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A Rollercoaster of Stressing about Deals and Depth - 2021 SBNation Offseason Sim (Atlanta Braves Edition)

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Every year after the World Series, thirty especially-obsessed baseball fans head online for a simulation hosted by Royals Review’s Max Rieper (henceforth referred to as Max) to try to recreate an entire offseason in the span of 48 hours. While there’s many ways that we as fans would like to see the team run, this provides us an opportunity to actually make it happen as best as possible. However, because it’s all within a span of 48 hours, things can get pretty frantic, but at the end of the day that’s part of the fun. In previous years, the sim Braves have been run by Ivan the Great; however, I was handed the reins for this year’s simulation mainly because I was interested in participating after following the exercise the past few years.

For this year, the sim Braves were especially facing an interesting situation given the circumstances. While there were no recommended budgets, we were expected to at least keep our spending to reasonable and expected levels. Secondly, we would have to operate under current CBA rules with the uncertainty of how the future CBA would be. Most notably, that would include the lack of clarification of whether a universal DH would be implemented. Furthermore, both the Braves and the Dodgers had the additional uncertainty of what would happen with Ozuna and Bauer, respectively. Lastly, there would be additional projecting needed as to the recovery of both Acuna and Soroka.

Given all of that, I set myself the following parameters:

-Budget: $170 million

-Go under the assumption that there will be a DH, but be ready in case it’s not implemented.

-Status of Ozuna: Assume worst-case scenario of indefinite administrative leave, where his salary is fully on the books but he himself is unable to play. I’ll address him when the investigation finishes, and can’t do anything about him even if I wanted to beyond a trade.

-Status of Soroka: Keep him, but be prepared for the idea that he won’t return.

-Status of Acuna: Assume that his recovery is progressing fine, but be prepared for any setbacks

So, what was the approach I decided to take?

1) Bring Back Freddie Freeman: One of my primary goals. I’m wary of going too crazy to keep him, but as long as it stays within reasonable bounds, he is a huge priority. However, if it gets too nutty, be ready to pivot elsewhere.

2) Add Multiple Outfield Options: The plan is to try to keep both Duvall and Heredia so center field is at least a more stable option. However, not only are they not the most ideal options, but the corner outfield is especially lacking in options. Tommy Pham is one guy who I can get for cheap, but I’ll have to be careful not to go too overboard.

3) Find a Reliable Starting Pitcher: If possible, make this two of these guys. However, if I get enough in the way of decent depth, I’m fine with going with one and pivoting to the attrition and/or piggyback routes if needed while having Ynoa as the initial fifth starter.

4) Reinforce The Bullpen: This will be a delicate balancing act, because I very likely have to trade Smith, but other options are fairly shaky beyond Matzek, Jackson, and Minter. I’m fine with having multiple guys as middle relievers who can also go multiple innings, but I can’t be too reliant on that solution.

5) Get More Depth: Self-explanatory, and ratcheted up a few notches because it's me running the Braves. On the majors team, this will be the ability to pivot around underperformances or injuries that may occur without too much dropoff. For position players, ideally have guys who can step up and be okay starters if needed. For pitchers, have guys available who can be used in different roles if needed, including being stretched out as starters or multi-inning guys. On the majors team, this will be along similar lines, but talent dropoff is okay as long as there’s a realistic argument for them still being productive in the majors in some form or another.

6) Stay Within Budget: Also self-explanatory.

If anyone’s curious, the official transactions thread can be found here. While I’ll include Baseball Trade Values’ evals in here, I’m not taking that much stock in them, and mainly including them for casual evaluation purposes. However, I’ll also be noting if and how I disagree with it.

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Day 1:

I hop on the Slack channel pretty early in the morning in order to get to know everyone and to put out feelers, and I realize pretty quickly I’m not the only one doing the latter. Within a few hours I have multiple trade ideas that I’m working on, with the most prominent ones becoming a possibility of getting Sean Manaea from the Athletics for a package around Michael Harris, as well as getting Zac Gallen from the Diamondbacks for Cristian Pache. I also end up in weird discussions with the Astros GM, who is interested in getting Pache for taking on Smith and Ozuna, but for some reason he’s also interested in Camargo to replace Aledmys Diaz, who he's planning on flipping. While some smaller ideas fizzle out quickly, one in particular ends up coalescing even quicker, as the White Sox GM is very interested in Touki. My original plan was to try to hold out to see what I could get for Touki, but after he ended up being willing to trade both Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger to me, I decided to go forward with the first of what turned out to be four pre-sim deals (handshake ones until the sim officially opened).

