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SBN Offseason GM Simulation 2018-2019: Moves Discussion

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Blather about fake moves for a fake team

Divisional Round - Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros - Game One Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Hello, and welcome back to our discussion of the SB Nation Offseason GM Simulation. For an overview of the process and a summary of what happened, I encourage you to see what could be considered Part 1 of our collective write-up of the goings on. This post, by contrast, contains move-by-move thoughts from any of the braintrust that wished to comment on them.

I’ve attempted to place the moves in chronological order so you can follow along with our thought process as it went along, so if you see the narrative jumping around from small moves to large ones and then back to small ones, that’s why.

Braves receive: Cam Bedrosian

Angels receive: Derian Cruz

Ivan: Braves give up nothing at all, Braves receive a potentially not-very-good-but-maybe-he-bounces-back reliever in Bedrosian. A good first move for the sim, if low stakes. I identified Bedrosian as an interesting target because he has seemingly-sustainable reverse splits (for real, not like Jesse Biddle) despite being a fastball-slider pitcher, meaning he can survive even if he’s misused by management. On the minus side, he had somewhat of a disastrous 2018 and might just end up getting cut if he doesn’t get his whiffs back, but for the low, low price of Derian Cruz, it’s a gamble well worth taking.

praeceps: I was in a feeling-out type of mood approaching this one, just trying to get a move on the board to give us a base platform to start from. If this hadn’t been done early on, I doubt it would’ve been completed later in the sim as we amassed more relief depth, but I think it’s fine. I’ve soured on Cruz, as have a lot of people, so it was easy to pull the trigger.

Braves receive: Jake Cave

Twins receive: Shane Carle

Ivan: Shane Carle was not expected to be good in 2018, but Shane Carle was indeed good in 2018. Still, with a truly gnarly xFIP and a painfully-negative K%-BB% over a pretty sustained stretch to close out the year, carrying him is tantamount to playing with fire. Plus, even at his best, he’s a reliever, and relievers are generally unsavory components of a roster. Jake Cave was not highly thought-of by many prospect-lovers (he got a 40 FV from Fangraphs before the 2018 season started), but managed 1.3 fWAR in 309 PAs in 2018 and might be playable in center field (1 OAA, 1 CPA, average-y UZR though below-average DRS). The real fun thing about Cave, though, is that his .336 xwOBA suggests that his .363 BABIP was not unearned. He posted a truly insane 14.5% barrel rate (that’s more than double league average) in his partial season last year, hitting a lot of line drives and seeming to innately “get” the ability to hit the ball in the air without getting under it. Combine that with six years of control and what you have is a cheap fourth outfielder at worst, and a potential offensive asset with decent defense in a pretty non-outlandish scenario. Basically, this was a fantastic move.

praeceps: We had a lot of talks with the Twins, particularly regarding their movable outfielders (Buxton, Cave, and Kepler). Buxton and Kepler were available for Max Fried, Cave for a cheaper price, and so we elected to go with the cheaper option as we saw it as more value-positive.

Braves receive: Jace Fry

White Sox receive: Kolby Allard, Travis Demeritte

Ivan: I have no real specific love for Jace Fry. He had a good 2018 as a reliever and handled opposite-handed batters (righties) just fine. But really, this was just a “get what you can for Kolby Allard” move. Early in the sim, we actually received a surprising amount of interest in Allard. However, that all faded away when rival sim-GMs actually… watched video of Allard. Or, I guess, read anything about his 2018. So, you could read this move as a “quick, trade Allard before his value craters even further in the accelerated timeline of sim!” In the words of one rival GM who backpedaled on a different deal for Allard we all would have been overjoyed to take in lieu of trading him for Jace Fry: “What happened to him?!”

praeceps: Fry was actually a target I had coming into the sim, as I thought he was better than his ERA (2.67 FIP/2.95 xFIP) and didn’t get absolutely murdered by opposite-handed batters, making it easier to stomach Snitker misusing him at times.

