Thankfully, I don't need to break down this exercise for most of you loyal readers. In case you missed it all, Retro had the stroke of genius to oversee an SBNation-wide off-season simulation in which (ideally) a writer from each of the team-specific blogs in the network took the reins of the team as its roster stood at the close of the regular season. Motivated by guilt stemming from my figurative hibernation, I volunteered to take the reins of the Royals.
While this was certainly a time-consuming undertaking, it was a lot of fun. If I hadn't had been randomly scheduled for back-to-back days off--something that had not happened (not counting taking actual vacation) in at least eight months--right in the middle of the sim, I don't know what I'd have done because, unlike many of you, I don't have much free time on the internet at work. Hell, there are days where I don't even look at a computer screen.
Getting back on track, my undertaking was a familiar one, as I've fantasized about it many, many times. For one week, I ran the Royals, or rather the Shadow Royals, as I would see fit. In a week, I remade the Royals in my vision.
We all know where the Royals' 25-man roster stood at the end of the season. Once I offered arbitration to Felipe Paulino, bought out Soria's team-option, and left the other arb-eligible flotsam out at sea, I had a point from which to start. Since I already put it in my original post tracking my transactions, making it very easy to copy-and-paste it, I'll throw the projected 25-man roster after taking care of arbitration offers up here:
|Eric Hosmer||First Base||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3||Arb-4||FA|
|Johnny Giavotella||Second Base||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3|
|Mike Moustakas||Third Base||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3|
|Irving Falu||Utility Infield||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3|
|Alex Gordon||Left Field||$9.0||$10.0||$12.5||$12.5***||FA|
|Lorenzo Cain||Center Field||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3|
|Jeff Francoeur||Right Field||$6.75||FA|
|Noel Arguelles||does not exist||$1.38|
****Club Option with $1.0M buyout
Starting here and imbued with the Best Farm System Ever™, I went to work. For the sake of transparency and to give you an idea of what transpired behind the scenes, I'm going to go into great detail about the machinations in assembling the 2013 Shadow Royals. This is going to get very long. If you don't want to read all of this, skip down to the Self-Indulgent Analysis, Explanation, and Reflection section
Before the sim had even started and before I'd even officially tendered and non-tendered the internal players, BeauJackson, acting as the Brewers GM, offered Rickie Weeks for anyone in the bullpen not named Holland or Herrera; in three brief emails totaling 21 words, we had worked out a deal sending Aaron Crow to Sausage City.
Looking back at my email history, the Blue Jays' GM put out feelers for Eric Hosmer, but they didn't seem like a good fit, as I was wanting an very good ML-ready starter with plenty of club control back. Shortly thereafter the Rays came a-tire-kickin' on the young hitter front. I offered Hosmer for Matt Moore, which was not to their liking and they came back saying that for Moore they would need Myers plus prospects and kindly advised that all of their other pitchers could be had for more reasonable prices. I then tried to push the issue further, offering Hosmer plus Jorge Bonifacio/Orlando Calixte/Cheslor Cuthbert and Sam Selman/Kyle Smith/Jason Adam for Moore. They much more clearly reiterated that for Moore, it would take Myers plus a prospect ranked higher than any of the proferred guys (understandably), but said that for Hosmer plus another player they would consider dealing Hellickson. As I am not even remotely a Hellickson fan, I threw one last offer out there of Hosmer and Odorizzi for Moore, but that's essentially where trade talks ended with Tampa.
I followed those forays into trade talks about enticing young stars by wading into the murky depths of attempting to dump off Jeff Francoeur. The first thought that came to my mind when Retro pitched the idea of the Sim was that I should try to dump off Francoeur on Anaheim's front step in exchange for the services of Dan Haren. Despite the fact that it made perfect sense in my head and the cost of Haren's contract could be offset in part by the departure of Francoeur, they had no interest in taking on Francoeur since they already had Vernon Wells sucking up tens of millions of dollars to play terrible baseball. At roughly the same time, I tried to pawn off Luke Hochevar on the Pale Hoes for Kevin Vance, a right-handed pitcher in high-A ball who had a strong K/BB in his time as a reliever. Despite the obvious fact that Don Cooper would turn Hochevar into a full-fledged #3 starter, they passed. I then tried to get Boston's GM (who had sent out a mass email which ended with offer to eat toxic contracts for the right incentive) to bite on a Francoeur Salary Dump, which sounds just as gross as it actually is, and I dangled Mike Montgomery along with him. They didn't respond. I don't blame them.