Braves trade RHP Touki Toussaint to White Sox for 1B/OF Gavin Sheets, 3B/2B Jake Burger, and RHP Vince Arobio

Burger is the most notable name out of the three, as he had an excellent 2021 season but is blocked in the majors. My plan is to use him as a Ty France-esque option, where he’s more of a 1B/DH option who can moonlight at second and third base. Sheets, on the other hand, is much more limited to 1B/DH, where he provides a solid bat but needs to hit for more power. Additionally, both of them at least provide a bit of a backup option in case Freddie doesn’t return (which thankfully doesn’t happen). While I was content with getting the above pair, I also managed to squeeze out Arobio into the trade package by playing hardball. He’s a low-level relief flier with an interesting fastball/breaking ball combo, and he could become interesting quickly if his consistency can be improved. BTV thinks this is an unacceptable overpay, and I agree that they paid too much for him.

Braves trade OF Travis Demeritte for LHP Sam Clay

Because minor league free agency isn’t a factor, I still have Demeritte, who I was more than willing to let go otherwise. However, the Nationals were fine with adding an option to their shaky non-Soto-corner outfield situation, and I’m a fan of the vertical movement Clay gets on his pitches and his groundball rate. If needed, Clay also has multi-inning capabilities, so stretching him out isn’t out of the question. A no-brainer of a deal, even if BTV thinks it’s a wash and the likely result is that.

Not long after this trade, the Royals GM comes to me with an interesting proposal: He gets Will Smith, I get Benintendi. While I’m agreeable to this, I decide to use it as an opportunity to get a couple of their guys who I like, which leads to the following deal.

Braves trade LHP Will Smith and OF Kadon Morton to Royals for OF Andrew Benintendi, LHP Foster Griffin, and INF Emmanuel Rivera

I’ll be the first to admit that Smith did well in the playoffs; however, that’s still a pretty small sample size, and his tenure otherwise has been relatively shaky and frankly not worth the remaining $14 million (including the buyout). In return, I get a pretty decent starter in Benintendi, who isn’t my favorite left field option but will do fine if needed. While his previous experience in center field is useful, I see him as much more limited to left field, and offensively he looks to a decent batter but not a great one. And for a lower cost than Will Smith while filling in one of the outfield holes, he’ll do well enough. If I can manage to get Tommy Pham for a cheap enough salary, though, Benintendi might become trade bait.

The other side of this equation basically boils down to "Morton for Griffin and Rivera", which I also end up feeling more than fine with. Morton could turn out to be a great guy, but his performance so far hasn’t been great, and with how far he is from the majors there’s a more than reasonable chance that he could bust out entirely. While Griffin needs to get more velocity on his fastball, the rest of his profile is solid, so he’ll be going to Driveline in the offseason to see if they can tease out more velo. Even if that doesn’t happen, he’s still an interesting long reliever/spot start option. Rivera, on the other hand, I think is more overlooked than he should be. While he’s not the most highly regarded guy, I’m betting that a large part of the problem can be solved by getting him to elevate the ball more, and while there’s a major small sample size warning attached, his peripherals during his majors stint were actually much stronger than expected.

BTV has this as a win for the Braves, and while I agree, I don’t think it’s as much of a win as it thinks.

Braves trade 1B Landon Stephens to Diamondbacks for C Jamie Ritchie

Originally $1 was going back the Diamondbacks’ way, but Stephens ended up going back because of sim-specific rules. At its core, this is basically a workaround to the fact that there’s no minor league free agency in the sim, so I tried to see if I could sneak away with depth pieces for nothing. It was mostly unsuccessful, as everyone else knew what was going on, but the Diamondbacks GM went along with it anyway because he was glad to see Ritchie getting some attention. While Ritchie has no power, the rest of his profile is solid, and I feel comfortable with him as the next-up catching option in case Langeliers isn’t ready.

BTV would consider this a wash, while I consider this a very slight win that really isn’t a big deal.

