Let me tell you, this simulation is time consuming. It can be maddening, with some of the crazy demands other teams have for acquiring their players via trade. It can be daunting, with quite a bit of research and thought going into every single trade offer we receive, no matter how unlikely we deem it when we receive it from other teams.
It's also the single most rewarding, gratifying thing I've done yet in my time here at The Crawfish Boxes, and trust me - THAT is saying something. Just between us, I'm going to beg to be a part of this in some capacity as often as they'll let me do it.
Now, obviously, I have no real world GM experience. None of us do. The closest thing I can claim is having participated in online leagues with Out Of The Park Baseball since 2005. Not exactly a glowing resume. Luckily, I have a fair baseball acumen, and I get to work with two guys (Chris Perry and Idrees Tilly) who are really, REALLY knowledgeable. It's quite a valuable learning experience, from my perspective.
Let's get down to brass tax, shall we?
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The first trade we made was mostly a Chris Perry endeavor. We weighed in and gave opinions, but he targeted the players and, as anyone who is familiar with Chris would probably expect, he targeted some really, really good players and got them. Chris fielded a few counter offers that we judged to be of withering value and stuck to his guns, and ultimately the always-savvy Pirates agreed. Here's how it shook out for both teams.
1B Jon Singleton
LF Jon Kemmer
RP Arquimedes Caminero
SP Mitch Keller
SP Yeudy Garcia
OF Harold Ramirez
Now, if you think about relievers like I do, you might think "Wow. A major league first baseman who already has 14 home runs in only 420 plate appearances, spaced out erratically over two seasons, and a well regarded left handed hitting left fielder who posted a gaudy .327/.414/.574 slash line at Double-A Corpus Christi with .438 wOBA, 174 wRC+, and a .247 ISO? For a reliever, and three prospects?"
Or, if you're like many, you might be thinking "Good! Get Jon Singleton out of here!"
To either, I'd reply: well...hold on a second.
First, Jon Singleton is a former top talent first baseman, regarded by many at one time as the best first base prospect in baseball. He has struggled quite a bit in the majors - particularly during his rookie campaign in 2014. He's made quiet strides, however, in defense and in reducing his strikeout rate. He's shown improvement hitting the ball to left field, and he's improved some versus same-handed pitching...though all of those facets are still works in progress in various stages of progression. He's still only had 420 plate appearances in the Major Leagues, and it's been said that a good rule of thumb is that you probably don't fully know what you have with a young hitter until he reaches around 1,000 plate appearances in the Major Leagues, give or take. For instance, J.D. Martinez hit the 1,000 plate appearance mark fairly early in 2014, as a newly-minted member of the Tigers. He's gone on to hit 61 home runs over the last two season, with a 153 wRC+ in 2014 and a 137 wRC+ in 2015 to go with a .391 wOBA in 2014 and a .372 wOBA in 2015. It's not a hard and fast rule, but it is something for those bashing Singleton to keep in mind. Chances are good that he goes on to be a 30 home run type of hitter for the Pirates in the near future. Jon Kemmer, on the other hand, just turned 25 and has yet to play an inning in Triple-A. He's a prime trade candidate.
Second, look at the return. First and foremost, Arquimedes Caminero. He's a 28 year old, 6'4", 250 pound flame throwing right-handed reliever. He throws his four seam fastball 97.8-99.05 miles per hour on average, depending on which site you believe, and has touched and surpassed 100 miles per hour fairly consistently - including in this at bat, where he threw four straight pitches at 100 miles per hour or better:
It's not just all about throwing hard, however. "Arkee" also features a sinking two seam fastball that he has been throwing since August 1st (per StatCast) which has excellent movement and averages in the upper 90s as well, a hard, power slider and an absolutely filthy split fingered pitch. He will also mix in a cut fastball as a variance on the slider. Here's a video of his performance in the National League Wild Card Game against the Chicago Cubs to give you an idea of the kind of filth he was dealing down the stretch, if you missed it:
And here's a video of Caminero recording a six out save against his former team, the Marlins, including striking out the side - Christian Yellich among the victims - in the eighth inning:
His FIP and xFIP don't necessarily jump off the page at you, but then again, neither did Collin McHugh's until Brent Strom got hold of him. But Caminero finished the season very strongly and has incredible weapons in his arsenal. He's more than capable of holding down the ninth inning...and the eighth inning, and sometimes even the seventh inning too. Did I mention that? He pitched two or more innings on ten different occasions last year, including a game on August 18th versus the Diamondbacks where he threw three innings of relief.