As those talks were going on, Oakland was testing the waters on the Myers front. First volley: Dan Straily and Jemile Weeks for Myers. I stated that I was disinclined to trade Myers in the first place, but that no one was off-limits. Second volley: Straily/A.J. Griffin plus Grant Green or Michael Taylor (thrown out as examples when asking who I'd want from their system). I responded by telling Oakland that I'd need the equivalent of what Michael Pineda was coming out of the 2011 season and positing that I'd probably need Cespedes in return and that they'd either need to eat some of his salary or take on Francoeur. I closed the email by stating that I could get Matt Moore back for Myers plus a B prospect (a very slight stretch) just to give them an idea of what Myers was worth. They attempted to label Moore as league average and lacking ace ability and then started making excuses for why Straily wasn't all that great last season but that he'd be better than Moore. He said a bunch of stuff in a really long email that I'll refrain from getting into, but he penciled in Straily as the #1 in the rotation, threw in Sonny Gray, and offered to even sweeten the pot with Ryan Cook. I'm relatively pragmatic insofar as what Myers is likely to become, but this offer was nowhere near what it was going to take to fetch a Top Five Prospect in all of baseball. I kindly pointed to Moore's superiority to Straily at every level of the minors while being 18 months younger and broke off talks. I don't begrudge cuppingmaster for trying to hard-sell his package, but he certainly wasn't shopping anything I was buying.
The Reds inquired about Alex Gordon, offering Homer Bailey and Tony Cingrani. I politely said that it didn't seem like enough and left it at that. Cingrani did have an impressive 2012, but I'm not a Bailey fan, and Bailey ended up getting dealt soon thereafter.
My second actual move by shipping Mike Moustakas and Tim Collins off to Arizona and getting Trevor Bauer and Chris Johnson back in return. I came out with the offer. Arizona GM John Baragona thought on the deal for a while and finally agreed. While I was working out the Moustakas deal, Philly had come a-courtin' looking to get Gordon with the idea to move him back to third. They were offering up a package centered upon Vance Worley, who I'm not wild about to start with, and I told them Gordon was probably off the table, but that Moustakas could conceivably be had at the right price. They wanted a crack at Moustakas, who I had packaged in that offer hanging in limbo for Bauer, but Bauer was in my eyes the big get for the future of the Shadow Royals.
I tried to get in on Edwin Jackson, but he was off the table before I'd gotten an offer for a four-year deal out there. I was also attempting to work out a deal with Carlos Villanueva, but I wouldn't go above a two-year deal totaling $6.0MM and performance bonuses at 100 and 150 innings pitched in each season that could have reached $4.0MM assuming he made the rotation.
Next, I worked out my first of two deals with the Houston Astros, who were co-General Managed by RR's own KCTiger and Crawfish Boxes' CRPerry13. Before CRPerry13 got mixed up in it all, I had the 'Stros thinking on a Cuthbert and Montgomery package with an interest expressed for Lamb, but Perry joined in on things and felt the organization didn't need another prospect at third. Colon entered the conversation, and then they offered a deal consisting of Lamb, Montgomery, Ventura, and Elier Hernandez for Norris while picking up Norris's salary due in arbitration for the 2013 season. That offer was prefaced by the fact that another quality offer had come in from a third party, but they wanted to give me a shot to counter. I overplayed my affection for Ventura a bit--for the record, I do actually like him--and said that if they'd take on Jeff Francoeur and all of the money he was due in 2013 that I would take Norris without further salary relief but still freeing up $3.85MM in 2013.
Having already been involved in talks to bring Ryan Dempster's talents to Kauffman Stadium, negotiations heated up. I kicked off with an offer of three years for $39.0MM and a daily box of Wheat Thins complimented by whichever cheese his heart desired. I got a counter from Dempster's agent asking if I could go three years and $42.0MM, which I countered back with three years, $39.0MM, and a $1.0MM bonus if he exceeded 180 innings pitched. That wasn't enough, per his agent, to which I offered to lower the bonus trigger to 150 innings. I then tried to up the bonus in subsequent years by $500K each successive year. Retro, er, Dempster's agent responded by telling me that three years and $48.0MM would bring him to Kansas City, at which point I countered with the offer he'd ultimately accept: three years, $42.0MM and a $2.0MM performance bonus in each season that he eclipsed 150 innings pitched. He'll also never have to wait in line at either Arthur Bryant's or Okie Joe's.
