In the beginning, I approached this with a simple premise: the A's won 96 games last year and have few gaping holes that they needed to plug. What's more, given the team's construction, the only upgrades that make sense are relatively large upgrades. I also did not want to trade any significant farm pieces (not that the A's have a huge number of untouchable prospects). Honestly, I'm not sure I ended up accomplishing those stated goals, but I believe I did make moves that do not harm the team, upgraded some positions long-term, and took gambles where I could.
Some other things to know about how the sim worked:
- We negotiated over email with the player agent (RoyalsRetro from Royals Review, who hosted the entire sim), and he took the best offer. Essentially, he was Scott Boras.
- I had to make option and tender decisions, as well as decide on qualifying offers
- My team budget was a "soft" $68M, essentially a 10% increase over 2013. I could go over budget, but not ridiculously so. I attempted to stick to this as best I could, but also keeping in mind that the A's are well under their historical payroll high of about $79M.
Here is an overview of my transactions, in order:
Declined to make qualifying offers to Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour
It was simply too risky to have either of those guys accept it and eat 20% of payroll themselves. Indeed, had I offered them, both of them would have likely accepted. This was one was a very simple no.
Picked up options on Crisp and Anderson, declined options on Suzuki and Young
This was a no-brainer for both the real Beane and myself. Crisp will definitely be worth a $7.5M option, and Anderson is a reasonable gamble as either a starter or a closer candidate at $8M.
Chris Young struggled and isn't worth an $11M option. I made a half-hearted offer for him to return on a one-year deal, but he thought he could get two years on the open market, which he ultimately did. Kurt Suzuki was definitely not worth $8.5M for one year, and did end up also receiving a two-year offer for much less money.
Offered P Scott Kazmir 2 years/$18M with vesting option for 2016
As I detailed earlier in the offseason, I think Scott Kazmir is a decent target for the A's. In general, my thought is that he will sign for something like my initial offer. Through negotiation, I ultimately raised by offer to 2/$20M with a 380 total innings vesting option for 2016. This was enough to get him to sign.
Traded Alberto Callaspo and Jerry Blevins to the Dodgers for RP Chris Withrow
For me, this was a salary relief trade. Eric Sogard is probably as good as Callaspo offensively over time. Ideally, Scott Sizemore would be fully healed by Spring Training - and this time, stay healthy over the course of a season - and form the right-handed half of this platoon. Jerry Blevins was a non-tender candidate, and rather than do that, I would rather trade him for a bullpen piece under team control for several more years and try to find a left-handed reliever on the minor league free agent market, or promote someone like Pedro Figueroa.
Withrow is someone who has great strikeout rates in MLB, but has taken a little time to develop. At 11.2 K/9 in 34.2 innings in 2013, he has some warts with a 3.4 BB/9 and 1.3 HR/9. That said, the HR rate should improve in Oakland, and I'm hoping A's coaches can help him find something to help counteract the walk rate. After all, he's been with the Dodgers his entire life, so maybe he could use a change of scenery, as well.
Traded A.J. Griffin to the Twins for 2B Brian Dozier
This one came together quickly. I put out the word that A.J. Griffin would be available, and fake Twins' GM Jesse Lund put out the word that he was looking for pitching, so it came together pretty naturally. I don't really like that Griffin seems to be a home run machine, and despite the great curve, I'm not convinced that there is enough velocity behind his fastball to make up for it long-term. That said, he's been relatively healthy and eats innings.
The idea of Scott Sizemore staying healthy over a year isn't necessarily something I wanted to bank on, either. Dozier is also young, plays pretty decent defense, and played 147 games for Minnesota last year. With 18 HR, he's also got some pop. I like Sogard, but 2B is an area I was looking to upgrade, as the real A's are looking to upgrade as well, I'm sure. I also tend to believe more in Straily than Griffin, the former having spent most of 2013 on the Sacramento-to-Oakland shuttle. This move will plant Straily firmly into the 2014 rotation.
Signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia for 4 years/$48M
Yes, I overpaid. I'm well aware of that. Saltalamacchia is good masher of right-handed pitching, but leaves much to be desired facing lefties. On the other hand, I lost out on the Mike Napoli sweepstakes by very little money, and I didn't want to be Fake Jon Daniels, having money to spend but nothing worthwhile to spend it on. By this time, I also already knew that Bartolo Colon had accepted an offer to return to the Yankees for 2 years and $16M guaranteed. (I offered 1/$8M with a mutual option of $8.5M for 2015, which I honestly thought should have sent him my way, but whatever.) So, I needed to replace Colon's wins as best I could.
The biggest stumbling block was the draft pick loss, though. By signing him, the A's lose their 2014 first-round pick. I don't think the real A's would do this because those picks are very valuable. On the other hand, if there is a time for the A's to lose their first-round pick, it's coming off a 96-win season when they pick low. I went with the latter scenario, hoping the A's land a gem in the second-round.