Braves receive: Chad Pinder, Jose Mesa

Athletics receive: Bryse Wilson, Corbin Clouse

Ivan: This deal went through a lot of iterations and pieces going in and out, but I’m glad it ended in some version where we were able to get Pinder. Pinder is a really weird guy with a lot variability -- he’s a “versatile” righty who learned to cream both types of pitching (identical .364 xwOBAs) this year en route to a deadly 1.8 fWAR in 333 PAs in 2018. Pinder appeared at seven different positions (all but catcher and pitcher) for the Athletics this year, and while he’s probably only really an asset in an outfield corner, he doesn’t appear to be so dreadful elsewhere that he can’t be a Ben Zobrist-type that allows for all sorts of roster flexibility (though with the caveat that his defensive samples are rather small). The completed roster is basically all sorts of moving parts, and Pinder makes a lot of that work. The fact that he has a crazy-high barrel rate (similar to Cave) and was an xwOBA underperformer (i.e., possible buy-low) only makes his acquisition more attractive.

Bryse Wilson had a pretty meteoric rise in 2018, but by most accounts, he’s a 50 FV pitching prospect, which is not really comparable in value to either 2018 Pinder or considerably-worse-than-2018 Pinder. Clouse is a reliever prospect, which, given my feelings on relievers, you can kind of fill in the blank. There’s no real exciting “get” in Jose Mesa, he’s a dime-a-dozen live arm international signing who can’t command anything he throws, but occasionally those guys work out or can at least grease the wheels in other trades.

Also worth noting here that one deal not consummated was a framework that would have gotten Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Cristian Pache. None of us wanted to get one year of a player in exchange for arguably the team’s best prospect (and a position player at that), so we tried to lard up the return with arms and/or prospects. In the end, Daulton Varsho (a 45/50 FV catching prospect) ended up being a sticking point and things didn’t progress, which was fine because we had a framework to acquire Pinder and Knizner anyway.

praeceps: Had a number of talks with the A’s guys over various players (Franklin Barreto, Lou Trivino, Blake Treinen, Nick Martini, Marcus Semien), but our values took a lot of time to match up on a deal.

Braves sign Oliver Perez to a $10M/2 year deal

Ivan: I honestly had no idea Oliver Perez was still pitching in 2018. Or 2019. Is he? I still have no idea.

praeceps: So this one was kind of a screw up on my part. A few of my other potential RP signings had their markets start to increase, so I wanted to jump in and get a “good” reliever before they all signed. Panicked a little bit and gave him far too much money. Still, he was pretty good last year and didn’t get crushed by righties, so we’ll go with it.

Braves sign Tony Barnette to a $2M deal for 2019

praeceps: After coming back to the MLB in 2016 from a stint in Japan, where he went after flaming out of the Diamondbacks system, Barnette had a good (but injury shortened) campaign this year for the Rangers. 2016 he was good, 2017 wasn’t a great year for him, but he came back in 2018 focusing on using his sinker and curveball to good effect. Good low cost signing for middle inning work.

Ncristoldeman: Only pitched in 22 games last year due to injury, but was pretty effective in 26 and a third innings. Doesn’t strike a ton of guys out, but he doesn’t walk a ton of them either. Mainly throws 4-seam/sinker/curveball but mixes in a cutter and splitter as well, with good spin rate on all his pitches. He’s not a very exciting signing, but for 1 year at $2M, you could do a lot worse.

Braves receive: Corey Kluber, Tyler Krieger

Indians receive: Kevin Gausman, Luiz Gohara, Kyle Wright, Greyson Jenista

Ivan: The capstone deal of this offseason was made possible by the sim-Indians blowing up much of their team. This move is a complete and utter no-brainer to me; as Kluber is essentially a perennial All-Star, and the package going the other way just isn’t that valuable. Gausman is an average starter who has room for obvious improvement but didn’t really seize on it in his two-month shot, and he’s in the expensive portion of team control. Luiz Gohara and Kyle Wright are pitchers with various question marks, but even if they weren’t, they’d still be pitching prospects. Jenista might be exciting, but he’s also a low-minors prospect without a gaudy grade slapped on him. There are some legitimate concerns about Kluber, including his age, the fact that he’s also a pitcher, and declining velocity. But, all of these things have already been real, and he still managed a phenomenal 2018 season. That’s something no one in the returning package can really say. This move does consolidate a lot of risk into one player instead of three, but for the Braves’ place on the win curve in 2019, there’s no way this move can be turned down, even if somehow the surplus value fairy made it more even.

