The annual SBNation simulated offseason just ended, and, sadly, your courageous few blog lords and ladies were too busy to participate. Lucky for us, Royals Review has enough good writers that they could spot us sharp as hell and personal friend to me Tyler Drenon. Below is his account of the offseason as it happened in the simulacrum. Any questions here, I'll get over to him, and in the meantime, give him a dang follow on twitter: @TylerDrenon. Get hype!
Hey The Good Phight,
I'm Tyler Drenon. I write at Royals Review and occasionally a few other places. I took over the Phillies in SB Nation's Offseason Simulation Project. Our editor at RR -- Max Rieper -- has been doing this for a few years and I've always wanted to stomp around in that puddle of fan trade fantasies. When the spot for Philly opened up, I looked at the payroll, vomited into my front-shirt pocket, patted it cathartically, and jumped at the chance to pretend to be Ruben Amaro ... just kidding. The concept is actually an effort to pretend as though each participant has taken over as the team's new GM. I can't imagine many of you are big RAJ fans and it can't get much worse, can it?
In order to beat you to the punchline, yes, I am a giant nerd. I'll be going over all the moves I made and updating the progress throughout the season with WAR charts for comparison with the actual team -- one at the beginning of August and one after the season if I'm still alive then -- and I'll be providing prospect lists based on amalgamations of lists by Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and other sites. It will be very nerdy and probably very detailed.
This team will be referred to from now on as The Shadow Phillies -- borrowing from Royals' shadow GM Josh Duggan.
Anyway, I decided to see what a rebuild would look like. I was much more aggressive than I would've been if this was a multi-year sim, so I made several major moves. In doing so, I consulted a Twitter friend of mine -- your very own Trev223 or @Hegelbon. He ran things across a few of your other writers as well. It was difficult to stay in touch on every move since the pace of this thing is pretty brisk, but I tried not to go it alone.
This breakdown is extremely long. I wrote the deals up as I went, but it got out of hand because, alas, I am a geek. I took it as a chance to learn about a bunch of minor leaguers and free agents I didn't know as much about before, and of course, to cosplay as a MLB general manager. Most of the other GMs updated as they went along, but since I don't write for TGP, I am going to dump this 5,000 word monolith on you all at once. >
I'm just gonna list the trades and signings I made and add a little of my reasoning beneath followed by a depth chart and a list of prospects at each position.
Here we go:
Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, and cash to NYY for Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Ian Clarkin and Caleb Smith
Looks like a lot to me. The cash in the deal was $12.5M in 2015 and $7M annually through 2018. It's a lot, I know, but the return would've suffered considerably with less cash included -- like the Yankees need it!
I know you all probably love Hamels and seeing him traded to New York makes you want to weep into a five-gallon bucket for weeks and then drown me in it. Sorry. Just remember this isn't real. Anyway, this was a big haul in my opinion. Perhaps a breakdown in is order.
Severino (BBRef/FG) is on the fast track to the majors. He could end up in New York in 2015 -- if he isn't involved in a painfully beautiful trade that sends him elsewhere. Severino, a right-hander, throws 95-97 mph and has touched 99. His secondary stuff is middling, but his changeup has "plenty of late fade" and was given 70-grade from Baseball America. He also throws a mid-80s power slider they graded out at a 50 (once he's done developing -- these are future grades on his stuff). They seem to like his control as well, saying he can pitch to "all four quadrants of the strike zone, helping him keep the ball in the ballpark." As an added bonus, he has often recorded times to the plate at 1.1 seconds, making him "nearly impossible to run on." In 24 starts this season -- 113.1 IP -- Severino put up a 2.46 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, struck out 127, walked just 27, and surrendered only three homers.
