbush, who I always enjoy watching. His knuckle-curve is his best pitch. Doug Botchler, Padres BP coach said, "Willing to take the baseball in any situation. Gives you all he’s got on every performance on the mound." Although the only important number that Quackenbush bested RDLR was a lower home runs per fly ball, HR/FB (10.1% vs 18.6%), my happiness and joy were great and the team was improved.

Ignoring the trade complexities, let’s look at metrics for the Diamondbacks rotation before and after the GM sim. In the next chart, we see the 2016 Diamondbacks rotation, which ranked 28th in the majors.


Career Chase ERA

Career Chase SO9

2016 SO9

2016 HR/FB %

Patrick Corbin





Zack Greinke





Robbie Ray





Archie Bradley





Braden Shipley





Shelby Miller






Career Chase ERA

Career Chase SO9

2016 SO9

2016 HR/FB %

RA Dickey





Tyson Ross




0 (8.8% in 2015)

Robbie Ray





Steven Wright

No data

No data



Ivan Nova

No data

No data



Erasmo Ramirez





Ignoring the financial aspects, flexibility aspects, and years of control aspects of what happened during the GM sim, let’s look at the rotation at the end of the GM sim.

There is much to like in the top three rotation positions. The ERA at Chase is improved, and the HR/FB is better, while SO9 remains about the same. RA Dickey is a knuckleball pitcher. Looking at Chase ERA, RA Dickey was very much a Diamond in the rough for the Diamondbacks!

Shipley and Miller were moved to AAA to make room for Wright and Nova. In spring training, the four players can compete for the last two rotation positions.

Overall, there is reason to think the new rotation would be at least average in the majors.

I like where the team went. The big wins are the added financial flexibility beyond this season, and the new prospects added to the farm. And this season, it is possible the team could compete for the post-season.

From James:

This year we made moves that I like, moves, I love, and at least one move I am not a huge fan of, but I still believe it was the best this team could do. No one, and I mean no one, was buying Segura as a 5-win player. Heck, even trying to sell him as a 3-win player was difficult. Trying to sell him for more came with requests for the Diamondbacks to pick up salary. I'm not sure how much of this comes from so many people not seeing the work he put in to improve himself, and how much comes from us here at the pit over-valuing him. What I did know is this; at $7.3 million for one season, a season in which it was highly unlikely - even with Segura around, that Arizona was going to be competitive, it made sense to move him.

That said, if I could take back the Segura/Robertson deal, I probably would. Or, more accurately, I would have worked it closer to the deadline. The initial ask was not for Juan Minaya, but for Michael Ynoa, a 24-year-old who does not hit arbitration until 2020 and has the makings of a future closer. This led to a great deal of back-and-forth with regards to players included. The deadline, as much as anything, caused the trigger to be pulled on this deal. It was completed with less than 30 minutes to go before the deadline and with three other deals still being actively worked through the medium of email. While I would like this one back, I do not entirely hate the deal. Segura's salary needed to go, and the team did add a great many pieces, including a very friendly closer contract in Robertson and an intriguing left-handed reliever in Brian Clark who does not come with the typical relief pitcher command and control issues. If the Diamondbacks are out of the race at the trade deadline, then Robertson should rather easily bring back enough excess value to make up a good portion of what was lost in this trade. Still, holding out for Ynoa would have made things look much better.

Rubby De La Rosa was never going to be part of the team. It wasn't even an option. The big question was whether or not to tender someone that neither of us had any faith in throwing a productive pitch in 2017. At his price, and with his potential upside, it seemed it would be easy to trade him, and so that's what we did. We tendered De La Rosa, but then immediately hit the market and took the best early offer for him, lest we wind up stuck with him. Quackenbush has plenty of years of control left and has at least a passing familiarity with the role of closer. Since we had yet to make any bullpen upgrades at this point, we called the trade a win.

Zack Greinke could probably have brought back more had we entered the simulation with the intention of trading him. Given that there were only four potential partners though, I am left wondering just how much more the return would have been. Could we have saved an additional $3 million per season, or maybe gotten one more intriguing prospect? The inclusion of Steven Wright actually tipped the scales in favor of this one for me. The team was going to need to replace Greinke in the rotation. While Wright is not Greinke's equal, he stands as an inexpensive starter that is a clear upgrade over most performances by Arizona starters in 2016. Jason Groome, the top left-handed starting pitcher prospect in the game joins a pipeline where he can take his time coming up, maybe not appearing until late 2018 or early 2019. That said, he has the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation arm, something worth waiting on. Coincidentally, he would be joining the team just in time for the Diamondbacks to be able to rely on his contributions to help them weather the 2019 super-class of free agents, where salaries are going to get ridiculous.

Dubon projects to be something of a cross between Martin Prado and 2016 Jean Segura. He'll play the middle infield mostly, but has the arm to play third and the range to play left. He has the tools to and the track record to project him as a .300 hitter, and he has the speed to be a 30 steal threat. He also simply does not strike out much at all. In general this is "my kind" of player.