Braves offer Freddie Freeman a QO, decline player option on Josh Tomlin, decline mutual option on Joc Pederson, Duvall declines his mutual option and goes into arbitration

At this point, the sim has started. Not much that can be said about this that hasn’t already been said.

Braves sign RHP Tanner Roark to a minor league deal

Both sides were eager for a return. He’s likely done as a starter, but if he can shorten up to a four-seam/curve/changeup repertoire, I think he’ll be an option as a middle/long reliever or an emergency spot start. Hard to say no to that.

While all this is going on, I’m hashing out trade ideas around Manaea with the collective Oakland GM braintrust, a slow but detailed process. While they want to separate out Manaea and Pinder, I try to keep them added together. Eventually, a decision is finally reached.

Braves trade OF Michael Harris, RHP Freddy Tarnok, RHP Victor Vodnik, and RHP Darius Vines to Athletics for LHP Sean Manaea and INF/OF Chad Pinder

I’ll fully acknowledge that if any deal gets backlash in this sim, it’s most likely going to be this one. There’s no denying that this is a hefty cost to get both Manaea and Pinder, especially after the amount of praise Harris has gotten and Tarnok taking needed steps forward. However, I’m high on both players, and I had a significant amount of worry that trying to go the free agent route wouldn’t work because sim prices can go to nutty levels, so I felt this deal was justified. That being said, the prices for this sim were actually pretty reasonable, so I’ll fully admit that this is likely an overpay.

With Manaea, I’m getting a starting pitcher who has a track record for dependability, and a path towards improvement. As it is, he does a good job of tunneling his pitches off of each other, and all three of his pitches play up more with his solid control and command. However, he does lean on his sinker a bit too much, so the plan will be to get him to throw his changeup a bit more to take advantage of its better performance. Furthermore, his breaking ball has started to drift more into the curveball range, so I plan to try to tighten up its movement to give it more slider action. As for Pinder, while the end results weren’t great, his 2021 peripherals were absolutely amazing. If he can keep those gains, he could be a stud for the team in 2022, and if he can’t, still being a useful lefty-bashing utility guy is also very helpful.

BTV has this as a major overpay, and while I agree that I likely overpaid, it’s at least mitigated by a) possible improvements to both Manaea and Pinder with their performance, b) the uncertainty of Harris, the major part of the deal, and c) the possibility that things could have gone haywire in the sim as in previous years (which later turned out not to be the case). Not the greatest trade, but one that made sense at the time.

During this time, I've also been shopping Kyle Wright to see who bites, and soon trade talks start circling on the Rockies. After a lot of back and forth (and bluffing about my interest in some players), I eventually agree to a deal with them.

Braves trade RHP Kyle Wright to Rockies for INF/OF Connor Joe and 2B/3B Aaron Schunk

Wright deserves another chance in the rotation, and the Rockies were more than glad to provide it to him. In return, I get two guys who I’m very high on. While Joe’s previous track record isn’t great, his time in Los Angeles has changed him for the better, and he has a very optimized offensive profile given his more modest tools. While he won’t be an All-Star, he’s a capable option in the outfield corners, and he should be fine as a useful role player or low-end starter. Schunk is worth a look as well, as while he had a rough 2021 season, he still has a modest collection of tools and looked fine enough at second base. If he can pick it there, there’s a decent chance he could be a useful role player.

BTV has this as a win for the Braves, and while I feel the same way, it can also work out well for the Rockies given Schunk’s poor 2021 and whether Wright’s next chance pans out for him.

Over an hour later, I hear back from Max: one of my main targets in Leury Garcia has accepted my offer.

Braves sign INF/OF Leury Garcia to a one year, $4 million deal with a $5 million club option ($500k buyout)

While Garcia might be an odd one to actively pursue, he was one of my primary targets from the get-go. Knowing how crazy past sims have been with spending, and given the weak CF free agent market, Garcia was one I made a priority to snap up as soon as possible. He not only provides versatility throughout the field, but he has also been good in the outfield to boot, particularly in center field. He might not be a full-time starter there, but he gives me another option to help make center field at least decent. He’ll be someone I lean heavily on to make sure guys are well-rested.