Sanchez (BBRef/FG) has been around a while. It has seemed inevitable he'd be traded in a deal like this for a while now. He was ranked as the 35th overall prospect by Baseball America coming into the season. Baseball Prospectus had him at 85th, so there's a little variance on his potential, but most evaluators have been high on him for some time. After receiving those rankings, Sanchez hit .270/.338/.406 with 13 home runs, a 91 to 43 K/BB, 19 doubles, and he threw out a stellar 39% of base stealers. His throwing arm has never been the problem as far as his defensive ability goes. Receiving, blocking and rapport with his staff were the issues listed by BA. He also has had some off-field stuff cost him playing time in the past. On the other hand, BA still says "If everything clicks, he’s a frontline catcher with the potential for a .280 average and 20-25 home runs annually."
Bird (BBRef/FG) was actually ranked ahead of Sanchez on BA's post-2014 top ten list. He hit .253/.379/.558 with seven homers in 116 plate appearances with Double-A Trenton. He's locked in at first. Not much athleticism to speak of, but you can see from his numbers that his bat is special. He has great discipline and some considerable power. John Sickels called him "one of the top first base prospects in baseball," comparing him to Nick Swisher -- we can only hope that comparison is on-field only.
Clarkin (BBRef/FG) was one of the Yankees' sandwich first-rounders in the 2013 draft -- the other one, Aaron Judge, had already been traded when this deal was made. BA compares his delivery to Clayton Kershaw's, saying it is "clean" and has "some deception." It's probably safe to say the Kershaw comps end there, but Clarkin has some good qualities of his own. The lefty added a cutter this season and began inducing more groundballs, which is great paired with his 9-ish K/9. He climbed to High-A ball at the end of 2014. His fastball sits between 90-92 mph, he has a plus changeup, and a big, slow-bending curve at 70-72 mph. Mid-rotation potential.
Smith (BBRef/FG) was a tack-on that has some potential as well. He threw 117.2 IP and struck out 116 and walked 46 between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. He touches 95 mph with his fastball. It has some late action and pairs well with his circle-change. He could be a decent reliever or a back-end starter.
Chase Utley and cash to WAS for Michael Taylor, Taylor Jordan, and Austin Voth
I'm sorry. Chase Utley is awesome. He was worth four wins last year -- even though he's 35 and his knees are mostly dust. However, his contract could keep him around for a while even if his production begins to decline rapidly and I felt like Taylor and Jordan were a pretty good haul given the rebuilding effort. I had to include $10M for the Nats' GM to make his payroll work, and since the Shadow Phillies aren't going to win in 2015 and Utley might not be worth the long-term risk his contract presents, I just threw money at the problem.
I'm also sorry about pretending to trade him within the division. I'm not sure if you all hate the Nationals vehemently yet or not since they haven't been around that long, but I just assume you do.
Surprisingly, there weren't many takers on Utley. Several of the GMs in this sim couldn't seem to reconcile with the fact that Utley's contract is not the typical RAJ burden. Many of them were going on WAR/$-FanGraphs stuff. One guy actually told me Cole Hamels wasn't valuable because his contract is at market value. Sometimes, it seems like people get carried away with the SABR approach to team-building. Yes, surplus value is a very good thing. Contracts like Salvador Perez's are great for owners and GMs -- and they really suck for players and the general idea of giving a human being a fair shake -- but a contract that pays a guy fairly isn't evil. And Utley was worth four wins last year heading into a deal that might pay him as little as $10M!
In any event, here's what I got:
Taylor (BBRef/FG) is 23 years old, 6'3 210, and he could be an all-star. Soon. He's already reached the majors and he has raked consistently throughout the minors. Last season, he hit .309/.396/.539 and finally put his projectable power on the stat sheet with 23 homers. He also stole 37 bases. The Eastern League has the highest general ISO of the Double-A leagues, but it's pretty clear Taylor put together the power end of his game last year even if he got a little help from park factors. He strikes out a little too often, but even if he continues to do so he could be a Starling Marte-ish player with a solid glove in center field. However, there are some concerns about his hit tool. He's no guarantee to become an all-star, of course, but he has a lot to work with. In 2013, he earned comparisons to Adam Jones, Mike Cameron, and even Jim Edmonds for his ability to go back on balls in center. BA said, "If he can mature into a fringy or average hitter, he can be an all-star." Looks like he has a good chance to do that. BP just released their Nats top ten list on Wednesday. Taylor received a glowing profile. The profile is so good, in fact, that I don't know if acquiring Taylor for Utley is very realistic at this point.
