As you may already know by discussion of it appearing in these annals previously, every year, the wonderful Max Rieper of Royals Review plays gracious host to the SB Nation offseason GM simulation, a weekend of silliness and interactive rosterbation. As usual, members of the Talking Chop commentariat (and myself) steered our sim-ship this year, and I think we had a smashing time. This post will just serve as an overview, with a bit of input from me and then whatever else anyone on the team/braintrust wanted to contribute; there will be another post in the days that follow that documents specific reactions to the various moves.
You can check out the summary of the sim here: https://www.royalsreview.com/2018/11/7/18068918/a-summary-of-the-2018-sb-nation-gm-simulation
A spreadsheet that contains the rosters and moves for each team is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1gAA-upd_IyV0ApyxUE0M-4iUFAttMbaoDPYX_x1ZFiM/edit#gid=147552761
Specifically, here are the transactions we engaged in:
Big Free Agent Signings
- Yasmani Grandal, $98 million for 4 years; 2023 vesting option of $26 million with a not-likely-to-be-reached PA total of 400;
- Cody Allen, $15 million for 2 years; $10 million vesting option for 2021 at 40 IP in 2020;
- Jed Lowrie, $16 million for 2 years with a team option for 2021 at $12 million, no buyout; and
- Oliver Perez, $10 million for 2 years.
Smaller Free Agent Signings
- Matt Shoemaker, $3 million for 1 year; club option for 2020;
- Tony Barnette, $2 million for 1 year; and
- Minor league deals to Justin Grimm, Gregor Blanco, Brett Anderson, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Pedro Florimon.
- Kevin Gausman, Luiz Gohara, Kyle Wright, and Greyson Jenista to the Cleveland Indians for Corey Kluber and Tyler Krieger (a random minor league throw-in, not really a prospect);
- Shane Carle to the Minnesota Twins for Jake Cave;
- Kolby Allard and Travis Demeritte to the Chicago White Sox for Jace Fry;
- Bryse Wilson and Corbin Clouse to the Oakland Athletics for Chad Pinder and Jose Mora (a 35+ FV live arm in the low minors);
- Adam Duvall, Kyle Muller, Drew Lugbauer, and Alex Jackson, plus Adam Duvall’s salary to the St. Louis Cardinals for Andrew Knizner (50 FV catching prospect), Tyler O’Neill, and Andy Young (a 24-year-old second baseman that may not be a prospect but has raked extremely throughout the minors); and
- Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson to the Washington Nationals for Trea Turner (which we did not propose, but we did accept).
- Derian Cruz to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Cam Bedrosian;
- Darren O’Day to the Detroit Tigers for Alvaro Gonzalez (35+ FV toolsy shortstop that’s 18 years old; this is a salary dump);
- Tucker Davidson and Braxton Davidson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Aledmys Diaz;
- Adam McCreery to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Matt Andriese;
- Sam Freeman to the Minnesota Twins for Yunior Severino (45 FV infielder that the Braves lost in the Coppygate penalties); and
- Julio Teheran to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Jake Jewell (40 FV prospect with awful command and a cup of coffee in 2018).
Before launching into summaries, I want to thank a few folks in particular. First, praeceps93 deserves credit for both volunteering to be the point person and carrying through with his duties with aplomb. Doing this is a giant timesink, but he persevered and then some. In addition, Max was awesome as usual, and deserves more than his share of kudos for doing this every year. Third, this exercise wouldn’t be half as fun without the braintrust we assembled shooting ideas back and forth, whether actual strategies, occasional puns, or exclamations of, “The [insert team here] wanted whaaattt?” They’re adding their thoughts below, so be sure to thank them if you enjoyed this exercise!
praeceps93 (el jefe for this year): First off, this was a ton of fun but also incredibly draining, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the rest of the braintrust below. Countless times I came into our team channel saying “quick, someone throw out a prospect name from X that I can ask for!” And almost without fail those names ended up being interesting.
I went into this exercise with a few main goals/philosophies that I was going to try to abide by:
- I either wanted to add an ace or stand pat in the starting rotation. In my opinion, our rebuild strategy should have already formed a core of middling value pitchers to flesh out the middle and backend of a rotation, and sinking excessive resources into that area wouldn’t have been prudent. I think this was done fairly well, adding Kluber and Matt Shoemaker cheaply as the main changes to the rotation. We did deplete some MLB-ready depth for the backend, but we kept Toussaint, Soroka, Fried, and Parsons, so we figured it would be fine.
2) I wanted some solid middle relievers to bridge between our starters and Minter/Vizcaino at the end of games. I never really wanted to go big-ticket for a closer, but more tried to hit on solid, underrated value. I think we did that, amassing a number of guys with high leverage experience at relatively low cost.
3) I came in wanting a power-hitting right fielder as the goal, but was willing to go cheaper there and add a power hitting third baseman with Camargo moving to a super utility role. Unfortunately, most of the guys we wanted for the outfield spot (particularly Gallo and Haniger) were made unavailable, and so we moved more towards underrated options. Brandon Lowe and Max Kepler were both floated, but in the end we went with Swiss-Army knife Chad Pinder, who we think is undervalued by the baseball world (I’m sure the next post will talk more about his stats), and Jake Cave, who’s basically Schwarber-lite.
4) I wanted a bigger half of the platoon for Flowers coming in, and we got Grandal, so yay!
5) I really wanted to shore up the bench. I firmly believe our lack of bench depth was a major factor in our early playoff exit, and so this was a priority for me. Pinder’s versatility, Cave’s righty mashing, and O’Neill’s potential and power were all intriguing, and Diaz was a solid option to provide some infield innings. Getting Lowrie was a nice final piece, really ensuring that at any time, if an injury occurred or an unfavorable matchup came up, we wouldn’t be sending out a Pokemon for extended innings.