I learn that Freeman and the D-backs GM won’t be making decisions until tomorrow, so I start to settle in for the night. Before that, though, I look over the list of non-tenders and free agents and quickly nab a trio of depth options.

Braves sign LHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP Jeff Hoffman, and INF Hanser Alberto to minor league deals

While Chatwood has been up and down throughout his career, the last few years really haven’t been that bad in terms of expected results. He’s not really a starter at this point in his career, but as someone who can provide me with middle relief depth and the ability to occasionally throw multiple innings, he does the job. Hoffman hasn’t quite panned out as expected, as he has problems throwing strikes while his end results haven’t been pretty. I’m wary about how the former can be fixed, but I think the latter can be addressed by throwing his secondaries much more, especially his slider, as his four-seamer gets absolutely pounded. Alberto has bounced around as a light hitter who can play multiple infield spots capably, and I’m willing to also stretch him out more by playing him at shortstop more. Not a starter barring a 2019-esque surge, but he’ll do as an infield bench depth option in case of injuries.

Day 1 Summary: I’ve used a good chunk of prospect capital, and the bullpen looks hairy, as Matzek, Jackson, and Minter as the top options are followed by a fairly shaky situation. Additionally, while trading away Smith freed up some salary, that’s been counterbalanced by Manaea and Benintendi also coming on the books, not to mention signing Garcia. However, I’ve not only acquired a veteran starting pitcher, but Benintendi can hold down the fort at one corner outfield spot, and I have enough options to handle the other corner outfield spot and DH until Acuna returns. Plus, while 1B is empty, I have word that I not only have the best offer for Freeman in a 5/150 deal, but he’s strongly leaning towards accepting it. The D-Backs GM also makes it clear that, as of this point, he likes my package of Pache and Kingham for Gallen. Overall, nervous but very optimistic.

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Day 2:

Approach heading into the day: While I’m assured that I’ll likely get Freddie soon, I still have a notable to-do list. For one, while I’m now more comfortable with giving Newcomb a final chance, I need to aggressively shop RichRod by noon because otherwise I’d rather non-tender him to free up the salary. Dayton, Santana, Arcia, and Camargo are also on the chopping block. Let’s also check in on Tommy Pham, because I think I can stave off a possible decline, and I think he might be cheaper than Benintendi, who I can shop right after such a signing. Feeling good about Gallen, he’d be a notable get to give me a very strong rotation.

Braves non-tender LHP Grant Dayton and RHP Edgar Santana, re-sign Santana to a minor league deal

This gets their salaries off the books but allows me to keep Santana as a flier option. Zero risk involved.

During this time, I’m trying hard to get something for RichRod, but most GMs aren’t that interested, with the Cubs GM especially being skeptical about him. However, the Reds GM was not only still interested in him but was still fine with the general "RichRod for Naquin" framework that we had discussed the other day. Eventually, he ends up caving and okays the deal, even though it’s not as much salary relief as he’d like.

Braves trade RHP Richard Rodriguez to Reds for OF Tyler Naquin

Naquin is one of the kinds of players who the DH rotation would be useful for, as his defense has nothing short of nosedived. However, he brings a useful strong-side platoon bat to the table, so I can have him rotate through DH or any of the outfield spots. He won’t be a full-time starter, but as long as he’s used carefully, he’s a valuable depth option to help keep guys healthy and a good injury patch, which is more than fine by me. And for a guy who I was ready to non-tender, I’m thrilled. While BTV has this as a win for the Reds, I frankly think the trade value assigned for both players is off (too low for Naquin, too high for Rodriguez), so at worst I think this is closer to a wash for me, especially given the circumstances.

After this trade, I add another name to the minors pitching depth while also pulling the trigger on an option who I’d had my eye on for a while.

Braves sign RHP Vince Velasquez to a one year, $1 million deal

Velasquez was someone I was trying to nab on a minors deal, but between other teams doing the same thing and the bullpen starting to look a bit dicey, I decided to cave and offer him a majors deal. While he’s got quite a few problems, I think I can at least improve him by getting him to go back to his 2019 form, when he was relying more on going vertically with his fastball and curveball instead of trying to throw them both for strikes (which makes them more distinguishable). He also provides an option to pitch multiple innings if needed, perfect in case Ynoa ends up staying in the rotation.

