Each year, a collective of SBNation writers get together and participate in an offseason simulation for the upcoming MLB Free Agency period that is due to take place over the next few months.
First things first, a MASSIVE thank you to Max Rieper of Royals Review for acting as General Manager of the simulation. That kind of a job is NOT easy, and this simulation was, for the most part, very well run.
You can find a full list of transactions here — though I will warn you, some of them are absolutely gruesome. The full list of simulation rules resides in that link as well.
For the lazy; the 40-man roster was, basically, considered irrelevant for the entire simulation, and we weren’t allowed to negotiate extensions with players — but those were the only real rules imparted upon us prior to beginning our sim.
With all that out of the way, let’s talk about what went down this year.
Going into this sim, my strategy was to keep things as realistic as possible — which I eventually learned was NOT the consensus among the group I was simulating with.
To make things challenging for myself (little did I know how challenging it would be,) I also decided that I wanted to stay under the primary luxury tax threshold, which is something that the real-life Phillies won’t likely do this offseason.
I wanted to keep my plan simple; lock down an ace, grab a second mid-rotation starter, snag a solid stopgap infielder to hold down the fort until Alec Bohm is ready, and shore-up the bullpen.
I accomplished pretty much all of these things... but at what cost?
The Roster Decisions:
First things first, I had to decide on options, tenders, and non-tenders.
I declined the options of Jason Vargas, Pat Neshek, and Jared Hughes.
I tendered the following players:
JT Realmuto - $10.3M
Jose Alvarez - $3.0M
Hector Neris - $4.7M
Adam Morgan - $1.6M
Zach Eflin - $3.0M
Edubray Ramos - $800K
Andrew Knapp - $800K
I non-tendered the following players:
All of these should be pretty self explanatory, but, to preemptively answer some questions:
Cesar, Maikel, and VV were simply not worth the money they were garnering. There were upgrades out there for much, much less.
I wasn’t allowed to negotiate an extension with JT Realmuto, so I had to settle with simply tendering him. As for Andrew Knapp — I’m not non-tendering a perfectly passable backup catcher that is making $800K.
I didn’t bother releasing Odubel Herrera because of the 40-man roster irrelevance (but I totally would any day of the week.)
And that was that. On to the real moves!
This was the one part of my simulation that I feel I did pretty well with. My primary goal via trades was to offload pieces I didn’t see in the future of this club, and send them elsewhere in order to help bolster the Major League Club — and I wound up doing just that.
TRADE: San Diego Padres receive OF Nick Williams, Philadelphia Phillies receive RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Steven Wilson.
This was the first move I made throughout the entirety of the simulation, and I felt really good about it. Garrett Richards is on the comeback trail after missing all of 2019, but he has the ceiling of a really good #3 starter. I had initially planned to use him as a long-man in the bullpen, anyway — though he wound up in the final rotation.
Steven Wilson is a high-ish velocity guy who was being fast-tracked thru the Padres’ system. I liked his numbers from last year, and decided to latch onto him as an extra piece.
To get this kind of value out of Nick Williams? I was thrilled.
TRADE: Texas Rangers receive RHP Jake Arrieta, C Rafael Marchan. Philadelphia Phillies receive cash.
It was at this point that I started to realize this simulation wasn’t exactly playing out in a realistic manor.
The Rangers’ General Manager approached ME. I wasn’t even shopping Jake Arrieta. He asked me if I’d send him Rafael Marchan (who is a blossoming prospect at the moment) if he took all of Arrieta’s deal.
I had seen how expensive the pitching market was getting, and trading Arrieta would bring me miles closer to my goal of staying under the luxury tax.
That was that. I couldn’t say no.
TRADE: Pittsburgh Pirates receive RHP Nick Pivetta, RHP Victor Arano, RHP Kevin Gowdy. Philadelphia Phillies receive RHP Jameson Taillon, RHP Kyle Crick.
This one was pretty awesome.
I wanted to offload all of these guys anyway. Victor Arano keeps suffering setbacks, Nick Pivetta is, well, Nick Pivetta, and Kevin Gowdy is showing no signs of recovery from back-to-back Tommy John surgeries.
