Well, that was fun. After four days and over 500 emails, we have concluded the SB Nation 2015 Winter Meetings Simulation, hosted by our friends at Royals Review. Clicking the link shows the recap of all moves made by each team.
As I posted after Day 1, Jason and Idrees joined me in representing the Astros. I have to admit to being a real hard-bahonkus when it came to being true to the club. We set a budget and stuck to it, even acknowledging that it might be a little lower than the 2016 Astros' on opening day depending on how things shake out in real life. We committed to not making wild fantasy-baseball-ish trades. We committed to not treating this as a one-year exercise, but to recognize that future commitments matter as much to an organization as short-term improvement.
Jason did an amazing job with his Day 2 and Day 3 summaries, and I want to acknowledge how he went above-and-beyond to take a thought exercise and dive into it and provide an immersive look into what the real impact of our moves would be in real life. He drew y'all into our experience, and I encourage you to read his posts if you haven't already.
Around the League
Before diving into a recap of what the 2015-16 simulated Astros did during the offseason and why, let's take a fun look at the rest of the league. The link at the top of this article will show all of the moves made throughout the sim. I encourage you to praise or ridicule your favorites in the comments below.
- Miami blew apart their entire roster. My favorite (read: most bizarre) trade was "Miami acquires Jayson Werth, Jonathan Papelbon, Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, Yunel Escobar, and $5 million from Washington for Adeiny Hechevarria, Dee Gordon, Kyle Barraclough, and Adam Conley" I don't know how to parse this. The Marlins acquire big bad contracts, a couple really nice prospects, and Yunel Escobar, and trade a couple unestablished guys and a blossoming (and cost-controlled) superstar in Gordon. I'm left wondering, "Why would either club do this?" These are the types of moves we wanted to avoid, even if they were available to us. Sometimes, it was tough to pass up a great, but unrealistic deal when offered. Incidentally, Jose Fernandez was also traded for Yoan Moncada, Clint Frazier, Michael Chavis, Edwin Escobar, and Austin Rei. Personally, I'd not do that if I were Boston. Fernandez is a head case.
- The Sim Yankees overspent their budget by $55M. On one hand, that's kinda outside of the spirit of what the Simstros adamantly wanted to accomplish. On the other hand, there's a solid argument that this is exactly what the RL Yankees would do: Screw your budget, I'm spending a zillion dollars!
- Sim San Diego also flopped their entire roster (just like last RL offseason!!). I love that they acquired Profar, Yelich, Soler, and Jokisch, though I question if some of the deals were remotely reasonable. Prince Fielder, Jurickson Profar, Tony Watson, AND $10M cash in exchange for Austin Hedges alone? C'mon. This would never, ever happen. After acquiring some good young (and old) assets, SD went on to add Ben Zobrist and Jon Broxton, overspending their budget by $11M. The Sim Padres were every bit as unpredictable as the real club. Incidentally, the Sim Padres aggressively pursued trading Craig Kimbrel to the Astros, but ended up moving him elsewhere before we could pursue a reasonable price. Asking cost was "a frontline starter" a-la Keuchel or McCullers. Pass.. We also briefly discussed Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross but it never really went anywhere. Padres wisely expressed interest in Joe Musgrove, but we made it clear he'd be difficult to pry loose and an offer was never made.
- We had a strong bite on Luis Valbuena from the Sim Braves very early on, but they balked at including Arodys Vizcaino in any trade talks at all, and he was really the only guy we were seriously interested in pursuing. And as Jason noted, we were very close to landing Carlos Santana from the faux Indians, but their GM misread "Derek Fisher" as "Kyle Tucker" and rescinded his agreement when it came time to consummating. A lesser man would have forced the trade agreement anyway, but I played nice.
Some internal conversations turned into debates between our management team. Jason argued very strongly to increase our offer for Santana, and I balked. There were calls to trade away Gregerson and Harris that we ended up not acting on. I fought for a Ryan Zimmerman trade, and Idrees and Jason overruled me. It was good to have a 3-person team instead of just 2, because it allowed quick resolution of internal disagreements.
Jason and Idrees both made me back down and make an offer on Aroldis Chapman and/or Todd Frazier. We ended up offering SP Yeudy Garcia (acquired in a trade below) and 2B Tony Kemp for Chapman and $4 million. It wasn't quite a low-ball, but it was what we (well, me really) were willing to pay for only 60-ish innings of a top relief pitcher. I get the feeling the other guys would have offered more, but I wouldn't let them because I'm a jerk. On the other hand, perhaps I was validated when the Sim Reds' GM countered with Frazier and Chapman both for Bregman and Reed, which none of us really wanted to do (especially once we realized that Frazier's production is pretty darn close to Evan Gattis' and that Frazier's contract is up after 2016 or maybe 2017).
