Offseason sims can be odd things. On one hand, it only takes one or two participants deciding to go nuts for insane trades to develop or for massive, unrealistic free agent contracts to be signed. On the other hand, what sometimes seems utterly crazy, sometimes ends up being closer to reality than many might expect. Case in point, in the winter of 2015, the simulated front office for the Diamondbacks “went crazy”, jumping into negotiations at the last moment and signing free agent Zack Greinke to a 6-year/$210MM contract. A few weeks later, reality imitated art with the real Diamondbacks jumping in at the last moment to sign Greinke to a 6-year/$206.5MM contract. Alas, the rest of that particular sim did not play out in reality, with Ken Kendrick slamming the pocketbook shut after arranging the surprise signing.
This year, a number of sim participants went a bit nuts. With the new playoff format in place, a number of front offices decided to blow past their recommended budget and go all-in. Arizona was not one of those teams.
Before we jump into how things went for Arizona this winter, here are a few caveats to keep in mind. The biggest one is, rosters revert back to what they were at the conclusion of the regular season. This means any DFAs, retirements, or any other sort of roster or contract move that has already taken place in the real world did not apply to the simulation. PTBNL had to be named at the time of the trade, so essentially, no PTBNL. All full no-trade clauses were considered to be exercised. Partials were left to the discretion of the sim’s coordinator,
For this year’s simulation, Arizona was given a payroll budget of $95,000,000. That only left Arizona with roughly $8,000,000 in initial wiggle room, but that would soon change.
Arizona declined the options of Zach Davies and Ian Kennedy, electing instead to pay the $250,000 buyout for each of them.
Initially, we were in the market for Willson Contreras. There was a bit of a mix-up though, and he wound up going elsewhere on a lesser deal. Frankly, that feels authentically D-backy, so I didn’t get too upset. But, it did create something of a pivot in approach. Next, it should be noted that, largely because of the Contreras deal falling through, the team pursued Jose Abreu. However, his deal pushed beyond what felt reasonable to me. I offered 2yr/$42MM and was in the running for a while. But then, a third year and a bit more cash was thrown in. I walked away, even though Abreu was worth over 4 WAR in 2022. I also anticipated potentially signing Evan Longoria as a backup plan for addressing third base and veteran leadership. I penciled in signing him for no more than $3-4 million. As it turned out, San Francisco decided to exercise their option on him, so that never materialized, though I am not terribly concerned about that. It should also be noted that the Tampa Bay Rays decided to tender Nick Anderson, so he too was not available for me to jump all over with a $1 million make-good deal.
Jalen Beeks (LHRP) 2 years/$15 million
2022: 42 G, 61 IP, 2.80 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 1.164 WHIP, 3.2 BB9, 10.3 SO9, 3.18 SO/W, 130 ERA+, 1.1 bWAR
JT Chargois (RHRP) 2 years/$2.5 million
2022: 21 G, 22.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 0.940 WHIP, 2.0 BB9, 6.9 SO9, 3.40 SO/W, 152 ERA+, 0.5 bWAR
Mitch Haniger (OF/DH) 3 years/$36 million
2022: 57 G, 27 PA, 224 AB, 11 HR, .246/.308/.429 (.736 OPS), 114 OPS+, 1.3 bWAR
JD Martinez (DH/1B) 2 years/$30 million
2022: 139 G, 596 PA, 533 AB, 16 HR, .274/.341/.448 (.790 OPS), 117 OPS+, 1.1 bWAR
Francisco Mejia (C) 2 years/$6 million
2022: 93 G, 299 PA, 289 AB, 6 HR, .242/.264/.381 (.645 OPS), 87 OPS+, 0.7 bWAR