Taylor Jordan (BBRef/FG) should be able to contribute in the rotation immediately. He's only made 14 MLB starts, and he had surgery in September to remove bone chips from his elbow, but he should be ready for spiring training. He dominated the low minors in 2013 and reached the majors in June. In nine starts he put up a 3.66 ERA. 2014 was sort of a lost year, but if he's given the chance, he could be a nice mid-rotation starter from here on.
Voth (BBRef/FG) struggled a bit upon reaching Double-A, but over the course of the season he struck out 133 and walked just 38 in 126.2 IP with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP across three levels. He reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, typically sitting in the low-90s. He uses his command to strike batters out rather than employing scout-gushy stuff. Some evaluators think he'll end up in the bullpen.
Cliff Lee, Antonio Bastardo, and cash to SEA for Luiz Gohara, Dominic Leone, and Mayckol Guaipe
I sent more money than I would've liked to, but there weren't many takers on Lee and I wanted to shed as much age and expense as possible. I included $10M in 2015 and $5M in 2016 in the deal. Antonio Bastardo -- who is a free agent after 2015 -- was a throw-in to get the deal done. It seems shameful for a pitcher like Lee to get traded for a marginal package again, but this time it made sense -- well,pretend sense. His arm might actually fall off of his body soon and since Hamels was traded, keeping him around made little sense.
Gohara (BBRef/FG) was signed out of Brazil back in 2012. After a short sophomore campaign in rookie ball at age 17 -- his K/BB was insane there (11.37-1) -- he had a tough time in low-A ball. He only logged 37.1 IP there, so the sample size was small, but he did finish with an 8.20 ERA, so his time there was semi-concerning. However, he's 6'3 215, he throws 96 mph from the left side, and Baseball America ranked him as the M's No. 4 prospect in January. They said he has a chance to be "at least a mid-rotation starter, maybe more." He has a changeup with enough late fade to (eventually) be a plus pitch. He also gets a lot of swings and misses and his delivery is "sound and advanced for his age." Basically, he's a giant, big-bellied lefty that strikes a lot guys out. It's hard not to see a Brazilian CC Sabathia when you look at him. That's a giddy evaluation, of course. He's only 18, so he could easily fail, but he has some serious potential.
Leone (BBRef/FG) was with the M's last season. He put up a 2.17 ERA in 66.1 IP and K'd nine-and-a-half guys per nine. And with all those strikeouts, he still induced 54.7% groundballs. His fastball touched 98 mph this year and sat at 94.4 mph. He used his slider -- the one he can ramp up to 90 mph -- to pick up 24 of his 70 strikeouts, so he's got more than just steamy, sweet-hot fire. Not bad. Throughout this sim I added several relievers/future relievers because a lot of the guys I was trading away were cumbersome and the GMs I dealt with were more willing to part with relievers.
Guaipe (BBRef/FG) is another reliever. He reached Double-A last year at age 23, striking out nine per nine and walking just nine in 56 innings with a 2.89 ERA. It's probably not a set-up/closer profile, but Guaipe could be a sturdy ROOGY at some point. He held right handed hitters to a .197 batting average and logged a 0.81 WHIP against them last season. Ultimately, he was just a toss-in I was able to tack onto the end of this deal, but maybe a little something could come of it.
Jonathan Papelbon and cash to CHW for Danny Webb and Rangel Ravelo
I agreed to pay $3M of Papelbon's 2015 salary in order to move him. Now there's no chance of his option vesting in Philly, and Ken Giles can close as he should. Papelbon only needs to finish 48 games to lock in another year at $13M and that was likely to happen if he stayed since paying him that kind of money to pitch the eighth would be odd and probably frowned upon by the MLBSPA (Major League Baseball Shadow Players Association).