Braves sign LHP Jose Quintana to a minor league deal

I’ll admit that he was signed more as a flier than anything else. However, I’ll be trying to see if the active spin on his curveball can be better optimized, as the curveball has pretty mediocre movement in part due to its spin not translating well to movement. If I can fix him, he’s another middle/long relief option.

As I’m waiting to hear back on a number of things, I realize that interest in Camargo and Arcia have completely fizzled out. I decide to pull the plug on them.

Braves non-tender INF Johan Camargo and INF/OF Orlando Arcia

It’s around this time when I hear back from Freddie’s agent: "Okay, I think Freddie is ready. Shall we schedule a presser?"

Braves sign 1B Freddie Freeman to a five year, $150 million deal

This arguably turned out to be one of the biggest surprises in the sim, as so many people expected him to return to Atlanta that this original offer was what he ended up signing for because no one made him a serious offer. While he takes up a good chunk of the salary, it’s a contract that not too many people should be that disappointed by, although how he does at the tail end of the contract may be a point of concern. It’s worth noting that I had also added in a $25 million vesting option for 2027 (900 plate appearances between 2025 and 2026), but the agent accidentally didn’t remember that part.

Around this point, I end up preparing for a meeting that ends up causing me no small amount of stress for multiple reasons. While getting ready for it, though, I rattle off another two quick minors deals for guys recently non-tendered and check in on Tommy Pham (who has a smaller two-year deal on the table).

Braves sign OF Alex Dickerson to a minor league deal

Dickerson is brought on mainly to serve as minors outfield depth. While he’s not starter-caliber, he should be fine as a short-term injury patch on the bench or in left field who can be fine against righties. Nothing fancy, but a guy who’s shown he can step in and be at least decent is the kind of depth option I like to have in the minors.

Braves sign RHP Joe Jimenez to a minor league deal

Reliever with great stuff who no one is really going after? Yes, please. Frankly, I’m not quite sure how to fix him, but you can’t really say no to his ceiling and stuff. At the very least, I’m shocked that no one else jumped on him as quickly as I did.

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Zac Gallen Failed Trade

It was at this time that my big miss happened, namely the Mets getting Gallen. While preparing for the aforementioned meeting (which did not go well, if anyone was curious), I had mentioned to the Diamondbacks’ GM that he could treat the "Pache and Kingham for Gallen" framework as a formal offer, and that if he thought the deal was acceptable he could go ahead and tell Max about it. Unfortunately, this got misinterpreted as "Pache and Kingham for Gallen is my final offer", and so when the Mets one-upped it, I was unaware of any updates until the trade happened. While I had implied that I was hesitant to go too far for Gallen, in truth he was the one pitcher who I was willing to go very far for, especially since I had ideas as to how to bring back his 2020 form. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and while everything got clarified later, this was arguably one of the biggest missed opportunities in the entire sim.

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At that point, I was in full "make up for that problem NOW" mode and stepped up my efforts to at least get Pham. Thankfully, it didn’t take much more to get him.

Braves sign OF Tommy Pham to a two year, $16 million deal

While I was fine with retaining Benintendi, my eye was on having Pham as an option from the very beginning. Yes, his offense wasn’t that great in 2021, and his defense looks shaky. But most of the underlying factors with the bat are still more than fine, and he’s got a great eye for the strike zone. Additionally, I think I can get him to stave off a decline by trying to elevate the baseball more, as he still hits the ball hard but doesn’t get as much production out of it because he doesn’t elevate. If he can alter his swing accordingly, he should be fine.

Of course, this brings up two problems. One, the salary is currently over the $170 million mark. Two, the outfield situation is getting a bit crowded, and while the likely presence of the DH helps in that regard, it still becomes tough to make things fit. I can tolerate it if worst comes to worst, and I can have Benintendi get some time in center field, but I decide to go the most straightforward route and try to trade him for useful pitching, especially in the bullpen. Along the way, I decide to add even more to my depth.

Braves sign RHP Jesse Chavez and INF/OF Jake Lamb to a minor league deal

I’m wary about how Chavez will do given his age, but I’m willing to give him another outing in the Braves’ bullpen if he looks good in the spring. As for Lamb, his 2021 season was more interesting than at first glance, as he not only was better at making contact inside the zone but also barreling the ball. If he can keep those improvements, he might prove to be a shrewd depth option in case things go sideways. He’ll get some time in all four corners, and I’ll also give him some reps at second base to see how he responds.