That said, it turned out the Pirates’ GM was pretty high on every single one of these guys, so I made the most of it.
Kyle Crick is exactly what I PRAY Nick Pivetta will turn into someday, and, even after a down year, Crick’s fastball/slider combination is ridiculous.
Jameson Taillon won’t pitch in 2020, but has the ceiling of a legitimate top of the rotation starter. I was thrilled to get him at next-to no expense.
This was a move for the future, but I was psyched to get it done.
The Free Agents:
Now, let’s talk Free Agent signings. Hold onto your hats.
I plunged head first into the starting pitching market, and was greeted with a ghastly scene: literally every team was bidding on starting pitching, and bidding hard.
That didn’t stop me, though. I was in on every single starting pitcher, doing all I could to lock up the guys that I had my sights set on
For those who didn’t already check out the list of transactions, Gerrit Cole signed a 7-year, $280 Million deal with the Angels (which would have been much higher, had our GM not pulled the trigger on his signing preemptively — I’m not bitter. Not. Bitter. At. All.)
Zack Wheeler signed a 6-year, $180 Million deal with the Yankees.
It’s not THAT bad, right? At least these things are somewhat believable.
That’s where you would be wrong. To put things in perspective:
Gio Gonzalez, a guy who was forced to take a MINOR LEAGUE DEAL in 2019, signed a 2-year, $26 Million deal with the White Sox.
Rick Porcello, yes, THAT Rick Porcello, signed a 3-year, $37 Million deal with the Twins.
It. Was. Hell.
Eventually, I signed Stephen Strasburg to an 8-year, $324 Million deal. I had to do it — and I mean that. I had literally no other option. I needed an ace.
I concluded my Free Agency period with relative ease.
For the rotation, I went with a 1-year deal with ex-Phillie Josh Lindblom. He’s been putting together an excellent career in the KBO, and was the best option available that wasn’t STUPIDLY pricey. Maybe he’ll turn into Miles Mikolas? Worse comes to worse, he’s the rotation spot that Spencer Howard usurps mid-season.
I also signed Starlin Castro and Josh Harrison to one-year deals for the bench, as I was in need of righty infield bats, and Castro was available for a steal.
For the bullpen, I signed bounce-back hopefuls Jeremy Jeffress and Arodys Vizcaino to one-year deals, and locked up Daniel Hudson for 2-years, $10 Million.
I also signed a slew of players to Minor League deals — you can check those out in the full list of transactions linked in the first part of this article.
So, the final 25-man roster looked like this:
(Spencer Howard, Connor Seabold waiting in the wings for worst case scenarios.)
Andrew McCutchen, LF
Jean Segura, SS
Bryce Harper, RF
Rhys Hoskins, 1B
Alec Bohm, 3B (assuming he makes the roster out of Spring Training.)
JT Realmuto, C
Adam Haseley, CF
Scott Kingery, 2B
Starlin Castro, 2B/SS/3B
Jay Bruce, OF/1B
Roman Quinn, CF
Andrew Knapp, C
Josh Harrison, 2B/3B
Hector Neris, RHP
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Daniel Hudson, RHP
Kyle Crick, RHP
Adam Morgan, LHP
Ranger Suarez, LHP
Jose Alvarez, LHP
The Total Payroll finished off at ~$190 Million.
Overall, I think this roster looks okay, but I think the real-life version will flesh out a lot better.
I’m disappointed with how the rotation panned out — but pitching prices were ridiculous. However, all of those guys can win you games, and that’s all that matters.
I also wish I could’ve acquired more of an impactful bat for the mid-bottom of the order like Mike Moustakas or Didi Gregorious, but they both received 4 or more years each — a price I was not willing to meet.
I actually really like the bullpen — though it might get a little tight once Seranthony and DRob heal up.
In conclusion, I had a ton of fun doing this, though it was far outside my comfort zone. I prefer simulations with a touch of realism to them, and this one was... not that. Seriously, go check out some of the league transactions, you’ll see what I mean.
Thanks again to everyone who participated. It was a blast!