Sunday, November 13, marked the beginning of the 2022 SB Nation Off-season Simulation. The event, hosted by Max Rieper at Royals Review, allows representatives from all 30 teams to cram roughly three months of off-season into three days of emails and DMs as they try to set a path forward for their respective fandoms. I was joined by Josh Iversen, Orodawg, and JJ209 to helm Oakland’s continuing efforts to rebuild a roster stripped of talent while hampered by a budget starved of dollars.
We started with the very simple goal of wanting to add talent. We had (or gave ourselves, depending on one’s perspective) a $60 million payroll to support a roster that had $38 million committed towards 2023. We had holes in the rotation and the line-up and the bullpen, while full, had a lot of uncertainty. We wouldn’t be able to simply spend our way towards respectability but we hoped our cash reserves could help accelerate the rebuild by allowing more options in free agency and on the trade market.
Transactions (In chronological order):
Traded Sam Selman and Carlos Guarte to Philadelphia for C Rafael Marchan, RF Ethan Wilson, and 2B Scott Kingery.
Philly was happy to be rid of Kingery’s $9 MM remaining salary for a AAA Catcher and an outfielder that barely limped his way out of High-A. We gave away a pitcher days away from being made a FA and an A-ball arm for a solid back-up catcher and the Phillies 2021, 2nd round pick. Which of us is more right? We wanted to make sure we had a quality backstop to pair with Langeliers if/when we traded Sean Murphy and Marchan has flashed that ability in the past.
Traded Daulton Jefferies to Washington for OF Dominic Canzone.
Signed RHP Archie Bradley for 1 year/$2 MM.
Signed RHP Aaron Sanchez to a MiLB contract.
Traded Joel Payamps to Arizona for 1B/OF Pavin Smith.
Finding a better 1B option than Dermis Garcia was a medium-grade priority. Payamps auditioned well at the end of 2022 but Pavin Smith is younger, has an additional year of team control, still has minor league options, and has the tools/pedigree to be a decent upside play for Oakland.
Signed C Omar Narvaez for 1 year/$4.5 MM with a $3 MM Player Option/$1.5 MM buy-out in 2024.
We wanted to make sure certain players didn’t get signed super cheap, so we put in an early bid on Narvaez to make sure any interested parties were going to have to pay fair price. But everyone was busy bidding on Contreras/Vazquez or waiting for us to trade Sean Murphy… so we ended up with the 3rd best Catcher on the market at roughly half the rate he should have been paid. Shea Langeliers is our starting Catcher but Narvaez will make an excellent back-up and if his bat can rebound a bit, he could make a quality trade chip at the deadline.
Traded Sean Murphy to Tampa Bay for 1B/3B Curtis Mead, OF Josh Lowe, RHP Cole Wilcox.
Early, strong bids made us confident we’d find a deal to our liking. Tampa made a late push to close the deal.
Signed 1B Brandon Belt for 1 year/$3 MM plus incentives.
If the knee is healthy, he could provide strong offense as a platoon 1B/DH.
Signed RHP Craig Kimbrel for 1 year/$5 MM plus incentives.
Our very first foray in Free Agency was matching offers to Kimbrel and Taylor Rogers to become Oakland’s Closer; first pitcher to say “Yes” got the job. Kimbrel has been inconsistent but when he’s on he can be dominant. We don’t expect to contend in 2023 but if Kimbrel is pitching well in July, he can expect to find himself chasing an extra $2 MM in bonus money while playing for a contender in August.
Non-tendered Austin Pruitt and Deolis Guerra. Re-sign Deolis Guerra to a MiLB contract.
Signed RHP Cole Sulser to a MiLB contract.
Traded Jeremy Eierman to Washington for 1B Brad Miller, RHP Andry Lara, and RHP Zach Byrzkcy.
