Annual SB Nation Simulation - Astros Recap

An annual tradition over at Royals Review is to organize and coordinate 30 fans to be the GM of every MLB team. Under semi-real world conditions, we simulate baseball's off-season in 2 days. We use the real list of free agents, real salaries, real organizational approaches and real negotiation skills. It is crazy fast paced and decisions usually have to be made in minutes, not hours, days or weeks like the real GMs.

Over the course of a couple of days, my "job" was to engage the 29 other fan-GMs via email/slack about potential trades, engage with super-agent Max on all free agents and build the best 26-man roster possible.

Here are the ground rules:

  • We rewind to the end of the regular season. The assumption is your GM has resigned and been replaced. The new GM is free to set their own organizational philosophy.
  • We ditched the "budgets" this year in favor of "notes from the owners", a few guidelines from ownership that we'll reveal when the simulation is over.
  • We're not concerned with the 40 man roster.
  • Players with no-trade clauses cannot be traded (this includes players with 10-5 rights). Players with limited no-trade clauses can be traded.
  • Minor leaguers can be traded, but must be specified. No Players to be Named Later. Cash may be dealt, but the amount must be specified.
  • You are free to frontload or backload contracts, although player preferences are for contracts not to be backloaded. Anything ridiculous will not be accepted. You can offer player, club, mutual, and vesting options.
  • Top offer will typically be taken, although there may be exceptions if a player has a preference on where he wants to play (big market over small market; older vet may want to play for a "winner.")
  • There is no negotiation of contract extension or signing long term deals for non-free agents.

Below are links to the whole simulation if you want to dig into who went where and for how much or which players were traded for which prospects. These simulations will get out of hand, after all, it's someone else's fake money and these are the lives of people we don't really know. Take a look, you will be shocked my more than a few things.

Royals Review Thread

Official Transaction

House keeping

1) Exercise option on Brooks Raley

2) Non-tender Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski, Dustin Garnaeu

3) Qualifying offer for Springer

I struggled with extending a QO to Brantley. In fact, I actually made the decision to extend. I figured that 19m for 1 year would be worth it if he accepted, I would negotiate a longer term deal and if he went elsewhere, we got a pick and I tried everything. Then the Sim started and new broke that he was not extended an QO, so I pulled it back to remain consistent.


1) Add 1 maybe 2 SP

2) Find a closer or someone who can compete with Pressley for that job

3) Replace Springer (because there was not way to match what was going to happen here)

4) Find a Catcher, either a starter or a back up

5) Stay under budget - 214m was the recommended number. I wanted to be at 180-190m


This off season is going to be different. Its is my opinion that all owners are going to want to reduce cost as much as they can. Meaning selling off bigger contracts. I also believe that prospect value is going to be at an all time high, owners are going to be more likely keep cheap controllable players than to trade them to improve the MLB on field product. None of this is shocking and has been speculated about at great lengths. This makes me believe that the market inefficiency this year is going to be cash. Dollars will stretch longer than have in recent years. Additionally, when fans come back to stadiums across the country, owners better be fielding an interesting team to keep fans coming back.

The Moves

1) Acquired Corey Knebel from Milwaukee for Jordan Brewer and Joe Smith

Joe Smith was part of this deal to offset the cost. While a reliable option, he is old and not a high leverage relief pitcher. Jordan Brewer is a damn good prospect, but he's still got some work to do. Knebel, used to be a lights out closer before injury and yips got ahold of him. Hopefully Strom does his magic and fixes him. I believe he has a chance to still be the closer that made him an All-Star. If he falls short of that, as long as he is healthy, he could be a solid piece in the pen.

2) Astros sign James McCann for 4 years and 30m

Really didn't expect to be a major player in the catching market. I threw out a 4 year lower AAV offer right away. The thinking was, if I could offer more years than others maybe I can get him before Realmutto signed and I wouldn't have to negotiate with anyone. Super-Agent Max agreed to terms really early. At 7.5 AAV, I believe we can pull excess value out of him and it solves what feels a little like a revolving door at catcher. It was later revealed to me another team was willing to go more for McCann but he signed before JTR.

