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2017 GM Simulation Results

The Pit wanted to make another run at the playoffs in 2018. Here’s what happened when trying to put a team for that goal together.

MLB: NL Wildcard Practice The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

One of the biggest challenges facing the Diamondbacks, both in the simulation and in real life, is the fact that Ken Kendrick is unwilling to come close to fielding a league-average payroll. For the simulation, Arizona was given a $110 million payroll to work with. IF the team had not made any changes at all, simply keeping the current major league contracts and paying the arbitration raises, all while filling in the rest of the roster with league minimum salaries, the team would be over budget by a couple million. Thankfully, there were some easy places to trim payroll costs without hurting the team much, if at all, starting with decisions regarding non-tenders and contract options.

Contract Options

Daniel Descalso: Descalso represented the only contract option decision that needed to be made. As a veteran utility player, Descalso did everything asked of him in 2017. His 2018 salary of $2 million seemed equally reasonable. Furthermore, the contract was low enough that he seemed like he would be easy to move during the season if he became surplus to requirement. Yet, that last part, him being easy to move later, that was the thing that stuck out the most for me every time I came to looking at Descalso on the roster. His primary positions of use, second base, third base, and left field, are all positions which Brandon Drury has played. Unlike Descalso, Drury is an average defender at second, where the majority of starts came from. The buyout on Descalso’s contract was set at a paltry $150,000. In the end, it seemed to me to make sense to decline the option, as the team already had better, younger, less expensive options available.

Offered Arbitration

Nick Ahmed: $1.1 million (arb-1)

Andrew Chafin: $1.2 million (arb-1)

Patrick Corbin: Retained for $8.3 million (arb-3)

Randall Delgado: Brought back at $2.5 million (arb-3)

Jake Lamb: Brought back for $4.7 million (arb-1)

Chris Owings: $3.8 million (arb-1)

David Peralta: $3.8 million (arb-1)

A.J. Pollock: Brought back for his final season before free agency for $8.5 million

Robbie Ray: The biggest no-brainer early decision there was, brought back $4.2 Million (arb-1)

Taijuan Walker: Brought back for $5 million (arb-1)

Non-Tenders

Chris Herrmann: $1.4 million (arb-2)

J.J. Hoover: $1.6 million (arb-2)

T.J. McFarland: $1 million (arb-1)

Shelby Miller: $4.9 million (arb-2)

The Shelby Miller decision warrants a brief bit of explanation. Frankly, I’m not at all bullish about Miller’s ability to throw any meaningful innings for the team in 2018. Even if he manages to stay healthy and on pace for a return at the end of July, that makes the big assumption that there would be a spot for him in the rotation so late in the season. Also, when I made the decision, I was quite deep in negotiations to obtain a big bat (more on that later), which would have required Miller’s salary to cover.

Still, non-tendering Miller was a mistake on my part. I should have brought him back and, given my feelings on the matter, simply traded him, getting at least something back. In the end, San Diego picked him up for $8 million for 2018.

The Trades

Arizona was actually fairly reserved on the trade front in this simulation. That isn’t to say that this was the original plan. It is simply how it worked out. At the beginning of the simulation, I made nearly every player available. Only Robbie Ray and Archie Bradley were set as essentially untouchable. That said, even though I shopped Paul Goldschmidt around in an attempt to give a retool/rebuild a massive jump-start, no team out there was able to meet the price in a way that made sense. Boston came the closest, but the return just didn’t fit the organization’s needs in a way I was comfortable with. In the end, the offer made for Goldschmidt was essentially what Miami received for Giancarlo Stanton. Though there were more pieces involved in the Miami trade, the major principal pieces were the same - Groome, Chavis, Bradley, and Bogaerts.

While Zack Greinke was also made available, the only way to move him with any sort of return was to eat about $10 million per season on the remaining four years of his deal. Even at that price, no one was offering a terrific talent in return though. In the end, the team kept Zack Greinke to return as the team’s ace in 2018.

Of all the team’s players, Patrick Corbin garnered the most interest, followed (very distantly) by A.J. Pollock. There was no interest in Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed or Brandon Drury, and only the Giants showed any interest in Jake Lamb.