For much of its life, this deal featured the Braves also taking on Jason Kipnis (who may be a breakeven asset or an underwater one, but costs a fair bit either way). Apparently someone else wanted him, though, which didn’t really alter our calculus much.

praeceps: This deal was initially centered around Kluber and Kipnis as a salary dump, but the Giants wanted Kipnis specifically so we didn’t end up having to take him. Gohara was decided on late, and it was between him and Arodys Vizcaino as the final piece in the deal. The Indians specifically targeted Gausman (once I made him available), Wright, and Jenista. The first iterations of this deal had 2 of Touki, Wright, and Soroka, but Gausman helped offset that.

Braves receive: Alvaro Gonzalez

Tigers receive: Darren O’Day

Ivan: Just a salary dump. Move along, nothing much to see here. Gonzalez is barely a prospect, but the bullpen ended up being stuffed anyway.

praeceps: I targeted Kody Clemens in this deal, but it ended up not working out unfortunately.

Braves receive: Aledmys Diaz

Blue Jays receive: Braxton Davidson, Tucker Davidson

Ivan: Believe it or not, Diaz has four years of team control left, and is a 2.2 fWAR/600 player for his career. He was terrible in 2017, but had an awesome rookie year and rebounded to be an average shortstop in 2018. Again, depth is the name of the game, and rather than having Charlie Culberson as a backup shortstop option, the sim-Braves can deploy a cheap, average player from their bench as needed. Diaz hit at an average clip (102 wRC+) last year, doesn’t drop off against righties (he actually has reverse splits in his career), and while he’s a below-average shortstop, it doesn’t eat into his overall value much. Plus, consider here what was given up for four years of an average player. Yeah. Exactly.

praeceps: Early on, I had talks with the Blue Jays over Aledmys Diaz, Devon Travis, and Ken Giles. Giles ended up being out of our price range, and Diaz was the better choice of the two utility infielders. I also really pushed to deal the Davidsons together, as I got to say “you can have the Brothers Davidson.” The sim-Braves are officially off Braxton’s Wild Ride.

Braves sign Yasmani Grandal to a $98M/4 deal with a $26M vesting option for 2023 that kicks in at 400 PAs reached in 2022

Ivan: I don’t have much to add here because we’ve all belabored the Grandal point by now. But, I do want to say that opinions were fairly split on how much we should have offered Grandal. What made it easier was that dumping salary in the sim wasn’t that hard, and the Braves had tons of salary room, plus winning the bidding, even for a fake player, felt good. (Not that “feeling good” is a specifically good thing to chase, it’s more just that everyone else spreads funny money around the sim and after years of not doing so, we finally got to do it when the team was in a place on the sim-win curve where it made sense to do so.) This is way more than I’d want or condone the real Braves paying for Grandal, though.

praeceps: This was the splash move we were all gunning for from the get-go. While the trade markets for RF didn’t line up like I think they might in reality, just spending some fake money on Grandal to solve a big hole was a no-brainer.

Braves sign Cody Allen to a $15M/2 deal with a vesting option for 2021 that kicks in at 40 IP reached in 2020

Ivan: I’m always of two minds about Cody Allen these days. On the one hand, he at least has some threshold of quality that could be reached in a bounceback. On the other hand, everything about his 2018 was so ugly that I’m scared. Still, his pitch mix isn’t really prone to platoon disadvantage pratfalls. If it were me alone, I probably would have never made this move, but honestly, it’s a good one -- especially because our sim team ended well below our recommended budget, even with this signing, the Grandal signing, etc.

praeceps: Relievers are weird, but Allen was good recently enough that I figured 2 guaranteed years wasn’t the worst idea in the world. But relievers in general are the worst idea in the world, so who knows?

Braves receive: Jake Jewell

Angels receive: Julio Teheran

praeceps: There was actually more interest in Teheran than I generally expected, but this was mostly just a salary dump type of deal. Not much to see here.