I went into this with a few goals in mind. First, I wanted to unload Madison Bumgarner and Mark Melancon, even if it meant eating hefty salary. I initially was offering to eat up to $21 million of Bumgarner’s remaining contract when negotiating with teams. Ultimately though, that contract got moved in a swap of bad contracts. My priorities for trades were: relief pitching, catching, third base, second base, pretty much in that order. I also expected to end up trading one of Alek Thomas or Jake McCarthy, likely for a top-flight catcher. I was not pushing either of them on anyone, but I was certainly willing to entertain moving one (but not both) of them. Alek Thomas garnered a great deal of interest in the sim. McCarthy garnered some as well, though not nearly as much. In the end, the right deal did not materialize. If I had shopped either of them (especially Thomas) more aggressively, I am confident something could have happened. As it is, the closest either came to being traded was when Kansas City asked about Jake McCarthy plus Blake Walston for MJ Melendez. I did not need to stress over that decision for long though, as someone else made an offer that the Royals liked even better than that one. The negotiations for Alejandro Kirk stopped when Toronto asked for Thomas plus Jameson plus more. Eventually, Kirk was traded for Lars Nootbar and Matthew Liberatore. The Athletics wanted an even richer package for Sean Murphy, who was eventually sent to the Rays for Curtis Mead, Josh Lowe, and Cole Wilcox. All this contributed to pivoting again and making a pair of dicey trades. However, if they do not work, the fallout is likely only for 2023 without any long-term harm. Knowing full well that some of the Pit’s loyal readers are about to lose their minds, here are the trades that were made:
- Pavin Smith to Oakland for Joel Payamps (RHRP)
- Madison Bumgarner to San Francisco for Tommy LaStella (IF)
wait for it...
- Tommy LaStella, Jose Herrara, and Josh Rojas to the Tigers for Gregory Soto (LHRP)
The trade was essentially Rojas for Soto and then giving Herrera up in exchange for unloading LaStella. Usually, I do not like to do that, but Herrera’s future with AZ was limited at best anyway.
- Mark Melancon and $4 million to the Rangers for Grant Anderson (RHRP)
- Taylor Widener and Dominic Canzone to Washington for Andres Machado (RHRP) and Tres Barrera (C)
- Ketel Marte to San Diego for Reiss Knehr (RHP) and Ryan Weathers (LHP)
Both of these players are borderline #5 starters and pre-arbitration with minor league options remaining. Both likely end up in the bullpen but have decent upside. This was partially a quantity over quality gamble. I was only getting veterans at the end of contracts as other offers and they made little sense. This saves the team a grip of money up front and potentially pays off big in another year or so without hurting the 2022 product.
- Joe Mantiply to Toronto for Otto Lopez (2B/SS/OF)
As if the team didn’t have enough ultra-speedy, slightly under-sized, defensively gifted centerfielders. At least this one bats right-handed. He likely competes with McCarthy for who is third fastest on the 26-man roster.
- Ryan Bliss to St. Louis for Alex Reyes (RHRP)
I really like the glove that Bliss brings, but I still doubt his ability to reach the Majors. Also, I have other options for second. Meanwhile, Reyes is a reliable, proven reliever.
- Merrill Kelly and Cooper Hummel to Minnesota for Jorge Polanco
I had no plans to trade Merrill Kelly when the sim started. In fact, I was prepared to beat off suitors. But then the plan changed when catching and second base started shuffling. Losing Kelly hurts, but the loss should be at least somewhat mitigated. On the other hand, Jorge Polanco is a decided upgrade over Ketel Marte and is under team control for 3-yr/$30 million as opposed to Marte’s 2-yr/$24. A better bat, fewer injury concerns, far superior defense, and a more reasonable contract for second base? Yes, please.
- Christian Walker and Kevin Ginkel to Houston for Jose Urquidy and Yainer Diaz
Francisco Mejia had still not signed, leaving me with Carson Kelly and some minor league options for my catching depth. I also wanted to add some experienced, quality starting pitching. Walker’s value will never be higher. Even in the sim, he ran neck-and-neck with Thomas for the most popular target from the Arizona organization. Also, despite not liking giving up Walker’s glove, Diaz plays first in addition to catching and the team had already signed JDM and Haniger. I felt confident that I could weather the loss of Walker. Urquidy’s presence helps to offset the loss of Merrill Kelly some. Yainer Diaz is a potential five-year backstop for the team.