Webb (BBRef/FG) was in Chicago last year. He had a chance to become the team's closer according to some sources, but he struggled with walks and ended up with a 4.52 FIP on the year (3.99 ERA). However, he throws 95-100 mph with a smooth delivery and has a pretty bendy slider for a power pitcher, according to Nathaniel Stoltz. Look at his minor league numbers from 2013. After he transitioned to the bullpen, he came into his own. He could be another useful arm in a fictional bullpen that already includes Giles, Jake Diekman (who received a ton of trade interest but was not moved), Justin De Fratus, Hector Neris, Ethan Martin, Wilmer Font, Keone Kela, and Dominic Leone.
Stoltz also did an awesome write-up on Ravelo (BBRef/FG) in March. The tl;dr on it is: That guy can HIT. He might be able to play third, but even if he sticks at first, he should be able to hit enough to make something of himself. Stoltz knows prospects about as well as anyone and he actually broke out a Dustin Pedroia comparison for Ravelo's approach at the plate. Rather encouraging. And that wasbefore he hit .309/.386/.473 with 11 homers, 10 steals, 66 RBI, and a 56-77 SO-BB ratio. Ravel won't be an MVP candidate like Pedey, but he has a great approach and he might be able to parlay it into a starting job in the majors someday. When the sycophantic dust of this paragraph settles, Ravelo is still just a prospect. He's far from a sure thing, but he has a potentially dangerous bat.
Ryan Howard and cash to HOU for Telvin Nash
This one is obvious. I'm actually pleased to have gotten something decent in return. Basically, I got the Phillies off the hook for Howard's $10M buyout in 2017 and added a decent bat at first for the minors. >
Nash (BBRef/FG) saved me from having to cut Howard outright. Last season, the 23-year-old hit .227/.330/484 with 22 homers (just four doubles) in 320 plate appearances for Double-A Corpus Christi. He's so TTO it hurts. Maybe he'll never do anything at the MLB level, but if he's worth $10M and he opens up first base for Maikel Franco or just about anyone other than Howard, I'll take him.
Font (BBRef/FG) is a massive person -- 6'4, 265. He's had great strikeout numbers in the minors and he appears to be ready to pitch in the majors. He throws a horizontal column of steam. His secondary stuff is spotty, but with a 100 mph fastball, he might not need much else to settle into a role in the middle innings. I'm taking the chance that he is able to develop some semblance of a secondary offering, but even if he doesn't he could still be a decent middle reliever that just snorts fire all over the batter's box and occasionally gets guys out.
Kela (BBRef/FG) is a reliever too. Yeah! RELIEVERS! The difference here is the fact that this guy might be a difference maker. His fastball has reportedly reached 100 mph -- according to the guy who traded him to me. Adam Morris, the Shadow Rangers' GM and the Grand Blogduke of SB Nation's Rangers spot Lone Star Ball, was able to pry Byrd away from me for these two fireballers because I wanted to get rid of his $8M salary and the potential for another year of him at that price in 2016. If we're rebuilding, no need to keep a 36-year-old Byrd in the cage I have made of this organization. Let him fly free in Arlington before he inevitably flies into a window somewhere and everything goes so very dark forever.
John Pettibone to CLE for Joe Wendle and Carlos Moncrief
I'm not sure the real Cleveland Baseball Team would make this deal, but their Sim GM wanted a back-of-the-rotation arm, so I sharked away two solid prospects to oblige him -- and I didn't mention Pettibone's torn labrum. This one might've been a little sneaky on my part.
Wendle (BBRef/FG) is a second baseman who played most of last year in Double-A Akron. He broke a hamate bone in his wrist in June and was sent to rookie ball to recover before returning to Akron in August. MLB.com ranked him ninth in Cleveland's system this year and Sickels ranked him tenth before the season, comparing him to Braves' second baseman Tommy La Stella with "less batting average but more power." If he fully recovers from the wrist injury, he could push through to Triple-A in 2015. I have no idea how likely that is, but having a Tommy La Stella type guy in Triple-A would be pretty nice, even though the position is spoken for in this alternate universe thanks to a big-time free agent signing (more on that later).