As for the other pieces of the deal, please feel free to review each player's scouting report below:
SP Mitch Keller
The Pirates went over pick value on more than one occasion to go after high school pitching talent in the 2014 Draft. Keller got $1 million to forego his commitment to the University of North Carolina. His progress was slowed by a forearm strain that kept him off the mound for much of the rookie-level year.
Keller's velocity spiked as a senior in the Iowa high school ranks, raising his stock considerably. The younger brother of Orioles farmhand Jon Keller, Mitch now sports a fastball that sits comfortably in the 90-94 mph range. Tall and projectable, there might be more to come fastball-wise. He's shown good sink and the ability to get groundball outs. Keller also throws an 11-to-5 curve, which has gotten tighter, though it still needs refinement. He has some feel for a changeup, but it's behind the other two pitches.
There is work to be done on Keller's mechanics and his command. The Pirates are no strangers to drafting and developing high school arms, so they know all about being patient. The end result could be a starting pitching groundball machine.
OF Harold Ramirez
A major signing from the 2011 international signing period, Ramirez got just over $1 million to sign with the Pirates out of Colombia at age 16. His full-season debut in 2014 was marred by leg injuries that limited him to 49 games and he was held back in extended spring training in 2015 because he was out of shape.
While Ramirez doesn't have the build of, say, Gregory Polanco, he has tools and athleticism to spare. An above-average runner, Ramirez uses his speed to cover a lot of ground in center field and he is capable of being a basestealing threat. Ramirez has shown an ability to spray line drives to all fields and has a decent approach at the plate, especially given his age. Power is unlikely to be a big part of his game, but if his on-base skills continue to improve, that won't be as important as a top-of-the-order type catalyst. Ramirez's arm is fringy, but he has all the tools to be an everyday center fielder.
Just 20 years old, Ramirez did perform well once he got to Bradenton in the Florida State League. Time is on Ramirez's side and given the outfield depth in the system, that's not a bad thing.
SP Yeudy Garcia
There are the international signees that get big headlines and command huge bonuses, the phenoms who sign at age 16. Then there are those like Garcia, who was 20 when he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, was initially pitching out of the West Virginia bullpen this season, but has burst on the scene as a legitimate pitching prospect.
Big and physical at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Garcia spent 2014 pitching in the Dominican Summer League. Now 22, the Pirates wanted to push him a bit and sent him to full-season West Virginia to pitch in the South Atlantic League as a reliever. Given a chance to start in mid-May, Garcia ran with it, pitching mostly off of his mid-90s fastball that can touch 97-98 mph at times. He also has a solid breaking ball and has has shown the ability to both miss bats and get groundball outs.
Garcia might have a long way to go, including seeing how he fares at higher levels, but the Pirates think they might have a surprise find on their hands.
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Astros' 2016 budget after trade: Approximately $91 million
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Then, the Astros were able to swing a deal with the Minnesota Twins.
RP Pat Neshek
SP Felix Jorge
In another deal finalized on day two, the Astros sent RP Pat Neshek to the Minnesota Twins - who were arguably the busiest team of the sim, wheeling and dealing like their very lives hung in the balance - for a good starting pitching prospect in Felix Jorge. Here's a video from 2013 regarding Jorge that discusses several relevant factors, including his makeup:
Felix Jorge had a disappointing 2014 season, but roared back in a big way in 2015, reestablishing himself as one of the better starting pitchers in the Twins system during his age-21 season by posting the following numbers at High A:
This was a case of a double or even a triple-win from our perspective, because we a) moved Neshek to a home in Minnesota where winning is clearly a priority, b) cleared a sizable ($6 million and change) chunk of salary off the books, and c) got solid value for the future while clearing a space in the bullpen for...additions.