Shortly after this, I get quite a few calls on Benintendi, but I was thrilled to see the one team I was hoping to get a response from: the Cleveland Guardians. Initial talks started with a deal involving Zach Plesac, but I was nervous about how drastically he went downhill, especially his slider. I ended up throwing out Sandlin expecting him to say "hell no", but to my surprise their GM was very amenable to trading him. After some failed negotiations on his end with other teams, he agreed to my offer.

Braves trade OF Andrew Benintendi to Guardians for RHP Nick Sandlin

Sparhawk, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome.

Sandlin is a bit of a question mark, as his injury history has a couple of concerning notes between his forearm problems and his shoulder, while his fastball is more okay than good. But he’s got a good sinker/slider combination, and while his command needs to improve, there’s always the possibility of bringing back some his changeup or curveball if he needs to compensate. When healthy, he’ll serve as a stabilizing factor to the bullpen, and I have enough confidence in him to be in some high-leverage situations if needed. BTV has this as a win for me, but while I like my side I think it’s less of an overpay than it thinks.

At this point I’m happy with my team, but I decide to take a look at the free agent list. After some looking and asking Max, it turns out that Kyle Seager has had exactly zero interest. I decide to initially make a 1/5 "screw it, let’s throw this out there" offer, and later decide to upgrade it to 1/6 with a vesting option for $8 million. While he wouldn’t have been a great fit, I was willing to shift things around to make it work. Max was having none of it, though, and five minutes later, he posted a list of top remaining free agents, and within 15 minutes Seager was gone to Oakland on a 1/6.5 deal. Oh well.

Day 2 Summary: Overall, I’m fairly livid that the Gallen deal fell through, especially to the Mets. But as a whole, this is a team that I’m comfortable with. The DH/remaining corner outfield areas aren’t the most ideal situation, and neither is the bullpen, but I’ve got enough depth options to where I’m fine with them.

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Day 3:

Approach heading into the day: While I’m happy with the team as it is, I’m still on the lookout to try to shore up the DH spot and/or bullpen. However, as everything is shaping up, Thomas Burrows and Corbin Clause are MiLB free agents after this year, and barring "biblical plague" levels of an injury bug, they’re not making it to the majors with us because of the insane existing depth. Let’s see what we can get for them.

Braves trade LHP Corbin Clouse to Athletics for INF Cobie Vance

Athletics came a-knocking for Clouse, and he’ll get much more of an opportunity than he will here over the next year. In return, I get Vance, who’s a scrappy infielder with a good bat and defense. He’s likely to be gritty org-filler, but he’s worth giving a lower-level roster spot to. BTV basically sees this as a wash.

Braves trade LHP Thomas Burrows to Mariners for INF/OF Shed Long, Jr.

Remember the attempts to get MiLB FA-eligible guys for cheap early on? Long was one such guy I pursued, and it finally bears fruit after Seattle’s GM circled back to me. Burrows deserves another chance, which I’m happy that he’s getting, but I’m more thrilled about getting Long. He’s dealt with leg injuries as of late, which has ruined most of his chances for playing time. However, as a player with both power and previous versatility, he’s worth taking a flier on, especially if finally having a healthy season helps him do well. BTV would likely identify this as a wash, as would I, albeit one I'm willing to gamble with.

At this point, the sim is starting to wind down…or so I thought. It’s in the last few hours that several GMs get anxious and try to work in several last-minute deals. While I have some chats here and there, only one GM particularly stands out to me: Twins GM TJ Gorsegner. He and I have already had some talks about smaller stuff, as I was interested in Cody Stashak, while he was looking for good clubhouse guys. However, he also needed to offload some salary and was specifically trying to find a taker for Sano, and while I was interested, I was cutting it close on salary myself. After some talks, we eventually merged the different ideas into one deal.

