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2021 SBNation Baseball Simulation recap

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I may have overspent a bit

MLB: NLCS-Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Each year, the good folks around the SBNation baseball universe gather ‘round and try to simulate what they would do in the baseball offseason. It’s a fun, if exhausting, exercise where wild contracts are doled out, trades are pulled out of nowhere and everyone seems to believe that their team is the one true winner. You can find all the moves here in this thread.

This year, I was once again in charge of running the Sim Phillies. I’ve done this before, but due to several other things happening, I haven’t done it in two years. Hopping back in, I went in with a clear purpose and think I accomplished it. But I also think I would have left the Sim Phillies vulnerable. Here is what transpired.


My goal

Last season, the Phillies had to rely on Travis Jankowski, Odubel Herrera, Mickey Moniak and a host of others to man center field. Heck, even Jorge Bonifacio was given a chance to get some at bats. We also saw a mad scramble for left field when Andrew McCutchen struggled, a shortstop that really struggled and a third baseman that really, really struggled. When Rhys Hoskins went down to injury, the team was forced to expose Brad Miller to other teams more often than they would have liked. All of this is a very long winded way of saying: this team wasn’t deep. The manager didn’t like to play young players, so one of the goals I had was to make this team as deep as possible with a ton of flexibility built in.

Another goal I had was to upgrade the bullpen without spending a ton of money. Though they’ve been an issue the past few years, there is a decent enough foundation of hard throwers that were modestly effective in 2021 that is getting a pretty big reinforcement in Seranthony Dominguez. So, coming away with two or three relievers felt like a must in this simulation.

Finally, since it’s not my money, I didn’t really feel tied to a specific budget, but I also wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing silly things that John Middleton would never agree to. So, spending up to, but not over, the luxury tax felt just about right. We were given two payrolls: a luxury tax payroll and an actual payroll. So, just to help myself set a budget, I didn’t want to go over the luxury tax number ($210 million), nor did I want to break $200 million with the actual 2022 payroll.

I made nine moves, in order. Here they are with the rationale:


First move: do exactly as the real team did with options and arbitration

No changes here. Everything the real Phillies did, the Sim Phillies did.

Second move: trade Jamari Baylor to Pittsburgh for Kevin Newman

Alright, I know what you’re thinking. What the heck would you get Kevin Newman for? Let me explain here a bit.

First of all, Jamari Baylor isn’t going to be good, so we can just forget about that part. You might remember Newman from his spring training of the gods where he hit <checks notes> everything he saw before cratering once the season started. His .574 OPS was so bad, he was the only player in baseball who had 550 or more plate appearances and an OPS below .580.

So why trade for him?

Well, he still has minor league options left, so getting someone on the 40-man roster with major league experience who has shown he can hit (.800 OPS in 2019) fairly recently and can play more than one position is something the Phillies could use to weather any roster storms later on. Of course, he’s expensive (est. $2.2 million arbitration number), so the money may not be worth the aggravation, but it’s nice to have depth.

Poll

Grade the move: Newman for Baylor

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    A
    (4 votes)
  • 25%
    B
    (35 votes)
  • 40%
    C
    (56 votes)
  • 23%
    D
    (32 votes)
  • 7%
    F
    (10 votes)
137 votes total Vote Now

Third move: sign Corey Knebel to a 2 year, $16 million contract

This might be my favorite move.

Knebel feels exactly like the type of reliever the Phillies will pursue this offseason. He has closing experience, having saved 55 games for Milwaukee in 2017-18, but since then and prior to 2021, he has battled injuries. His 2020 with Los Angeles was a bad season, but he bounced back in a big way this past season. He upped the usage of his curveball to better pair with his rising four-seam fastball to remake himself back into an effective closer. Since he only showed what he can do in 2021 and struggled the two years before that, teams might be a little more hesitant to sign him. At this price, I thought it was a steal.

Poll

Grade the move: sign Knebel

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    A
    (52 votes)
  • 42%
    B
    (58 votes)
  • 13%
    C
    (18 votes)
  • 6%
    D
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
137 votes total Vote Now

Fourth move: trade Hans Crouse, Francisco Morales and Adonis Medina to Minnesota for Byron Buxton

Check that - this is my favorite move.

The Minnesota owner made it known that he was looking to move Buxton in a package similar to what Nelson Cruz commanded in real life. That means two of a team’s top 15-20 prospects, preferably pitchers. With the Phillies’ prospects being weaker than some others in the eyes of prognosticators, I knew that I would have to come in a little higher to make sure I got Buxton.