In a surprise turn of events, there was interest in Yasmany Tomás. That brings us to the first deal that was completed.

Arizona sends Yasmany Tomás to Minnesota for Phil Hughes

This was little more than a trade of bad contracts. The on-field upside clearly benefits Minnesota in the near-term. In the mid and long-term though, Arizona looks good as well. The salary savings in 2018 is only $300,000. However, the savings in 2019 is $2.3 million and the savings in 2020 is $17 million. Additionally, Tomás isn’t going to benefit much from a return to Reno, but there is no real on-field home for him in Arizona. Moving Tomás creates a spot on the 25-man roster for an overall more productive left-fielder.

The next three trades added four players to the organization’s top-10 prospects list. Included are two potential candidates for starting the season in left field to open 2018.

Arizona sends Matt Koch to Washington for Andrew Stevenson

Stevenson is one of the more gifted up-and-coming defensive outfielders out there. While his arm will limit him to center and left, he more than makes up for it with the ground he covers and the routes he takes. Known for his great makeup and work ethic, Stevenson is a left-handed hitter with great speed and strong OBP skills. He could slot nicely at the top of the order. He received a taste of the majors in 2017 and is considered a major league-ready prospect.

Arizona sends Patrick Corbin to Baltimore for Cedric Mullins and Yefry Ramirez

This move cleared Patrick Corbin’s salary from the books and also made sure Arizona received something of value before he departed for free agency in 2019. With another deal needing the salary in the works, this trade was all upside. Cedric Mullins is a switch-hitting defensively gifted center fielder with true plus speed. He has good pop from the left side and is also a gifted bunter. He uses his speed to get the very most out of playing both offense and defense while being a decent OBP threat. He’ll start the year in either AA or AAA, but if he continues his current progression, should be in the majors by the end of 2018.

Yefry Ramirez is actually returning to the Arizona organization, having been lost to the Rule-5 Draft in 2016. He has a fastball with good life to go along with a change and a curve that are both slightly better than average. He’s 23 and on the cusp of the majors as a full-time starter. If he doesn’t win a rotation spot in spring, he slots as the organization’s first or second-best pitching prospect, depending on where Duplantier winds up.

Arizona sends Randall Delgado and Jack Reinheimer to Toronto for Anthony Alford

This was the steal of the simulation for Arizona. Anthony Alford is an overall top-50 prospect and former organizational number one. His fall from the top spot in Toronto’s system has more to do with the acquisition of Vlad Guerrero, Jr. and the rise of Bo Bichette than it does with anything Alford has done. A right-handed hitter who plays above average defense in center field, Alford also possesses great raw power to center field, and not just his pull side. Should Alford not open the season in left for the Diamondbacks, he becomes the organization’s top prospect. This particular deal really couldn’t have gotten any sweeter. Arizona saved money and added a high impact talent without giving up anything of real need.

The One That Got Away

Lastly, the big trade that was in the works through much of the first half of the simulation was a deal that would have landed Arizona a new left fielder to replace the departing J.D. Martinez. The deal was for Oakland’s Khris Davis, who would have cost Arizona $11 million in 2018, his second arbitration year. With the savings realized above, and the departure of A.J. Pollock at the end of the season, Davis would have been an affordable power-hitting bat for the next two seasons. It isn’t that Arizona was outbid for Davis. Mid-way through the sim, Oakland changed tack, and decided they were going to need to keep Khris Davis in order to make a playoff run in 2018 instead of using 2018 to rebuild for 2019. Unfortunately, this deal fell through too late for any other viable alternatives to be explored., though only Adam Duvall looked likely, and he went for a hefty ransom where the Reds received one of their primary trade targets.

Major League Signings

Arizona was very quiet on the free agent front. For one thing, the prices for the sorts of players that would do Arizona the most good were just too high. Also, Arizona started out trying to save money to make the boss happy and possibly land Davis.

Chris Iannetta: 2 years/$6 million - This signing came very late in the sim, as there was originally enough interest in Iannetta that a mini-bidding war was possible. Once the dust settled though, Iannetta came back with a reasonable counter to the initial offer and a deal was struck.