Washington wanted to clear Miller, picked up in an earlier trade, and his $4 MM from their books and were willing to include two intriguing pitchers to make it happen. Lesson learned: Teams were much more willing to part with prospects once the SIM officially started, allowing them to stockpile payroll to make a run at one of the Big Four shortstops.
Traded Tony Kemp to LA Dodgers for C/1B Thayron Lirano and RHP River Ryan.
When the team with one of the deepest farm systems in baseball says they love a guy you expect to leave in a year… Lirano and Ryan had crept into the back end of different LAD Top 30 lists by the end of 2022. We expect them to be more prominent on every LAD list in 2023.
Signed 3B Jeimer Candelario for 1 year/$4.5 MM with a $3 MM Player Option/$1.5 MM buy-out in 2024.
Candelario had been non-tendered by Detroit but will be 29 next season and produced a 4 fWAR season in 2021. If he could recapture that form in 2023…
Traded Scott Kingery, Brad Miller, and Luis Medina to San Diego for RHP Nick Burdi and 3B Connor Hollis.
We found ourselves at an unexpected crossroads. We had been surprisingly effective at adding (potentially) productive big league players via Free Agency but were near our max payroll. We didn’t have to squint hard to see a possible .500 team and there were still free agents lingering, waiting for the Big Ticket players to sign. Clearing $12 MM at the cost of the talented but enigmatic Medina would allow us to pursue more immediate upgrades to the rotation and the line-up. If we could fast enough…
Signed LHP Joely Rodriguez, RHP Tommy Kahnle, and IF Garrett Hampson to MiLB contracts.
Signed RHP Zach Eflin for 1 year/$5 MM plus incentives.
A pitcher that got lost in the mix, Eflin turned down his end of a $15 MM mutual option to stay in Philly and now found himself without a market.
Signed LHP Ryan Yarbrough for 1 year/$3 MM.
We ran out of time. Enough Big Ticket players had signed so the folks that missed out on their preferred options started flooding the free agent market with their stored up dollars. Yarbrough is no more than a 5th Starter but that works for us, because we feel Adrian Martinez was currently in the #5 spot and we liked him better as the 6th guy. Pro Tip: If you’re going to sign a cromulent pitcher, sign one that you can option to the minors as necessary.
Signed OF Chad Pinder to a MiLB contract.
Don’t freak out! It’s a minor league contract deal for a RH bat, something we lack in the current Las Vegas outfield.
Traded AJ Puk to NY Mets for RHP Calvin Ziegler, RHP Eric Orze, OF Willy Fanas.
Puk is another enigmatic talent and the 40 man roster was getting tight. We think JP Sears fits best in the bullpen and this return injects more upside into the lower levels of our farm system.
Traded Cal Stevenson to Minnesota for 1B Aaron Sabato
Traded Tommy Stevenson to Atlanta for OF Eddie Rosario, RHP AJ Smith-Shawver, LHP Dylan Dodd.
We had unused payroll and Atlanta wanted to Rosario off of theirs. Smith-Shawver wasn’t their top pitching prospect but he’s one of their better ones and Dodd could be a force in Oakland’s bullpen as early as this season. We released Rosario as soon as the trade cleared.
We ended up slightly under-budget when the SIM ended, committing just over $57 million towards the 2023 roster. We kept Blackburn and Laureano because we felt we’d be selling low on them and as we don’t expect to contend in 2023, we can afford them more time to rebound. The upcoming season is about continuing to build for the future. If the veteran talent we’ve added and the players we’ve retained can play up to our expectations then that will accelerate the rebuild while providing more immediate fun when watching the A’s play the 2023 season.
Thanks again to the members of the OaklandBrainTrust and thank you, AN, for your time.
The one difference between the SIM Transaction page and the way the Brain Trust views the roster is that we released Eddie Rosario, freeing up the DH spot for Brandon Belt and 1B for Pavin Smith. We’re still on the hook for Rosario’s salary and in terms of the workload Max had to handle, Rosario’s roster status wasn’t in the Top 50 things he had to deal with to close out the SIM.