So here are the moves we did end up making:
- Declined the option on Chad Qualls
- Non-tendered Sam Deduno
- Acquired Arquimedes Caminero, Mitch Keller, Yeudy Garcia, and Harold Ramirez from Pittsburgh for Jon Singleton and Jon Kemmer
- Acquired Felix Jorge from Minnesota for Pat Neshek
- Acquired Charlie Furbush from Seattle for Tony Kemp
- Signed Tony Sipp to a 3 year $18 million deal with an $8 million mutual option
- Recommended Budget: $95 million
- Final Payroll: $92.9 million
From all the emails, it sure feels like we made more moves than this. But I'm happy that we stuck to our guns. The Singleton deal was particularly hard fought. The Pirates' GM was very involved and pushed counter offer after counter offer. We made the internal decision to stick to our asking price, citing Singleton's MLB experience, youth, and team-friendly contract. Eventually, Kemmer and Garcia were late add-in's to make the deal more palatable to the Pirates. Since Kemmer is buried in the Astros' farm depth chart, we liked that decision. In the end, we received Caminero and some very good prospects. See Jason's Day 2 recap for details on this trade.
The Neshek trade was requested of us by the Sim Twins actually. And with the bad taste of Neshek's end-of-season meltdown in our mouths, and his contract on the books, it was pretty easy to come to an agreement. Jorge is an excellent starter with a spiffy MiLB career ERA well under 3.00 and a tendency to limit walks. We counted ourselves fortunate and used the excess budget room to re-sign Tony Sipp to a pretty fair contract. What's not shown is that the contract escalates from $4M in 2016 to $7M in 2017-18. That left us a little bit of budget room, though we ended up not using it.
The Furbush trade was my brainchild, and was a late move. The Mariners expressed interest in Kemp, and I said we required a controlled major league reliever at least for him, or a similar prospect at a different position. Sim Seattle suggested Furbush, who has 3 years of team control left and an amazing career split of 2.08 FIP against left-handed batters with a line of .199/.269/.269 against. We really like having two shutdown lefties in the pen, and I think A.J. Hinch will also.
Our 25-man roster stands thus:
C: Jason Castro, Hank Conger
1B: Chris Carter (Tyler White and A.J. Reed will compete in Spring Training for the first early-season call-up if carter struggles)
2B: Jose Altuve
3B: Luis Valbuena / Jed Lowrie platoon (Lowrie has a career platoon split of .282/.347/.439, 116 wRC+ against left-handed batters and Valbuena's 2015 split against right-handers was .247/.327/.481, 121 wRC+. We liked that platoon better than any single player who was available to us at 3B, and Colin Moran has the opportunity to play his way into the position by mid-season if either guy struggles)
SS: Carlos Correa (nobody bothered to ask us if he was available in trade)
RF: George Springer (ditto)
CF: Carlos Gomez (surprisingly, ditto)
LF: Colby Rasmus, with Preston Tucker getting a large number of PA's against right-handed pitchers
DH: Evan Gattis (again, with some Preston Tucker in there)
BN: Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick
SP: Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers, Scott Feldman (pretty dang happy with leaving well enough alone here)
We had to constantly remind each other that the Astros made the American League Division series last season, and with expected full-ish season contributions in 2016 from Springer, Correa, Gomez, Fiers, and Lowrie that the Astros didn't have in 2015, there wasn't a need for a major roster overhaul. instead, we focused on what was the biggest area of need during the 2015 playoffs -- addressing obvious needs in the bullpen. We ended up replacing Qualls and Neshek with Caminero and Furbush, and we consider that to be a solid improvement.
We could have spent more time looking at the 40-man and Rule 5 eligible players and focused on moving some of them in deals to alleviate that logjam, but since neither of those things were under the stated charter of the simulation, we decided to ignore it and just focus on the ML team.
I know a lot of y'all would have gone all fantasy baseball, manufacturing trades for Freddie Freeman or accepting that deal for Frazier and Chapman. That would have been a valid way to approach the simulation, and it would have been fun. We chose to do it this way and are happy with the results. I look forward to comments and critiques!