Jhamez: first name/last name alliteration, always a crowd pleaser.

Ivan: I think everything that needs to be said here was said by rajah -- we got this guy due to the pun that he was a “jewel[l] of a steal” or whatever. Also, he’s the kind of quotidian stuff-but-no-command guy every minor league system is full of, but hey, see ya Julio Teheran.

Braves sign Jed Lowrie to a $16M/2 deal with a $12M team option (no buyout) for 2021

Ivan: I expected Lowrie to get much more than this (and I do in reality as well), but for some reason, sim-GMs let him slip through the cracks. Lowrie’s signing was really an emphasis of the fact that the team was largely filled out at this point and we still had money to burn. He greatly improves the bench and might end up starting if Camargo and/or Albies really end up just not hitting righties well. Plus, combined with Pinder, Diaz, Turner, etc., there’s so much flexibility on this bench, and it’s awesome, because none of the players are below-average, either.

Ncristoldeman: For a guy like Lowrie, this deal is a steal. We didn’t really have a huge need for him, but he makes for a terrific versatile veteran bench piece. We had talked about taking on Jason Kipnis (and his expensive contract) in the Kluber deal, but I’m actually much happier with Lowrie instead. The bench got exponentially better, and the versatility provided by Pinder, Lowire, Diaz, and Turner give us great roster flexibility.

Braves sign Matt Shoemaker to a $3M deal for 2019 with a $6M team option (no buyout) for 2020

Ivan: The definition of low-risk, high-reward for us here. Sure, he’ll probably just be injured forever, but he’s been an above-average starter when healthy.

Braves receive: Yunior Severino

Twins receive: Sam Freeman

praeceps: Getting back a bit of low minors talent was a constant during the sim, trying to overcome a bit of Coppygate’s consequences for the depth on the farm. Severino was an obvious target in that regard, and when the Twins came calling for more relief help we were happy to oblige.

Jhamez: After reading the recaps of Severino’s play for a year before the Coppygate scandal took him away, it was incredibly satisfying to bring him back into the fold for the low low price of a guy that I never wanted to see pitch in a Braves uniform again.

Ivan: Yes, yes, get the LOOGY off the roster so the Braves don’t force him to face righties. Good, good.

Braves receive: Matt Andriese

Diamondbacks receive: Adam McCreery

Ivan: This move was all me. I identified Andriese as a good relief target midseason in 2018, when looking for relievers without egregious platoon splits. The Diamondbacks got him from the Rays instead, and he was miserable after being traded, with a 7.74 FIP and -0.6 fWAR that literally erased all the value he had amassed with the Rays prior to the trade. But, he still had a 4.00 xFIP after the trade, so it was just horrid luck. For a team that didn’t do much to upgrade its pitching depth (and actually lost a fair bit by trading three possible options for Kluber), Andriese is potentially necessary as a swingman type who can lengthen either the rotation or the bullpen. He’s a perfectly serviceable fourth/fifth starter or middle reliever with a career 96 xFIP- and a minimal platoon split. For the low, low price of “that guy we kept on the 40-man roster for some reason,” what’s not to love?

Jhamez: Adam McCreery is just too damn tall to be an effective pitcher, that’s just science.

Braves receive: Andrew Knizner, Tyler O’Neill, Andy Young

Cardinals receive: Adam Duvall, Kyle Muller, Drew Lugbauer, Alex Jackson, Adam Duvall’s salary of $3.1 million

Ivan: This deal was more of a remnant of a world where we failed to sign Grandal, but we did, so eat it, alternative world. It’s also mostly a consolidation deal, transforming various chunks of roster/prospect errata (and Kyle Muller) into a couple of assets of higher value. Knizner and O’Neill are both exciting in their own way: Knizner is a bat-oriented catcher with a 50 FV that should already be major-league ready (and is therefore great depth to have for Flowers and Grandal); O’Neill is a 50 FV monstrous masher who was weirdly good defensively in limited exposure in 2018, and is either going to be unplayable because he can’t make contact, or an absolute wrecking crew at the plate if he can figure out how to not chase things at the edges while continuing to punish pitches down the middle. Nothing given up was very exciting (aside from maaayyybeee Muller), and in return, the Braves got both a ton of upside at best, and very serviceable depth at worst.