While the Dempster signing was happening, I attempted to nab Tom Gorzelanny, starting things off with a one-year, $3.0MM offer with a $3.0MM mutual option for 2014. That turned into a two-year offer for $6.0MM with a $500K bonus if he hit 100 IP in both seasons. That deal was actually agreed to, but apparently Gorzelanny's agent had also agreed to a lesser deal with Milwaukee at the same time that he agreed to a better deal in Kansas City. I've been assured that Gorzelanny's agent was fired. I was also feeling out what BeauJackson might want in return for Marco Estrada or Yovani Gallardo after snoozing for just a bit too long before offering something for Mike Fiers, but I signed Dempster, leaving little room in my payroll for such luxuries as Gallardo. I briefly entertained the notion of trading for Carlos Gomez as well, as Atlanta was trying to push off Jonny Venters for a center fielder after initially inquiring about a Wil Myers for a packing revolving around either Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, or Kris Medlen, but they wanted Lorenzo Cain, and I just didn't feel like Venters was enough to have me back to relying on more expensive or lesser options to pry Cain from my grip.
BlueEyes_Austin shot me a direct email offering Jake Westbrook for Christian Colon. He quickly added that he could eat some of Westbrook's salary for an increase of the quality of prospects coming back. After stating that I could take on $2.0MM in salary, leaving St. Louis on the hook for $7.75MM of the guaranteed money Westbrook was due counting the buyout of his mutual option, BlueEyes pitched the Jorge Bonifacio and Mike Montgomery, who had been dealt to Houston since we had begun talks. I countered with Jason Adam and Christian Colon, which got the deal done.
Having weakened the bullpen with the Milwaukee and Arizona deals, I got in on Edward Mujica. My offer worked its way up from a one-year, $1.75MM offer to a one-year, $2.0MM offer with a $2.0MM mutual option for 2014 with a $500K buyout, but Mujica signed elsewhere. I also offered Bruce Chen for Wesley Wright after offering him to Houston for an organizational catcher on the message board. I'd forgotten that they had signed Marcum, committing roughly one-third of their available budget to him, and wasn't really thinking when I offered it after starting from a point of salary dump negotiations. They wouldn't be able to afford to take on Chen anyway, at least not without my eating a lot of his salary. I still had moves to make, but we'll come back to Wright.
I finally got cheap bullpen help in the form of Blake Wood, who I certainly didn't want at a higher arbitration salary but would gladly take on at the price tag of $507K.
nwroyal worked on getting me to welcome Franklin Gutierrez to Kansas City while Seattle still paid him a sizable chunk of his salary, but I ultimately felt like I'd be acquiring him in the hopes of flipping him to Atlanta. Which was probably more headache than it was worth. He came back saying he'd eat all of Gutierrez's salary for Miguel Almonte or Cheslor Cuthbert, which I probably should have done, but again, headache, and I'm not sure I would have traded Cuthbert (the one I valued the least of the two prospects) straight up for Venters if Atlanta was willing to trade a free Gutierrez for Venters.
My opening bid on Marc Rzepczynski was $550K, which was countered with a one-year, $1.0MM offer. I pushed a card with "one-year, $763K" written on it, and Rzepczynski looked Retro in the eyes, nodded, and cut his hand open with a letter opener to form a blood pact with me. I had to oblige by opening my own hand up with the pop-top off a can of Penn tennis balls.
As things were nearing their end, I started throwing out low-ball incentive based deals and minor league offer to give the organization ML-ready depth at potential positions of weakness. I low-balled Grady Sizemore. I offered a horrible deal to J.P. Howell in the hopes that no one else had offered him anything. I offered a minor-league deal to Mitch Maier, which he accepted. I offered a minor-league deal to Brandon Inge with a player opt-out clause if he wasn't on the 25-man roster by June 1st, which he accepted. I offered a minor-league deal to Jesus Flores, which he accepted. I did the same for Kyle McClellan, who should have started throwing already as he recovers from shoulder surgery. I offered one year and $2.0MM to Rafael Soriano and one year and $1.0MM to Raul Ibanez, both of whom were still out there as everything was winding down (because why the hell not?), but they both signed roughly two minutes after I put in the offers.
