Again, here are a review of the rules from the official transactions thread on Royals Review. In general, each team is rewound to the end of their regular season, and the GMs are making option decisions, tender/non-tender decisions, and free agent offers. No backloading/front-loading of contracts, no trading of 2012 draft picks, and must operate within a realistic budget for your team. In other words, the A's can't decide to spend $100M on payroll because Sim Lew Wolff is feeling generous (or senile).
First, I want to break down the transactions I did make and why I did them.
Free agent signings:
Bartolo Colon: 2 years/$10M
I liked the real A's re-signing Colon and I made sure the Sim A's did so as well. Had Colon not been suspended, he would have had similar value that he provided to NYY last year. He struck out fewer guys, but his control improved (3.6 BB%? That's almost comical) and he had a pretty low HB/FB rate. His arm shows no real signs of fatigue, and even if it does, it seems to me he's been able to change his repertoire to match. He is sure to provide that value at least over the next year. If he really falters in the second year, he can probably throw 40-50 innings out of the bullpen.
Hiroyuki Nakajima: 3 years/$30M + $10M club option/$2M buyout
Yes, I know Nakajima will not sniff this amount in real life. But, the free agent bidding was getting out of hand in the sim, and my goal was to sign a free agent SS rather than spend prospects to get someone else. I've watched a little video of him, and he doesn't look like a prototypical slap hitter, a la Tsuyoshi Shinjo or Kaz Matsui. It's a gamble for sure, but I'm betting that he will provide enough offensive value to overcome any defensive shortcomings. What's more, it's not often Japanese players have come to the U.S. with poor defensive skills. Sure, Hideki Matsui wasn't a great defender by the time he came here, but it seems like he is more of the exception. Plus, his knees.
Of course, as it turns out, Stephen Drew ended up signing for 2/$16M with BOS after I declined his option. I like the idea, though, of having 3 years for Addison Russell to develop. Why rush it? If Russell is ready earlier, and Nakajima is as good as I hope he'll be, Nakajima will be an excellent trade piece in 2015 or 2016.
Russell Martin: 2 years/$8M
As the Sim deadline approached, I found myself trying to see what bargains were out there and then trying to upgrade on the cheap. In general, though, I really do think the real A's ought to consider finding a veteran catcher for not a lot of money. The idea of having a catcher platoon available isn't as important to me as having a good defensive catcher and someone for Derek Norris to really learn from. After all, after Jose Molina, it is Martin who ranks second in many aggregated catcher framing runs saved estimates over the same period of time:
He provided about 2 wins last year. Can he do it again as a starter? At $4M per, plus the potential for him to teach Norris everything he knows, it's a worthwhile risk. In 2014, when Norris is hopefully ready to take over the starting role again full-time, Martin can either be traded or move to backup so he can finish out his sunset years in MLB.
Jonny Gomes: 1 year/$2M
Another bargain available at the last minute. Will Gomes mash a career high wRC+ of 142 again? No, probably not. But he's a great platoon option (remember - the Sim A's didn't acquire Chris Young), so that brings back the entire 2012 outfield that was so effective for the A's then.
Rich Harden: 1 year (non-guaranteed)/$700K. Invitation to Spring Training.
I mean, how can Harden not be an A again? All kidding aside, there is no risk here. If he doesn't make ST, then I don't pay him the money. If he makes the team, and his arm falls off (again), I'm only on the hook for $700K. He will be worked out as a bullpen arm throughout ST for the Sim A's.
Grant Balfour: $4.5M/$0.35M buyout. Picked up option.
It's not a great number to be paying a reliever. On the other hand, Balfour was worth it with 1.5 WAR last year. He's not the elite guy he was in 2008 with the Rays, but he's still in that second tier. Plus, I thought the trio of Balfour, Sean Doolittle, and Ryan Cook was extremely effective last year as a 7-8-9 combo. At worst, and had some trades worked out, I could have unloaded him and got a decent return.
Stephen Drew: $10M/$1.35M buyout. Declined Option (the sim assumption for mutual option was that if you picked up the option, the player would as well as vice versa)
I made the Nakajima signing before I decided on Drew. Again, Boston's Sim GM ended up with what will appear to be a bargain relative to the actual market. All along, I was planning on a 3-year deal for a shortstop, and that's what I had budgeted for. In terms of Drew as a player, I did not like his defense with the real A's at all. Compared to Pennington, I felt he was slow and had a poor arm. Some of that was probably from the ankle injury, as I'm sure it's hard to run and plant for a strong throw with a still-healing surgically repaired ankle. UZR agrees with me last year, as he posted a -5.2 over 79 games. That said, his 2009-2011 UZR with the DBacks are much better than his 2006-2008 numbers. DRS seems to agree with that general trend. I don't know what to think, so I went with my eyes on this one.
