It’s that time of year again - that time when a group of armchair baseball analysts come together for three days and simulate the upcoming MLB offseason, complete with exercising or declining options, non-tendering players, making trades, and signing free agents to ridiculous contracts. That said, I was called nuts by some the first season I participated in this simulation. That season, I helped the Diamondbacks make a last-minute score, stealing Zack Greinke away from the Dodgers by offering the right-hander a contract for six years and $186 million. It just goes to show, some of these monster deals are not nearly as hair-brained as they might first appear.
A summary of the entire simulation can be found here at Royals Review.
Options and Non-Tenders
- I exercised the option on Merrill Kelly and declined the options on Tyler Clippard and Kole Calhoun
- I non-tendered Christian Walker and Noé Ramirez.
The decision to non-tender Ramirez was one of the tougher ones. I finally decided that his lack of options moving forward, along with his anticipated salary of $1.8 million meant I could likely part with him, since I was planning on making 2022 about pitching auditions anyway. Eventually, he wound up signing for $800,000 elsewhere.
- Traded Jamie Ritchie to the Braves for Landon Stephens
- Traded David Peralta to the Padres for Austin Adams
- Traded Ketel Marte to the Yankees for Oswald Peraza, Luis Medina, Oswaldo Cabrera, Trey Sweeney, Matt Sauer, and Luke Voit
- Traded Zac Gallen to the Mets for Ronny Mauricio, Alexander Ramirez, Carlos Cores, J.T. Schwarz, and Junior Santos
- Traded Luke Weaver to the Padres for Esteury Ruiz
- Traded Pavin Smith to the Padres for Jorge Oña
- Traded Nick Ahmed to the Phillies for Didi Gregorius, Casey Martin, and $2 million
- Traded Cooper Hummel to the Athletics for Grant Holmes
- Traded Merrill Kelly to the Rangers for Bubba Thompson
Before I go into any specifics about the reasoning for these moves, these are a few things to clear up that will not necessarily show up on the official record. First, when it comes to payroll, we were provided with details about deferred salaries. I chose to count deferred salaries as on the books for 2020. This included the deferred salary owed to Greinke. Why did I do this, because we all know that Ken Kendrick is a frugal/cheap GM. It is not at all unreasonable to think that he would indeed have this sort of restriction in real life. Since that deferred money needs to be in escrow already, it isn’t like the full amount is actually being “saved” in any meaningful way, which would lead to a necessary reduction elsewhere.
Secondly, I in no way was trying to create a competitive roster like I have attempted in the past. This was one step shot of a full-on tear down. The goal here was to cut deep into committed salary and to try and pull the competitive window forward to 2023 or 2024. The various moves that I made are listed above in the order they happened. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how each came about and what I was reasoning.
Lastly, even offering up Madison Bumgarner at 3/25, there were no takers. I only had one serious suitor for Bumgarner, but they wanted a prospect to be included. I was not prepared to give up Corbin Carroll (though the Cubs tried to sweeten the deal to get him). IN the long run, I decided Bumgarner was a sunk cost, whether I traded him or not. I decided it would be better to eat the salary and keep the prospect. At worst, he’s the same guy in 2022 he was in 2021. At best, he bounces back a bit and adapts better to his declining stuff, making him a semi-serviceable pitcher. If that happens, he becomes moveable later, or at least only needs two years moved instead of three. I decided I would just take what innings he could provide.
Jamie Ritchie to Atlanta: Before the sim officially started, I was contacted and asked if he would be available for purchase. The sim does not allow a team to sell a player to another team, so I accepted Landon Stephens in lieu of $1 million.
David Peralta to the Padres: When the sim began, I listed Peralta as being available, hoping to save salary. The Padres were the first to respond and seemed motivated. Generally, I try not to trade starting players within the division. However, since the plan here was to save money now while not intending to compete until 2023, there seemed no reason not to with Peralta. Peralta’s deal is up at the end of 2022, so he will be gone before he can actually hurt the team in the future. The choice to accept Austin Adams was relatively easy. He is a reliever with very high upside potential and multiple minor league options remaining. If he doesn’t work out, his low salary of $1 million should be easy enough to move (given that much will already be off the books before it would be time to move him). At the worst, he gets optioned down and then non-tendered next winter. This is a very low risk but high reward gamble.
Ketel Marte to the Yankees: Much of this deal came about because the Cardinals were unwilling to listen on Nolan Gorman, at any price (or at least at any price the Diamondbacks could afford). The Yankees came sniffing around early. Once they learned I had no less than six other teams kicking the tires, they offered Jasson Dominguez ++. While we were creating variations on which additional players would be added, someone else came along and gave New York a Godfather deal for Dominguez. This resulted in Peraza being the “headliner”. Before long, it became a two-horse race between the two New York clubs. That’s when the Yankees decided to flex their organizational muscle to bury the Mets. Matt Sauer is the weakest portion of the trade and is still at the very least another high impact reliever ready for AA/AAA. The rest of the players will contribute sometime between immediately and the beginning of 2023, with at least three lining up as everyday sorts. Even with Luke Voit as part of the deal, I still saved money in 2022.
Zac Gallen to the Mets: The bidding for Gallen was much more spirited than the bidding for Marte. More teams were involved and stayed in the running through multiple raises. Eventually, the Mets, having lost out on the Marte sweepstakes, decided they were not going to be out-muscled twice, and they ponied up both quantity and quality. In the end, the deal I would have preferred fell through because J.T. Ginn went in a deal immediately prior to this one. Still, this brought back a blue chip prospect, two solid prospects, and two prospects that still would slate into Arizona’s top-30(ish).