Moncrief (BBRef/FG) is the reason I felt really good about this deal. Sickels ranked him 15th in Cleveland's system coming into the year, saying: "May not look like much on paper, a 25 year old just reaching Triple-A, but look deeper. He’s a good athlete despite stocky 6-0, 220 frame, has a good throwing arm, runs well for his size, hit a steady .284/.354/.470 with 17 homers, 15 steals and a greatly reduced strikeout rate last year in Double-A. Could wind being a very useful role player." Moncrief rewarded John's faith by hitting .271/.328/.431 with 33 doubles, 12 homers and eight stolen bases in 530 plate appearances with Triple-A Columbus. The International League isn't quite as hitter-friendly as the Pacific Coast League, as I'm sure you know. If he had played the 2014 season in the PCL, he might be getting more attention -- assuming more home runs, of course.
Pettibone doesn't strike me as an incredibly important piece for the future. He might be a fifth starter. I thought padding the minors with a few more guys that could be at least that valuable was worth giving up on Pettibone -- but if his name was John Ficklemarrow you can be sure he'd still be with this pretend organization.
Colton Murray for Tim Lincecum and cash
The Giants added $5M. At $13M for one season, Lincecum seemed like a gamble worth taking if only for the fact that I traded away all of the Phillies' starters. He's coming off of a -0.2 fWAR/-0.7 rWAR season. You're right. That is very bad. I agree. This deal seems likely to go down in Amaroian flames, but you guys are used to that anyway, and I figured if the 2015 season is going to be somewhat bleak, giving Lincecum a chance to "change scenery" and potentially resurrect some value was worth a negligible minor league reliever.
Even though it's four years later than you might've liked, Tim Lincecum is in Philly! And he'll eat some innings while The Shadow Phillies bridge their way back to the top of the NL East.
Tyler Buckley to PIT for Jose Tabata
He'll probably fail, but Tabata seemed like a good flier for a team that needed warm MLB bodies. The "MLB" part of that statement is disputable with Tabata, but he's just one year removed from hitting .282/.342/.429 with the Pirates in 2013 so he might have something more to offer before his second chances are all used up. Buckley is as close as it gets to being given Tabata for nothing. I honestly forgot that Tabata had signed an extension in 2011. He'll earn $4M in 2015 and $4.5M in 2016. Whoops!
Because I didn't think he was worth $128M like the Padres did. He's an exciting player and his agent thinks he has "way more" power than Jose Abreu, so maybe he will be worth $128M over eight years, but I didn't want to buy into the hype. I still broke the bank on Fernandez, but getting him at nearly $50M less than Tomas makes me feel pretty good about my decision.
Fernandez is 26 years old. He is expected to be MLB-ready immediately -- if he's able to secure his residence outside the US and do the inevitable OFAC hoop-jumping. Ben Badler of Baseball America ranked Fernandez as the third-best prospect in Cuba recently, right behind behind Alfredo Despaigne and Youlieski Gourriel.
From BA: "During the 2013-14 season playing for Matanzas in Serie Nacional, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Fernandez hit .326/.482/.456 with 65 walks and 10 strikeouts in 314 plate appearances, ranking second in the league in OBP. This season, which started in September, Fernandez was off to a .315/.415/.426 start with only one strikeout in 65 plate appearances."
He's a tough out from the left side of the batter's box. He takes a ton of walks and rarely strikes out. He also has a weird toe tap where he turns his foot toward the pitcher that he uses as a timing mechanism, so that should be fun for little Shadow Phillies fans to emulate in their shadow little league games. Fernandez is not a great runner and he might top out at 10-15 homers according to BA, but the average and OBP are legit and he's a decent second baseman from what I can tell. Some think he can be an all-star in the majors. In 2013, Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle said Fernandez was "far and away the best hitter" on a Cuban National team that included Gourriel, Tomas, and Erisbel Arruebarruena
"He stands very upright at the plate, and employs a very pronounced leg kick. He's obviously made it work for him thus far in his professional career, but Kang holds the pose, so to speak, longer than most players who use leg kicks, leaving him literally standing on one leg as the pitcher delivers the ball."