He won't be available until mid-year at best, and he's had a few setbacks now. There is a significant risk he won't ever be an effective pitcher again, and even if he is, I doubt he'd crack the A's rotation unless there is catastrophe. He's probably a LOOGY in the future. In the sim, TOR signed him to an MiLB deal.
Same as Braden, basically. The arm is tantalizing if not also heart-breaking. He's coming off a second TJS in 5 years. The A's have plenty of bullpen depth. He will find a home with another organization.
This one was tough, but I ultimately decided against it. Almost $1M seems like a lot to pay for a ROOGY (which is indeed how I think he should be used). He can be replaced by someone in AAA right now.
As much as I thought his days in the A's org are numbered (still think so), I tendered him so he could be a trade chip. Unfortunately, no one wanted him. The Sim rules were that you had to use the MLBTR arbitration estimates as how much he would cost in the budget, so the Sim A's are on the hook for his $1.1M. The real A's, however, had a better strategy of offering a non-guaranteed deal that I would have employed if I could.
Really proved himself as a good for either an inning or a LOOGY role this year. Plus, he likes donuts. The A's need a relatively soft-tossing lefty to complement someone like Doolittle who comes in throwing gas from the left side. Gives Melvin options. At $1M, no sense in not doing this
It appears Kottaras will split catching duties with Derek Norris next year. I don't think it's the worst idea to have him platoon, and honestly, the A's didn't have any better options at the time. As you'll see later, Kottaras is no longer a Sim A, but I think that was probably self-explanatory from the move for Martin above.
At $3.3M, it was a pricey tender and he was someone I was willing to trade. I had the skeleton of a deal with him involved for J.J. Hardy, but details made it fall through. That said, it wasn't that much money and the sim A's had surprising payroll flexibility. Again, if the team wasn't doing well at the trading deadline, some teams would have inquired on him.
No brainer. Chili Davis changed his swing and Moss has huge potential going forward to be that slugging 1B that the A's have lacked for some time. His estimate was for $1.4M - even if he regresses significantly, say to a 115-120 wRC+ with average defense, that's a hell of a player. Again, it would have been crazy to not do this
For $700K, this was again worth doing if only to make sure the A's do have someone who can play almost any position. That said, the sim rules dictated that the GM could DFA some scrub at any time to do a deal. He's probably a guy I would have DFAed being the real GM sometime before Spring Training to make room for other players.
Michael Taylor for Dellin Betances
As Max, the Sim Manager called it, a challenge trade. This was the first deal I made. Michael Taylor is not cracking the Sim A's OF or the real one anytime soon. He's 27, and he's still playing for the Rivercats. NYY offered Betances up to everyone at first, and I replied with a Daric Barton deal which they politely declined. When I asked who they needed, they inquired about Taylor and I said he would be available. This trade was accomplished in around 15 minutes.
Betances has serious questions about his control. He rarely seems to know where the ball is going, in fact. That said, he has a lively arm, he's only 24, and the A's have a long history of pitching development. If he works out, he could really be make a great addition to the Balfour-Doolittle-Cook 7-8-9 trio. The Sim A's have no plans to start him.
Grant Green for David Freese
I almost fell out of my chair when I was offered this one. 3B was one of the positions I wanted to upgrade initially, but found it hard to pull the trigger for anyone marginal. I wanted a big upgrade, and there just wasn't much out there to sign. I had the framework of a deal centered around Aramis Ramirez for Tom Milone, but I did not want to part with Milone and the MIL guy really wanted him. I also did not want to give up Milone and pay the $26M remaining on Aramis' contract. So, I gave up on that one and Ramirez was eventually traded to ATL for Mike Minor. I made an overture to see if ATL's GM wanted Milone (by that time I had softened a little on Milone, and Brandon McCarthy was too rich for the A's blood, meaning I could take on some salary), so I figured I would ask. They wanted to keep Aramis, so that went nowhere.
This trade was really all STL. I put the call out for a 3B, they responded by saying they wanted to move Freese. I replied asking them who they wanted, and when they said Green I couldn't click send fast enough (all the negotiations were done by email - no disrespect to the STL GM). It's not that I don't like Josh Donaldson, but I wonder what kind of offense he will provide (I'm confident about the defense being very good). Freese is a little worse defender, but a more proven bat for a modest cost. Green might hit, but his lack of defensive position makes his usefulness to the A's minimal.
George Kottaras for Kevin Jepsen
Given I signed Martin at the last minute, I then wanted to see if I could get a ROOGY-type guy for Kottaras. WiHaloFan, the LAA GM, was looking for a backup catcher and offered up Jepsen in return. If Betances doesn't work out in the bullpen (or ever), Jepsen is another power arm. If he does, Blevins-Scribner-Jepsen-Betances-Cook-Doolittle-Balfour is a hell of a bullpen.
Tomorrow, or later tonight, I'll write more about my general thoughts on the sim, more about trades that didn't happen on my end, and payroll considerations. Until then... how do you think I did? Please feel free to rip me below.