Trade not made: Zac Gallen to New York Mets for Brett Baty, Kevin Parada, Alex Ramirez, Carlos Cortes, JT Schwartz
This was the closest thing I came to a Godfather deal in the sim. If I was not attempting to compete in 2023, I likely would have accepted it. However, since the plan here was to bring the competitive window forward to 2023, I decided to hold onto the team’s ace. After all, he could always be moved at the deadline if circumstances changed.
The end result is a team that is built around the expected core, with a substantial number of alterations to balance the team out somewhat more. Finding enough ABs for the outfield could be tricky, but it is not impossible. One thing to note is, that of all the relievers brought in, only Alex Reyes, in the final year of his contract, is lacking in minor league options. All others have options remaining, allowing the team a great deal of flexibility with bullpen arms. No longer will the team need to wait for someone to get injured to make a move if there is a lack of performance, or if the bullpen is simply getting taxed.
C - Francisco Mejia/Carson Kelly/Yainer Diaz
1B/DH - Yainer Diaz/JD Martinez
2B - Jorge Polanco
SS - Nick Ahmed
3B - Enmanuel Rivera
OF - Corbin Carroll
0F - Alek Thomas
OF - Daulton Varsho
OF- Jake Mcarthy
OF/DH- Mitch Haniger (If healthy, should start every game against LHSP opponents)
Util. Sergio Alcantara/Otto Lopez (Lopez likely starts the season in AAA)/Geraldo Perdomo (AAA)
Lopez and Perdomo will have every opportunity to force Alcantara out. It is likely that Lopez could win out in spring, forcing the team to part with Alcantara, but that’s a good sort of problem to have. If Perdomo gets corrected, he and Lopez will have a spirited battle in the future.
There is less overall certainty than I would care for in the rotation. At the same time, the team needs to start bringing some of these arms along. Either they are going to contribute and help the team force open that competitive window, or the team needs new arms. Ryan Weathers, Reiss Knehr, Blake Walston, Slade Cecconi, Tyler Gilbert, and Bryce Jarvis should all likely be expected to pick up starts, even if only as injury depth.
Open competition with minor league options available:
It seems likely that Beeks and Soto would eventually end up competing for the role of closer. Soto likely has the inside edge, throwing 98 and being a heavy groundballer. However, Beeks and his 95 mph fastball and 10.33 K/9 should not be ruled out, especially with the rule change regarding infield shifts coming into play. Alex Reyes is perfectly capable of filling in at the back as well should circumstances warrant going three-deep at closer. Machado and Payamps likely have the inside track on joining the established bullpen. It is also not hard to see Tommy Henry winning a spot, giving the team two non-closer lefties in addition to a lefty closer. That would make seven out of eight bullpen arms with plenty of healthy competition for the final slots. Given that the rotation may get a bit shallow on innings from time-to-time, this bullpen depth should see plenty of work. Again, the arms having minor league options should help. This bullpen, at least the top 10 arms, should all be better than what Arizona ran out in 2022, save Henry and Nelson who were part of the 2022 bullpen.
Payroll Budget: $95,000,000
Actual Payroll: $74,660,000
The team may have taken a step back at first. The defense will not be as sharp, but the bat should be more reliable. There may not be as many dongs, but there should be a much better OBP. Second base is better in every way. Nick Ahmed returns at short with capable backups should he struggle. Otherwise he hands the baton to Lawlar in September (we hope). Third base remains unchanged. It could use an influx of offense, maybe found at the deadline using some of that unspent money. The outfield is set and then some. This may be the best defensive outfield in a decade or more and the expectation is that there will be plenty of stick as well. Designated hitter is clearly upgraded.
The pitching should be improved. The team is running out five starters with #3 or better upside. There may be some challenges with innings, but that is manageable. The bullpen has been overhauled and upgraded significantly. There is also depth in numbers and options for both the rotation and the bullpen. Again, there is also money left to make a trade at the deadline if the rotation needs more attention.
By the time any of Arizona’s young and talented core is in line for a substantial raise in salary, the only contracts on the books will be Mitch Haniger and Jorge Polanco, both making $12million in the final season of their deals (2025).
So there you have it. Feel free to start in on the tar and feathering below.