Luke Weaver to the Padres: The Padres came asking about Weaver while I was still in Gallen negotiations. I was less inclined to move Weaver at that point and also less inclined to send him to the Padres, since they might have him still in 2023 or later. But them I looked at the $2.7 million which he was due to make in 2022 and also looked at the fact that I was giving him 70/30 odds of winding up in the bullpen. If I am getting 100 innings or more out of Weaver for that price, fine. If not, I can probably get the same innings for less elsewhere. So, I went ahead and softened my stance and took a flier on Ruiz. He’s a high upside utility player who is ready to move from AA to AAA. Frankly, short of Weaver turning into the Weaver we had all hoped for when he was first acquired in the Goldschmidt trade, it is unlikely Weaver’s value goes up much more.
Pavin Smith to the Padres: I know, another deal with the Padres. In this case, Smith might actually be around long enough to hurt Arizona as well. In this case, two factors came into play. First, the Padres were among the best offers. Second, Jorge Oña playing for Arizona is just as likely to bite San Diego as Smith is to bite Arizona. However, since I still have my doubts about Smith ever finding the power he needs to stick at the MLB level, I felt plenty comfortable that there was not going to be much to regret here. Besides, the team could use some right-handed outfield power bats, and Oña fits that category. It was worth the trade-off.
Nick Ahmed to the Phillies: I almost kept Ahmed off the market. As it is, I put him on the “make me a strong offer or don’t bother” trading block. Yes, the team potentially has Geraldo Perdomo to play short moving forward, but they have zero MLB alternatives beyond that should Perdomo regress or get hurt. But, the Marte and Gallen trades did give me shortstop prospects that may well push Perdomo off the team by 2023-24. Then, there is Jordan Lawlar behind them. So what I really needed was a shortstop capable player to fill in when Perdomo cannot go. The Phillies were looking to save a few dollars for other deals and so came asking about moving Didi. Didi had a very down year at the plate in 2021. In fact, he sucked. He was, in many ways, even worse than Ahmed. However, there were a few reasons to go ahead and entertain this. First, the Phillies were kicking in $2 million to help offset some of the increased salary. Second, Gregorius is off the books at the end of 2022. Ahmed is around through the end of 2023. Finally, the Phillies were adding a prospect to sweeten the deal enough for me to pull the trigger. Martin is a high upside, defensively gifted middle infielder/utility player, with a glove capable of playing shortstop and an arm strong enough for him to play any position in the field. He’ll be in AA for 2022, so he’ll either push some of the better prospects along, or serve as quality depth behind them. Meanwhile, Gregorius is perfectly capable of being a left-handed infield utility player similar to Asdrúbal Cabrera, except he is able to put in some quality innings at short, in addition to second and, most importantly, third. Maybe Gregorius rebounds a bit once healthy and is able to hit in 2022, maybe not. The plan for him though is to play only semi-regularly, filling holes on the infield as necessary and to back up Perdomo until the better players arrive in late-2022. Overall, I wound up adding $3.125 million to the payroll for this deal. But, since I saved money with two non-tenders and in the trade of Marte, I was still in the black regarding payroll saved.
Cooper Hummel to the A’s: Oakland circled around to ask about Hummel. The acquisitions from other trades all but made certain that Hummel would never make it to Arizona’s 26-man roster. He was just buried entirely too deep. Grant Holmes is a high upside play for a back-end reliever who has better stuff than his numbers would indicate. He has electric stuff, but is a flyball pitcher in Las Vegas. Go figure, he provide both velocity and some elevation, of course he has issues in Vegas. At worst, he doesn’t figure things out in Phoenix and resides in Reno until disappearing. At best, he’s a dominant back-end reliever. Likely, this move is much ado about nothing both directions.
Merrill Kelly to the Rangers: With Gallen leaving, I did not anticipate trading Kelly. With Weaver leaving on top of that, I expected to stop considering pitching moves entirely. However, Texas came around and was willing to engage in conversations about Kelly that did not involve simply getting a reliever or a 1-2 year rental. Thompson is another right-handed outfielder. He plays left and center and is a speedster. He also has significant power - accidental home run kind of power. He doesn’t have the arm to play right field, but he plays the other positions just fine, even if he does rely on his speed to cover some mistakes (not unlike a young Adam Eaton used to). He should open 2022 in AAA and be ready for the Majors by the break. Even holding on to Kelly until the deadline, he isn’t going to bring back a better return than that. Also, despite needing a significant number of starting pitcher innings, some are being covered by the continued presence of Bumgarner. I decided I would rather have the Thompson upside and continued control than the 130 innings or so from Kelly that he would provide before being shipped off later. As a result, I cut deeply into my starting innings, but saved another $5.25 million.
Final payroll: $50,100,000 (a bit over $60 million if you add deferrals back in like I did)
With these moves the team has cut deep on the payroll while improving its developing position player depth to the point where it is as strong as the developing pitching, if not stronger. The team added two blue chip prospects and also added no less than five players expected to be MLB regulars within two seasons. Additionally, by non-tendering some players and by trading Smith, playing time opens up all over the place for developing players to get necessary MLB at-bats. Assuming a relatively normal progression in development, this team should be a competitive one by the end of 2023. They should start 2024 being able to seriously consider making a run at the division title. What’s more is, they should be able to make that run while relying almost entirely on pre-arbitration players to do it, meaning the window should continue to be open for a while.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments about players or plans.