I thought I had a deal done with just Morales and Medina, but the Twins wanted Crouse, who was a little closer to the majors than either of the other two. Making this trade destroys the team’s pitching depth in the minors, but to get Buxton, who will a) take the leadoff spot, b) man center field and c) improve this team’s defense dramatically at a relatively small arbitration number was an opportunity I would not pass on. Are there injury issues? Of course. Knowing whether or not Buxton will remain on the field is something even the Twins didn’t know about, but it’s the roll of the dice my Sim Phillies were willing to take. If Buxton can remain healthy, he becomes a game changer they do not have outside of Bryce Harper.

Poll

Grade the move: Buxton for Crouse, Morales, Medina

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    A
    (51 votes)
  • 30%
    B
    (45 votes)
  • 18%
    C
    (28 votes)
  • 10%
    D
    (15 votes)
  • 6%
    F
    (10 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now

Fifth move: sign Hector Neris to a 1 year, $3.5 million contract

Bringing back Hector at this price? Please and thank you.

Poll

Grade the move: sign Neris

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    A
    (111 votes)
  • 13%
    A-
    (21 votes)
  • 13%
    A--
    (20 votes)
152 votes total Vote Now

Sixth move: sign Chris Taylor to a 4 year, $96 million contract with a fifth year option at $20 million ($4 million buyout)

Ok, I may have gone a little haywire here.

Look, I know I overpaid for Taylor. The bidding for him got fierce. At one point, I was looking at having to pay him in the neighborhood of $29M AAV to secure his services. Stretching out the contract to include a fourth year to help with the luxury tax penalty was my way around it, but the other owner bidding didn’t blink. Ultimately, I knew that the $100 million guaranteed was going to be enough, so I bit the bullet and did it.

Here is what I am thinking. Taylor, for now, would be the Sim Phillies’ left fielder. If something happened to Buxton, Taylor could slide over to center and left field could be manned by some kind of Matt Vierling/Mickey Moniak hybrid monster. The dropoff might not be as steep that way. If something were to happen to our new starting shortstop (more on that in a second), Taylor could move there and be at least serviceable. Getting someone with Taylor’s versatility is crucial to the Sim Phillies’ success. If both the shortstop and Buxton go down, well the season is in jeopardy anyway. It’s an overpay for sure, but the reasoning behind why I did is sound.

Poll

Grade the move: sign Taylor

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    A
    (21 votes)
  • 29%
    B
    (43 votes)
  • 34%
    C
    (50 votes)
  • 17%
    D
    (25 votes)
  • 4%
    F
    (7 votes)
146 votes total Vote Now

Seventh move: trade Didi Gregorius, Casey Martin and $2 million cash to Arizona for Nick Ahmed

Well now that I am over the tax, it’s time to move on from Didi.

In this simulation, I now have Buxton-Segura-Harper-Hoskins-Realmuto-Taylor-Bohm as my one through seven positions in the batting order. That’s a solid core of bats. Trading Didi allows me to improve my infield defense dramatically and save a few bucks here. Losing Martin isn’t that big of a deal and the amount of cash isn’t anything to stand in my way. Now, I have a shortstop that I know will catch the ball when going to his left and right. Our pitchers emailed me to thank me.

Poll

Grade the move: trade Didi, Martin, $2M for Ahmed

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    A
    (57 votes)
  • 33%
    B
    (47 votes)
  • 17%
    C
    (24 votes)
  • 5%
    D
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (4 votes)
139 votes total Vote Now

Eighth move: sign Martin Perez to a minor league deal

All that trading means I need to replenish my minor league depth, so signing Perez...

Ninth move: sign Johnny Cueto to a minor league deal

...and Cueto helps do that.

Poll

Grade the move(s): sign Cueto, Perez to MiLB deals

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    A
    (51 votes)
  • 35%
    B
    (47 votes)
  • 20%
    C
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    F
    (4 votes)
132 votes total Vote Now

Overview

Look, I know I’m right-handed here. That much is clear. It could be an issue, but I’m more comfortable with righty-righty matchups against relievers than I am with lefty-lefty matchups. I didn’t go over my stated financial goals (~$202 million by the tax, ~$199 million in actual payroll) and I still kept my minor leaguers. If Bryson Stott were to come up and force his way into the lineup, great! Another lefty to the mix. Mick Abel and Andrew Painter and Johan Rojas are still a part of the future, but they don’t need to be rushed.

The defense looks a lot better than it did before and the depth to withstand injury is there. I’m relying on my bullpen to take a few steps forward, yes, but they’re all still pretty cheap and actually, they weren’t that bad in 2021. The rotation needs Aaron Nola to bounce back in a big way, but the real Phillies need that as well. Speaking of Nola, he was a popular trade target in this. The Yankees were extremely interested, but the package that they were looking to send (Jasson Dominguez + Jonathan Loaisaga + others) simply wasn’t good enough.

So, what do you think? Outside of my being fired, how does this Sim Phillies team look to you?