3) Astros sign Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith, Chris Devenski to minor league deals.

I threw out a lot of minor league options early to see what would stick. These 3 happened pretty quickly. Now I have a long shot high upside CF in Smith, but he is basically Myles Straw. I also picked up some depth at catcher that made Maldonado more expendable to reduce salary, 3.5 for a backup catcher was too much in my opinion. The last ride with Devenski, at least it doesn't cost.

4) Astros Trade Luis Garcia to San Fran for Johnny Cueto and 19m total (14 in 21, 5 in 22)

Luis Garcia is a fine prospect and I was impressed with everything he gave us this year. But I think he is a bullpen piece in the future. San Francisco was looking at cutting a contract or two to free up spending. In line with my expectation for the year to taking bad short contracts we engaged in negotiations that ended quickly. He wanted Garcia, I was fine with that and the money was the only issue. I asked for 16m which was countered with 13.5m in 2021 and 5m in 2022. I said 14 this year and 5 next. Done deal. I know this looks like a bad contract, but I have no intentions of picking up the 22m contract in 2022 which SFG are paying the buyout on. The actual deal is 1 year and 8m for Cueto. That's roughly 1 WAR, he still has that in the tank and makes a good 4/5 veteran starter.

5) Astros sign Michael Brantley for 3 years and 50m

I had to keep putting pressure on Max to get something done with Brantley quickly so that I could move on to other holes. My initial offer was 3/45. A couple of other bids came in and I went to 3/50 and it was accepted. Pretty cut and dry why I wanted him.

6) Non-tender Aledyms Diaz

I tried to trade him just about anyone for anything. I couldn't find any takers and I had a couple of ideas for an upgrade. He later signed with the Braves for 2.5m.

7) Astros trade Brooks Raley to Cleveland for Bradley Zimmer and Jose Tena

Brooks Raley was basically free money. The 2m option was easy to pick up, but he's an older and unproven relief pitcher. I could have gone either way on keeping him or trading him. After the Indians signed Spring for 6 years and 170m, I knew the has some OF surplus. (I was out pretty early on Springer; I made a 4/90 offer that was blown out of the water quickly.) I asked CLE about CF options on the cheap to replace Springer. I was looking at Zimmer and Oscar Mercado. Neither was really that appealing but the Indians were interested in Raley. I went for Zimmer (flipped later) and Jose Tena (org. #26). I watched tape and read some scouting reports for him and I see a lot of his uncle (Jose Uribe) in him.

8) Astros sign Robbie Ray for 2 years and 18m

In my opinion, Strom would turn Robbie Ray into the next Charlie Morton. The K rate is crazy but the control is an issue. Strom will teach him how to pitch instead of trying to blow everyone away. I was initially in the 3/35 range with him, but Max was dragging his feet and everyone else had 1 year offers. I dropped my offer to put pressure on and still waited for what felt like an eternity for him to agree.

9) Astros sign Hector Rondon and Aaron Sanchez to minor league deals.

Rondon is nothing more than organizational depth with an outside shot of making the team, never know he was good the last time we fixed him. I almost went with a major league deal for Sanchez but I couldn't find anything about his rehab. Somehow, he is still just 28 years old and could be a huge win on a no risk deal.

10) Astros trade Yuli Guriel, Zach Daniels and Jojanse Torres to San Diego for Wil Myers & 10m

For me the playoffs cemented the need to upgrade 1B. I'm not happy that he was signed to another contract and I spend also this whole sim trying to trade him. Seriously, I asked every team if they had interest and was met with a resounding "what else do you want to give." Nobody wanted him for anything of value. That said, I had to package him as a salary dump and get no value. Yes, Torres had stupid number in A ball, but he was also 25 years old. Seemed like a sell high option. Zach Daniels may have turned a corner in college but with covid getting in the way, there was not proof. I like him and think there is something long term. The contract for Myers has always been viewed as bad but with the Padres kicking in 10m it doesn't look that bad. Really it is 2 years and 30m with a club option for a 30 year old. He very well could have turned the corner this year and it looks like he is on the right track. I think playing 1B will be good for his constancy too.