Also, and I hate to admit this, because no one can do anything about it in a short-term sim, but I didn't have any real incentive to care about draft picks, or about contract length for that matter. The point was to try and make the A's better over the offseason. In fact, the contract length problem was a reverse incentive: it made more sense to offer more years at a lower AAV, even though players (and the sim agent) accepted the highest offer. I constantly had to remind myself of that, especially after losing out on both Colon and Napoli by trying to make reasonable offers the real A's would make.
Signed Travis Blackley to an MiLB deal with a Spring Training invite
There were great bargains to be had on the minor league free agent rolls, especially at the end. This was one of them. I am hoping he would compete for the role formerly occupied by Blevins.
Non-tendered Daric Barton and Pat Neshek
I suppose I didn't really have to do this one. But, with them earning $2.6M combined, I felt it was necessary in order to stay close to the budget. Plus, I do believe the A's will ultimately non-tender Neshek. In the sim, the Rays snapped up Barton quickly for 1/$1.5M and he will undoubedtly return to 2010 form and put up a 5-6 win season.
Traded Brett Anderson and Michael Choice and $6M for prospect P Adam Morgan
Had this sim lasted longer, I would have loved to see how this would work out over time. It's the trade that will likely garner me the most flak from here. From my perspective, I wanted the budget space from Anderson's contract to turn his risk/reward profile into other players. Essentially, I wanted to reset the clock on team control with new risky guys.
Adam Morgan has had shoulder problems, but most recently, his shoulder has shown up clean on MRIs with no surgery in his immediate future. His upside is something like Dan Straily - if everything works out, maybe a number two starter but likely 3rd or 4th in a rotation. He is the Phillies' second-ranked pitching prospect. In looking at the A's system, there is not a whole lot pitching wise now that Gray has come up. There are some intriguing guys the A's have taken in the last two drafts, but no one I can tell who profiles as a potential top flight starter and who is left-handed.
I really didn't want to give up on Choice. Indeed, he could be the center fielder in waiting for the current A's. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who think of him as a fourth outfielder on a good team. I don't really want to hold onto the next Michael Taylor, hoping he pans out.
Signed Cuban defector P Odrisamer Despaigne for $4/12M
This move was enabled by my move of Anderson to Philadelphia, so his signing has to be looked at in combination. Again, I took a small risk, but 4/$12M is not a lot of money for a guy who has had a relatively successful track record in the Cuban leagues. Some scouts have compared him to Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, and hopefully he's not actually that old. Even though he throws around 90-94, he's mostly a control guy and HR limiter. If he doesn't pan out in the rotation, he'll be in the bullpen. He will be given every chance on the fake A's to compete for a rotation spot.
Traded Seth Smith, Dan Otero, and $300K to Yankees for SP/RP David Phelps and prospect RP Danny Burawa
The Yankees wanted this to happen, and I also wanted to get something for Smith rather than non-tendering him. Again, this was somewhat for salary considerations, but also somewhat for pitching depth. After having traded away Griffin's innings, and having Colon slip away, I needed someone who could slot in to the end of the rotation over Tommy Milone, who will likely open the season in Sacramento for the fake A's, unless he would like to convert to the bullpen and become a LOOGY.
I was loathe to part with Otero; I could have given up Cook instead. But, again, I wanted to get Phelps and I wanted to get something for Smith. I'll bet on Cook's stuff over Otero's sinker and hold my breath.
Signed P John Lannan to an MiLB deal with an ST invite
Why not, right? He'll likely fill out the River Cats roster and provide veteran leadership. I was unable to scout his grit.
In conclusion, this is what my depth chart now looks like for my $71.1M team, with a few players learning new positions over Spring
I also kicked the tires on Phil Hughes (lost out on him, too), Brett Myers, Andres Torres, Aldemys Diaz, Franklin Gutierrez, Andy Dirks, and Jurickson Profar. I also tried to unload Nakajima on some other teams, but that went nowhere. Time ran out before I could work something out with the Tigers and Reds for Nakajima. My ideal trade would have been for the Tigers to trade me Nakajima for Dirks straight up (they mentioned several times they were trying to unload him), but that didn't really materialize.
It was surprising to me, also, how many GMs emailed me out of the blue to ask how they could get Cespedes and/or Reddick in a trade. I do not believe the real A's, nor myself in the sim, ever indicated that those two were on the block. Reddick is in arbitration now, and Cespedes is signed to a reasonable deal for two more years. Both underperformed last year, and I would have been trading them at the low point of their value. Maybe I could have gotten somewhere had I explored the avenue further, but I considered both to be the core of the current team, and I had no interest in trading them.
Finally, if you want to read a full recap of the entire sim, and what other GMs said about it, you can read it here.