Braves trade OF Guillermo Heredia to Twins for INF/DH Miguel Sano, RHP Cody Stashak, and $3 million

While Heredia has become a bit redundant after other acquisitions, he’s still an option to help cover center field and a great clubhouse presence in general. That last part was especially appealing to the Twins at this point, however, so I eventually decided to part with him. Sano is a bit of a tricky fit, as this essentially forces me to abandon the idea of using the DH to rotate guys through there to give them some rest. However, he’s generally been an average-to-above bat for his career, and he gives me a more established power option, so he’s fine to get the majority of DH starts. However, in the event that the DH doesn’t happen, he becomes a major pinch-hit option, and I’m willing to force him into the lineup however necessary, even if it’s the corner outfield. As for Stashak, while he has his fair share of questions, his slider is nothing short of beastly and gets an absolute ton of whiffs. If I can keep him healthy, I think I have something big here by getting him to go the Wisler route.

BTV assesses this as a minor overpay by me. However, as was mentioned in the Twins’ review, it also ignores the overall context on both sides and respective needs, as well as possible changes to Stashak in getting him to throw his slider more. I think it would be fair to say that it’s closer to a win-win scenario given that it addresses each of our respective needs.

Unfortunately, this final trade puts me $500k over the budget line that I set myself. However, given everything that went into this sim, and how the trade that pushed it over addressed the few remaining concerns at least okay enough, I think it’s at least justified.

Braves sign C Jeff Mathis and RHP Josh Tomlin to minor league deals with open invitation to transition into organization

This is basically giving them a chance to decide whether they hang it up or not. If they do, the goal will be to transition them into an organizational role, likely as a roving instructor, with a future role as a coach a firm possibility.

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Other Notes:

-Remember the discussions involving the Astros and Aledmys Diaz earlier on? Well, the Marlins’ GM was willing to trade Garrett Cooper for a player with a similar profile, so I briefly attempted to acquire Diaz for flipping purposes until that opportunity fizzled out. The result? The Astros’ GM kept on trying to get me to trade for Diaz for the entire goddamn sim (no, I’m not exaggerating), and I kept on passing because of his high asking prices. Credit to him for his persistence, and eventually Diaz ended up as part of a trade package to the Astros for Wilson Contreras at the very end of the sim.

-I’ll fully admit one trade possibility fell through because I was trying to be too cute and clever. The Yankees’ GM was very interested in Luke Waddell and Daysbel Hernandez, and while I was very happy with the idea of getting Kyle Higashioka in return (either for the team or flipping purposes), I tried to squeeze a bit more out of him, and he wised up and moved on. Not as big of a missed chance as Gallen, but still a notable missed chance.

-While I attempted to pull away depth from the Rays, any ideas fell apart because they were not exactly loose with their guys. Unfortunately, one fringe guy I especially hoped to get for cheap in Dietrich Enns was particularly unavailable, because the Rays’ GM had realized that he had a really good fastball/cutter combination. I tried multiple times to go after him, but to no avail.

-One of my bigger targets in free agency was Wily Peralta, as his largely meh season masked the fact that he now possessed a new weapon in a killer splitter. However, the bidding ended up going a bit nuts for Peralta, and while I had to bow out, I was at least relieved to see that it was the Tigers who were desperate to bring him back.

-Near the end of the second day, Max messaged me saying that Chaz Roe accepted my minor league offer. The problem? I had never actually offered him one. It was eventually revealed that it was the Tigers who made the offer and that he had gotten mixed up, and while I was fine making an actual offer to Roe, Detroit is where he ended up.

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So, who are your 2022 Braves?

Projected Starting Lineup:

1) LF Tommy Pham

2) 1B Freddie Freeman

3) CF Adam Duvall

4) 3B Austin Riley

5) RF Connor Joe

6) DH Miguel Sano

7) 2B Ozzie Albies

8) C Travis d’Arnaud

9) SS Dansby Swanson

While this isn’t the most impressive lineup in the world, it’s still a fairly solid one, and this is without both Acuna and Ozuna. Assuming there’s a designated hitter in place (a very high possibility), Miguel Sano will mainly occupy the starting DH spot as the best remaining hitter with the track record of being an average bat. As for right field, while there’s a more-than-defensible argument for a Naquin-Pinder platoon as a primary option, I’ve elected to put in Joe due to his on-base ability and more well-rounded profile. Of course, if a DH is not in place, a more creative approach will be needed, but it will likely come at the cost of Sano for playing time.