Carlos Torres: 2 years/$3 million - It’s possible Torres might have been available on a deal for only one season, but given the cost, and the departure of multiple bullpen arms, the deal is still very low-risk, especially for a pitcher who has been above average in aggregate for the past six years, having fallen below that mark only once, three seasons ago.

Minor League Deals

This is where Arizona was very aggressive. Many of the names on the list were part of the spaghetti method of building a bullpen, looking for who sticks.

Anibal Sanchez: Picked up to see how he might do transitioning to being a strikeout righty from the bullpen.

Ryan Webb: Could he have a decent bounceback season in Arizona’s bullpen?

Francisco Rodriguez: Is he truly washed up? Or, like Fernando Rodney, does he have another late surge left in the tank?

César Ramos: Mildly surprised no one took a flyer on him as it is, another guy with a chance to eat innings out of the bullpen.

Cody Eppley: In the same mold as the others, Eppley has a history of multiple successes. He’s being given a shot to have another one.

Since all five of those players are on minor league deals, it isn’t cost Arizona anything to try and build a reclamation bullpen for the second consecutive season.

Miguel Montero: After the way 2017 played out, no one wanted to touch Montero. Given that John Ryan Murphy was set to be the other half of the catching tandem with Jeff Mathis, picking up MOntero on a zero-risk deal made all the sense in the world. Montro’s path to the majors would be an easy one, making signing the deal a more palatable one. It wasn’t until a full day after this deal that Iannetta finally signed with Arizona. Still, given how much of a beating catchers take, having Montero as the third catcher, while not costing anything unless he makes the 25-man roster, is not the worst situation to be in.

Daniel Descalso: With precious-little time left in the simulation, Daniel Descalso remained a free agent. Although Brandon Drury and Ildemaro Vargas both being around make it unlikely that Descalso spends much time (if any) in the majors in 2018, Arizona fans have seen on numerous occasions just how quickly player depth can evaporate. As an insurance policy, it is hard to do much better than Descalso.

Signings of Interest for Arizona

Yusmeiro Petit: 2 years/$11 million (Athletics)

David Hernandez: 3 years/$15 million (Angels)

Lorenzo Cain: 5 years/$70 million (Rangers)

Jarrod Dyson: 3 years/$30 million (Cubs)

J.D. Martinez: 7 years /$170 million with an opt-out after 2 years (Rockies)

As these contracts should illustrate, Arizona had no business messing about much in the free agent market in this simulation. “Quality” relief was getting paid over too long a period of time, and the dearth of hitting on the market drove the prices for bats well beyond the point of reasonable (both in dollars and length) for Arizona.

Conclusion

As it has been for the past few years now, the simulation was plenty of fun. Although no replacement for Just Dingers was able to be found, the team bolstered its farm system significantly and also improved the defense overall, especially in the outfield. The team can safely allow A.J. Pollock to walk at the end of 2018, and by 2019 should have an outfield with a left-handed, right handed, and switch hitter, all playing plus defense in Chase’s spacious outfield. Arizona’s payroll is trimmed to below $110 million and, with the future savings brought about through the new acquisitions, the team should be able to lock up its talented core for the long haul, even if Greinke’s contract is never moved. There should also be plenty of money for a Goldschmidt extension should the team wish to pursue one.

On the plus side, the team’s pitching, at least in the rotation, has gotten younger and cheaper, while providing higher upside. The bullpen remains about the same. On the downside, the team has lost Martinez’s power bat and was unable to address that loss of power. There is still hope that the improved defense, and baserunning, along with bringing in more OBP-focused players to start filling in over the next two seasons will help offset that.

The final roster for Arizona looks something like this:

Paul Goldschmidt

Ketel Marte

Chris Owings

Nick Ahmed

Jake Lamb

Brandon Drury

A.J. Pollock

David Peralta

Jeff Mathis

Chris Iannetta

Anthony Alford

Christian Walker/Ildemaro Vargas

Zack Greinke

Robbie Ray

Taijuan Walker

Zack Godley

Andrew Chafin

Jake Barrett

Carlos Torres

Jared Miller

Jimmie Sherfy

Archie Bradley

Duplantier/Ramirez/Clarke (if Bradley is not starting)

2 vacancies to be filled from tryouts in spring