More on that next.
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Astros' 2016 budget after trade: Approximately $85 million
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Next, the Astros turned our attention to additions to our bullpen. We had a clear need for upgrades, and while Arquimedes Caminero is a clear upgrade and a power arm, the Astros still had need of a left handed reliever or two.
Enter...er...re-enter, Tony Sipp.
The Astros re-signed him to a very reasonable contract for three guaranteed years, and a mutual option for a fourth year:
2019: $8M mutual option
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Astros' 2016 budget after signing: Approximately $89 million
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The Astros also made a strong play to free agent Korean reliever Seung-hwan Oh (3 years/$19 million guaranteed, 4th year option year would have brought the value up to $26 million) but were outbid by the Tampa Bay Rays, who also nixed another potential relief pitcher off our wish list for us when they traded Jake McGee. We inquired diligently as to the availability/price of superstar relievers like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, but the desired prices were exorbitant, and too rich for us to consider them reasonable. Please feel free to check the comments section from Chris's day one recap, if you look you will see what was asked for a package (Cincy's professed preference was to move Chapman in a package) involving Chapman and Todd Frazier. The asking price for Kimbrel was no more palatable. So, with Kimbrel and Chapman both firmly ensconced in the "no way" pile, and Seung-hwan Oh and Jake McGee off the market, we turned to Mike Dunn of the Florida Marlins. We made what we felt was a reasonable offer and were politely rebuffed, so we then moved on to other options...and I'm pleased to say we were ultimately successful, though you'll have to wait until tomorrow's recap to hear who exactly we sent packing...and who we got in return!
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We feel our roster is very nearly complete for the 2015 season. We feel that the designated hitter situation involving Preston Tucker and Evan Gattis sharing time will be a desirable outcome, along with a true handedness split between Jed Lowrie and Luis Valbuena at third base (again, check their split stats - they add up to a very, very solid player) and Chris Carter returning once again to occupy the first base position until A.J. Reed is ready to step in, hopefully some time next summer. As it appears Colby Rasmus will return to the organization in the sim, as he did in real life, the outfield shapes up nicely with Rasmus, Gomez, and Springer receiving the lion's share of the playing time and Jake Marisnick serving as a fourth outfielder. Jason Castro and Hank Conger will reprise their roles as a very, very underrated catching duo relative to the entirety of the baseball landscape - our catchers combined for the ninth best catcher's wRC+ in all of baseball - and the pitching is shaping up nicely.
I can practically hear the groans about first base from here.
The fans should know that we have searched fairly exhaustively for a first base option to replace Chris Carter with, but ultimately nothing has yet presented itself as a viable option . I personally spearheaded a rather large cheerleading campaign in an attempt to land Carlos Santana of the Indians, though my hopes were dashed. The Clevelend GM initially accepted my trade proposal (which I'd cleared through Chris, of course) but ultimately balked because he thought I'd included Kyle Tucker instead of who I actually included - Derek Fisher. Chris was relieved, because he looked deeper into Santana's stats and came to disagree with me as to Santana's actual value, and whether we should trade for him at all. So in the end, when the opposing GM wanted a return we both judged as far beyond what we'd be willing to pay, it all worked out for the best. Conversely, Chris felt very strongly about adding Ryan Zimmerman from the Nationals (who were offering to eat a lot of the contract) and that Zimmerman would ultimately bounce back nicely from a BABIP-damaged 2015 season. Ultimately, after much internal deliberation, we decided to forego Zimmerman for now.
There are so many more trade proposals and ideas that I could write about here, after we kicked them around. I'm not going to, though, at least not yet. I'm flirting with TL/DR status as it is. I will note that we have discussed at length various other cost cutting options, including moving Scott Feldman for the sake of opening up the payroll some and allowing Vince Velasquez to comfortably slot full time into the rotation.
Tune in tomorrow for another recap of another day in the SB Nation Winter Meetings Simulation!
We'll be popping in periodically to answer your questions and discuss with you on the comments section. Feel free to let us hear your opinions!