So, yeah, those are my general thoughts from before and after the sim, and I hope you all enjoy talking about the fake 2019 Braves!
Ivan: I’ve participated in the sim for a few years now, running point on it for the most recent handful of iterations. In those, I tried to be somewhat faithful to the Braves rebuilding, so my experience wasn’t particularly exciting. That was the opposite of this experience, where the Braves built a juggernaut team with some aggressive moves, and did things that I never managed, namely, winning the crazy, funny money bidding on a marquee free agent (Grandal).
My main overall procedural thought is not so much about the strategy or the moves, but mostly the experience. In my past experience, there were always teams who did completely wild machinations in the sim, but they weren’t quite the ones that I ended up engaging in (because that’s not what rebuilding teams do, I guess). This time, everything was different, and it got crazier as the sim went on. With the trade for Kluber and the amassing of versatile assets like Pinder and Cave, I felt like the sim-Braves had already constructed a very strong, definite contender roster in the early going. However, just when it seemed like the action was going to die down, it did anything but, creating opportunities for additional deals, namely the trade with the Cardinals to boost the system’s position player depth (which wasn’t super-needed at that point anymore) and then the ridiculous Trea Turner acquisition to cap everything off. Because of this, the sim experience kind of felt like progressively-more-silly-season to me at times -- it started out in the realm of, “Hey, some of these are things that might happen!” and transformed into “Hey, we remade most of the roster and made a trade that likely has no chance of happening!” But it was great fun nonetheless.
One of the main differences between this year and past years was that in past years, the sim wrapped around a weekend, and free agency began as the sim did. This time, the GMs got the contact lists for their cohorts well before free agency opened, which effectively extended the sim and allowed the groundwork to be laid for trade after trade after trade. So if things were more frenzied in terms of transactions this year, that’s my guess as to why.
jkry2121: This was my first year participating in this sim and I had an absolute blast! Everyone seemed to really get into the sim so that made everything that much more fun! Our teams logic and valuing was, in my opinion, probably one the most sound in the league. We tried to sell high on players (Allard, Wilson, etc) and buy low (Cave, Pinder, Kluber, Turner). Even though Kluber or Turner will probably never become Braves (especially for packages that risky/low in value) it was a fun, kind of long process to negotiate deals with an opposing “war room” who probably (definitely) doesn’t value every guys the same way you do. Heck, some of us didn’t value players equally because how much fWAR is expected from a player can be vastly different from person to person. So in that aspect, it all became a little bit less funny and a little bit more real.
But, the Yankees signing Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $515 million contract, Manny Machado signing an 11 year, $433 million deal with Philadelphia, and the Braves signing Yasmani Grandal to a 4 year, $98 million contract proves that this sim has some “funny” aspects to it. Those teams realistically would have an owner (or some sense) keep them from signing those potentially franchise crippling moves (Please do it Phillyyyy <3).
loganutk: Overall, I found the experience to be a lot of fun and that is thanks to the group. The interaction and candor back and forth on potential moves was a lot of fun, and I think most of us learned a lot. From the beginning, we clearly outlined goals of acquiring starting position players at both catcher and corner outfield (obviously), while also looking to upgrade the bench, rotation, and bullpen in that order. It was clear upon first inquiries that some GMs were approaching the sim grounded in some sort of reality, while others clearly weren’t. This made certain players unattainable in this sim environment unfortunately, so that part was a bit of a bummer.
In general, most of our moves were made with an eye toward value, with the goal of gaining certainty and targeting well-above average players to fill in at all positions. We also had secondary goals of enhancing the versatility and platoon viability of the position players, while taking a quantity over quality approach to the bullpen. We generally refused to pay a price that didn’t provide equal or surplus value for the Braves, and we were able to utilize our incredible minor league depth to acquire a very strong, versatile roster. I would be elated if the Braves were able to field a team this deep, with this many star-caliber players.
As for specific players, both Pinder and Cave were primary targets for me in trade talks. We were able to quickly navigate deals for both, so I was happy with our outfield. We didn’t really consider many alternatives to Grandal at catcher, as the room was pretty aligned on who we wanted there (hence the willingness to win the bidding). As for others, all the bullpen guys were pretty much just value plays. The Kluber deal was obviously huge as well, and one that involved a ton of discussion to ensure we didn’t give up too much value. I’m still disappointed we didn’t acquire Gallo, but the Rangers’ GM did not make him available. Otherwise, I couldn’t be happier with the value we extracted and the final roster construction.
ncristoldeman: This year’s sim was a ton of fun. I would’ve had fun regardless of sim-success thanks to the awesome group we had. Every decision was a group decision, and I think everyone really learned a lot. We obviously had the prospect depth and money to make significant moves, but I don’t think anyone foresaw the craziness that took place on the last few days. The main goals were to find a catcher, upgrade the bench, rotation and the bullpen. I think it is safe to say we had done all of that and then-some by the end of the sim. The moves got crazier and crazier as the sim went on, which made for a lot of fun as it was coming to a close. Pinder and Cave were guys we identified as targets early on. They were two of the more realistic trades we made, and could conceivably be made for real. On top of that, the Kluber and Turner trades were blockbusters, and certainly fun to discuss. The end result was a completely revamped roster that added some serious star power to the current core. While much of the prospect depth was depleted we still kept much of the upper-tier guys, and in my opinion got great value out of the players that were traded.