praeceps: Actually my favorite deal overall because I have prospect crushes on both Knizner and O’Neill, this one was mostly me. I love Knizner’s bat, and think if paired with some great framing catchers in Grandal and Flowers his glove could come along nicely. O’Neill has the potential for crazy power if he can stop flailing at pitches on the edge of the zone, and takes Duvall’s role for less money and more time/potential. Good job to I think siegeface for picking out Andy Young as a target when I came asking.

Jhamez: I was very nervous about this deal due to the enormous swing and miss portion of O’Neill’s game. Steamer has him at a 30% k rate for 2019 which is just… certainly something. However, the power and potential solid defense was too much to pass up especially when we are essentially trading his older counterpart in Duvall in the deal. Knizner as an insurance policy for injury/ineffectiveness of Grandal/Flowers was also hard to pass up.

Siegeface: Here are my notes on two of the prospects acquired in the sim, from when I watched them play against the Tulsa Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers AA affiliate) on video in late August. Once I found out that Knizner was on the table in the deal we consummated with St. Louis, I pushed hard for the inclusion of Young.

Andrew Knizner, C, STL. Very good feel for hitting, has nice upper half mechanics that allow him to drive and elevate the ball. Doesn’t really project for anything above average power, but might end up being a rare plus hitting catcher. Defense lags behind the bat, doesn’t really receive the ball well. Will have to be an above average hitter at MLB level unless he can improve his framing, though with a potential 60 hit tool that will be very easy to accomplish.

Andy Young, 2B, STL. A prospect that has flown under the radar this year. Has good bat speed and fairly quick hands, coils up in his stance with a bit of leg kick. Average hit tool and above average defense at 2B, could be a low end starter if he can maintain his gains in power.

Braves receive: Trea Turner

Cardinals receive: Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley

Ivan: The silly season capstone trade of the sim for us. Turner is something like a four-win player; Riley is something like a 55 FV prospect with decent risk about his hit tool and perhaps his fielding; Swanson is just a weird mess of a major leaguer given his hitting issues. I think a definite case can be made that on a rate basis, Turner might be three wins better than Swanson, which means that even if Riley is also a three-win player, the Braves are basically consolidating those same wins into one position on an already-stuffed roster. Plus, Turner can play an outfield corner if need be, because mix-and-match depth and flexibility is the name of this sim-roster’s game.

praeceps: I mainly just reached out on a whim to see if we could upgrade SS near the end of the sim, and the Nationals came back with Swanson and one of Touki or Riley to get the deal done. Ended up turning a question mark into a major strength, with the added potential of maybe having a leadoff hitter to let us take better advantage of Ronald Acuña Jr.’s power.

Jhamez: By this point in the sim, we had all been pretty much driven loopy by the massive amounts of cash handed out to Harper and Machado and just wanted to watch the world burn. The option to get Turner onto our team where he couldn’t hurt us anymore was just too good to pass up.

The various minor league deals: Justin Grimm, Gregor Blanco, Brett Anderson, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Pedro Florimon.

Ivan: I always found the minor league deal component of sim to be unsatisfying, because it’s basically unilateral rosterbation in a multilateral exercise, i.e., the players usually just accept. With that said, the only guy I had specific interest in on this list was Justin Grimm -- he’s 30 and two years removed from even being playable, but he was a consistently solid middle relief guy before he fell apart, and has been working on going fastball-slider-curveball rather than fastball-curveball to attack hitters, which is an interesting experiment for a reliever that I’d like to see continue.

praeceps: I was constantly throwing MiLB offers at Max; so much so that he probably ended up hating me. Really wish I had been a bit quicker to offer one to Kendall Graveman. The guys I offered MiLB deals for but didn’t get: Tom Koehler, Tim Beckham, Brad Boxberger, Hernan Perez, Jonathan Schoop, Gerardo Parra, Mike Fiers, Derek Holland, Carlos Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, and Fernando Rodney.