11) Astros sign Kiki Hernandez for 2 years and 10m

The plan here was to replace Diaz with someone how can play IF and OF. In the event that I couldn't find a better option that Straw and Zimmer, Kiki was going to be the CF'er. A lot of interest in 1 year deals for him forced my hand to go a 2nd year. His top 1 year deal was for 7m, so I feel pretty good about this. The roster flexibility he creates is reminiscent of Marwin (whom I offered a minor league deal but was passed on)

12) Astros trade Bradley Zimmer, Martin Maldonado and Framber Valdez to Colorado for David Dahl, Ben Bowden and Aaron Schunk

I know...I know. I over paid, but hear me out first. Zimmer was really no anything that I was impressed with. He has prospect pedigree but nothing really has showed up yet. I tried to trade Maldonado all sim as well, same as Yuli, it was a pure salary dump. Ben Bowden, their #11 prospect, has the potential to be a late inning lefty reliever that throws gas. Bowden was not my first choice for the 3rd piece of this deal, I wanted Sam Hilliard instead. We settled on Bowden. Schunk was a requirement for me in this deal, he is our 3B after Correa leaves and Bregman slides over. David Dahl, with the huge caveat of health, has the chance to replace Springer pretty well. His defense is not as good, but its not an embarrassment. If he can put it together, he is an All-Star CF on the cheap. Health and getting out of CO are concerns but the tools are there. Save the yelling in the comment section, I beat myself up enough for not getting enough for Framber. I do however see him as a #3 starter, same as Javier and Urquidy which made him eventually redundant and value that could be deployed elsewhere, which is what I did. This is probably my biggest regret this year. But I am excited about Dahl.

13) Astros sign Edwin Encarnacion, Sandy Leon, Dee Gordon and Josh Reddick to minor league deals

Reddick is insurance and for as bad as he was last year, we still love the guy. Got to give him another shot. Sandy Leon is a defense first catcher option that could come in handy. Dee Gordon, while a mess lately has had success in the not to distant past. Guys with his skill set usually don't age well and I think that is what happened here. Edwin has a history of mashing and he is good insurance in the even Yordon isn't ready to go.


All in all, I was able to build what I see as a very good team with a very good chance of wining the World Series. The rotation has some concern and bull pen has uncertainty, but look at that lineup! I had conversations about trading Correa the end, but it was a HUGE ask. I was in on Garrett Richards, Paxton, Yates, Hendrix, Shane Green and a lot of minor lead offers, I engaged the O's on Mountcastle, the Ray for Kiermeir, Chad Kuhl from the Pirates. Many conversations about many different things to varying degrees of realism.



40 Man


Zack Greinke

James McCann

Cy Sneed

Justin Verlander

Lance McCullers

Wilson Ramos

Cristian Javier

Josh James

Robbie Ray

Brandon Bailey

Jose Urquidy


Cionel Pérez

Johnny Cueto

Humberto Castellanos

Wil Myers

Brandon Bielak

Jose Altuve

Garrett Stubbs

Minor league contract

Carlos Correa

Chas McCormick


Alex Bregman

Jack Mayfield

Sandy Leon

Kiki Hernandez

Taylor Jones

Edwin Encarnacion

Corey Knebel

Abraham Toro

Josh Reddick

Ryan Pressly

Rule 5 Protection

Dee Gordon

Eloi Parades


Extra space

Mallex Smith

Ben Bowden

Kyle Tucker


Chris Devenski

Blake Taylor

David Dahl


Andre Scrubb

Michael Brantley


Aaron Sanchez

Yordon Alvarez


Hector Rondon

Myles Straw

The Roster