All of that, added to $30 million in free agent spending money in each of 2018 and 2019 (assuming no raise in payroll), and the deal needed to be made, sacrificing some performance in the rotation now, for a potential ace when they are going to be going for Greinke-money and then some in two more years.

R.A. Dickey was an early contract offer. When the simulation started, the Arizona rotation was going to be Greinke, Ray, Bradley and then two of Corbin, Miller, and Shipley, witht he third in Reno along with Anthony Banda. That was the full extent of "reliable" starting pitching the organization had. Koch, while interesting in his limited debut last season, still profiles as a reliever. For that matter, some would say Shipley does as well. Dickey accepted about halfway through the sim, and this actually helped us to breathe a bit easier. No one in this sim wanted to bid on Jeremy Hellickson. Dickey comes with a long track record of success and eating innings. HIs knuckleball makes him a low injury risk. Worst-case, Dickey was a bust and would be pushed out by one of Banda or Shipley. Best-case, he benefits from returning to the National League and to the NL West, where there are some massive parks< and he is a vetrean arm to mentor the very young team being assembled.

Ivan Nova may have been a bridge too far. Still, with only 40 minutes left in the sim, he was still unsigned. Unlike real life, where there is some benefit to coming in a tad beneath budget to leave room for other moves during the season, there is no benefit to shorting one's self in the sim. Signing Nova on a one-year deal with a team option did not break the budget, and it allowed us to add more depth. It also provided the team with a potential qualifying offer player, should it turn out that his Pittsburgh-self was the real deal.

Michael Saunders was a very early get. No bones about it, the Diamondbacks are thin in actual outfielders. Given that we opened the trading by moving Yasmany Tomás, we needed another bat. Yes, we later moved PEralta, but that was after the landscape had changed. Saunders represents a bat that can be placed behind Goldschmidt that can drive in runs. He'll play at least average defense and should have enough OBP to offset his propensity for striking out (a trait I dislike but you work with what you have). He came on a reasonable deal, one that probably comes pretty close to what he signs for in real life. This move gave the Diamondbacks enough outfielders that the team should not need to rely on Drury or Jensen to play the outfield unless the entire roster is once again decimated.

Hudson and Hernandez (especially Hernandez) were a direct result of Mark Melancon's price sky-rocketing as we competed with the Cubs for his services For less than half the money and only half the years, the team gets two relievers instead of just one, both of whom could be moved in 2017 or 2018 if the Diamondbacks are not contending.

Tyson Ross was a very late get. Peralta was a tough loss for me, but I honestly have concerns about his ability to stay healthy, and I am even less convinced he is part of the true future for the franchise. With Robertson, Nova, Dickey, Hudson, Hernandez, and others all representing solid trade chips, I am confident that the Diamondbacks will be able to acquire an impact outfielder before the end of 2018. Ross also represents another shot at a qualifying offer. If he simply stays healthy and pitches anything close to what he did before getting injured in 2015, he's an easy QO candidate, increasing the number of draft picks the Diamondbacks are able to stock-pile to help their farm. This also helps to move Dickey into the second or even third slot in the rotation. Now the Diamondbacks have what most would consider a "servicable" rotation.

Lastly, the Castillo trade was another one about creating payroll flexibility in botht he present and future and about adding more trade talent. Trading for Steve Cishek adds another dominant arm to the bullpen and another piece that can be parlayed into young, const-controlled talent. The rest of the trade came about in order to balance the books across all three teams. Erasmo Ramirez becomes the Diamondback's second or third-best pitcher (behind a healthy Ross) and is under control through 2019, giving the team some stability despite our loading up on short-term pieces. Matt Andriese is our diamond in the rough. He steps into Banda's vacated slot in the organization. He brings a year less control, but he brings a bit more certainty. Two starters, at least one of which is a lock to stay in the rotation for Banda and an expndable releiver (though I do like Chafin) seemed to make too much sense not to do.

In the end, our team might or might not improve in 2017. The offense, lacking Segura might sputter getting runners on to drive in. Michael Saunders might become a human windmill. Carlos Perez might implode offensively. Mitch Haniger might crumple under the pressure. Even if all those things happen though, A.J. Pollock is returning, and there are higher-cieling talents in the near future in Mateo and Torrens. On the pitching side, it is hard to argue that the Diamondbacks are not stronger. The other thing is, no long-term deals were handed out. Either the team comes together and is an unexpected contender, or it is easily dismanteled and turned into a heaping pile of prospect talent to go along with significant available spending in 2018 and 2019 to try again. Ideally, by 2019 the team has Groome, Ray, Andriese, and two more pitchers developed or signed and can point at that rotation as a dominant one. The bullpen is stacked, both with present and future talent, even if the team elects not to convert starters into relievers.

Lastly, this team keeps the fan-favorite core togetehr. Paul Goldschmidt, Jake, Lamb, A.J. Pollock, Chris Owings, Robbie Ray, and Brandon Drury are all still around, providing a significant amount of excess value while the team goes through this 2-3 year transition.