Bench:

- C William Contreras

- INF/OF Leury Garcia

- INF/OF Chad Pinder

- OF Tyler Naquin

Even though the DH lessens the need for pinch-hitters, this bench gives me multiple flexible options. Garcia is the primary backup SS as well as the general defensive utility option and the next one available in center field if Duvall regresses, while Contreras serves as the main backup to d’Arnaud. While Naquin and Pinder are mediocre defensively, they still provide masher opportunities on either side of the plate while being able to fill in capably in case someone else goes down with injury.

Additionally, if there are injuries, these spots can be filled capably by guys such as Hanser Alberto, Alex Dickerson, Jake Burger, Gavin Sheets, Jake Lamb, and Jamie Ritchie, to say nothing of other options. This not only helps to keep the team going with options who can likely be okay, but it also helps to avoid rushing Pache, Waters, or Langeliers if it’s not necessary.

Starting Rotation:

1) Charlie Morton

2) Max Fried

3) Sean Manaea

4) Ian Anderson

5) Huascar Ynoa

The rotation is pretty self-explanatory. Morton, Fried, Manaea, and Anderson are a fairly solid top four, while Ynoa will undergo offseason work to make his fastball and slider come from the same release points. He will likely be limited to twice through the order, but I’m fine going this route due to the presence of multiple guys in the bullpen who can pitch multiple innings. If there are any injuries here, reinforcements can come either from prospects like Muller, Strider, or De La Cruz, or from relief candidates being stretched out like Newcomb, Velasquez, and Roark.

Bullpen/Arm Barn/Reliever Ranch:

- Tyler Matzek

- Luke Jackson

- Nick Sandlin

- A.J. Minter

- Vince Velasquez

- Sean Newcomb

- Cody Stashak

- Tanner Roark

The trio of Matzek, Jackson, and Minter have been held over to provide high-leverage support, while I have enough confidence in Sandlin to join them if his health isn’t an issue. While Velasquez and Newcomb aren’t the most ideal options, I have enough faith in their stuff to serve as capable middle relievers, and the opposite handedness gives me greater flexibility to deal with matchups in the case of a quick hook, injury, or Ynoa needing a piggyback partner. Frankly, the final two options are less set in stone and more dictated by who looks like the strongest options, and you can easily make a case for the near-dozen guys like Joe Jimenez, Jesse Chavez, Jeff Hoffman, Sam Clay, or Tyler Chatwood to get a spot. However, for the purposes of the sim and putting together a lineup, I eventually settled on Stashak for his tough slider and potential high-leverage possibilities and Roark for additional multi-inning capacity.

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Goals Met and Summary:

1) Bring Back Freddie Freeman: Success

2) Add Multiple Outfield Options: Success

3) Find a Reliable Starting Pitcher: Success

4) Reinforce The Bullpen: Success-ish?

5) Get More Depth: Great Success

6) Stay within Budget: Technically Fail, but just a hair over, so fine enough.

I’ll be the first to admit, this doesn’t initially come across as the most exciting team in the world. While it’s great that Freddie is back, some might be discouraged by the fact that the most notable names added were Sean Manaea and Tommy Pham, who are solid but not spectacular names. Additionally, I traded away a fair amount of current and former prospects, including majors-ready guys like Wright and Touki who have an argument to be starting in the majors. More than that, I also missed out on a couple guys who would have really helped the team, and especially the near-acquisition of Zac Gallen stings. And while I was worried about prices going out of control as with previous sims, they turned out to be more tame in this version.

But at the end of the day, I’m happy with the result. It might not be the most star-studded team, but it finally solves one of the main issues of previous teams in that it has quite a bit of quality depth. Even if Acuna’s unable to return and the details revealed in Ozuna’s investigation are damning, this team can still take body blows and be able to compete. Of course, there’s also the fact that Freeman was not only brought back, but brought back at a surprisingly-reasonable deal (for the sim, at least). And the best part? All of this was done with an end payroll of $170.5 million, which is generally a pretty reasonable possibility for the real-life team. Sure, McGuirk might be annoyed that I went $500k over the $170 million budget I set myself, but when you balance it with much better depth on the team, I’m sure I can placate him.

Major, major thanks to Max for handling all of this. I knew he put in an insane amount of work even before taking part in this sim, but it’s only now that I understand just how much work that is.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.