Quite literally at the last moment, Houston's crack GM team and I worked out a deal that sent J.C. Sulbaran and Robinson Yambati to Space City for Wesley Wright, who is due $900K via arbitration in 2013 as a Super-Two. That brought the whirlwind week to a close.
That right there put this column at 2,842 words, and I've only just begun. Oh, and somewhere in there, I announced to the public that Edgar Yost was out as Manager, and that Brian Bannister would be taking his place.
Self-Indulgent Analysis, Explanation, and Reflection
If one thing was made abundantly clear through all of these moves, it was this: I have no qualms dealing prospects. I dealt, in chronological order: Yordano Ventura, John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, Elier Hernandez, Jason Adam, Christian Colon, J.C. Sulbaran, and Robinson Yambati. With the exceptions of Yordano Ventura and John Lamb, I do not believe in any of those prospects, and I still have fairly significant reservations about Ventura and Lamb.
Ventura is 5'11" and rail thin. He's a max-effort guy. Yes, the velocity is enticing, but he's thrown less than 30 innings above the pitcher-friendly havens that comprise the lower levels of the Royals minor league system. In those 29.1 innings as a 21-year-old in Northwest Arkansas, his K/9 dropped to 7.7, and his BB/9 jumped up to 4.0, dropping his K/BB to 1.92. I'm not saying Ventura won't make it, and I'm certainly not going to say that those 29.1 innings are especially meaningful. The results from those innings are certainly a data point, though. It's a strikingly similar data point to those of roughly every Royals prospect that has come through the organization under Dayton Moore. For all of the talk of massive upside, Ventura came in ranked 35th amongst pitchers in John Sickels's preliminary top 50 pitching prospects for 2013. He's a nice prospect, and you can disagree on the value of what he returned, but let's not get in a tizzy over a borderline top 75 prospect.
John Lamb? Well, he hasn't done much above high-A Wilmington, and he hasn't done anything substantive in roughly two years. He could still become the #2 pitcher that many scouts thought he could be, but that was a UCL tear ago, and he has thrown 13 innings since May of 2011. His ERA in AA over 68.0 IP? 4.24. Granted, he was the second- or third-youngest player at the level for the first half of those innings pitched, but his K/9 dropped 4.4 when he made the jump from high-A to Double-A.
The others? Montgomery is a dumpster fire. At 17, Hernandez triple-slashed .208/.256/.280 in the Pioneer League. Adam has never delivered the results to which early scouting reports set our collective sights. Christian Colon is Christian Colon. Sulbaran has a 4.74 ERA and 1.78 K/BB in 130.2 IP in Double-A. He's a live arm, but he's averaged 4.6 BB/9 in four minor league seasons. Yambati's star has dimmed significantly since impressing in the Arizona Rookie League in 2010. He's been transitioned to the bullpen almost entirely. He pitched better in both levels of A-ball in 2012, but he made four starts last year.
I've gotten four paragraphs into my Self-Indulgent Analysis, Explanations, and Reflections, and I have yet to mention Mike Moustakas. Of the big three hitting prospects in the franchise's recent history, Moustakas is the one I believed in the least. More importantly, his 2012 fWAR felt like it was significantly inflated by his defensive value, something I am skeptical about him being able to maintaining. Furthermore, his inability to get on base consistently will likely continue to cut into his potential value to the team. I was able to replace him with Chris Johnson who has been worth right around 1.5 fWAR in two of the past three seasons.
It was also clear that I viewed the bullpen as something I could tear down and rebuild on the cheap. Aaron Crow and Tim Collins were fungible. I restocked the bullpen with a little bit of work but ultimately at little cost.
For the fungible commodity that was Aaron Crow, I got back Rickie Weeks. I was of the belief that he is poised for a big bounce-back before he was ever offered to me in a trade. This article at FanGraphs reinforces that inkling. Though the addition of his salary would have gotten in the way of adding Dempster had I not been able to unload Francoeur given the $75.0MM theoretical payroll with which I was working, it was worth the risk. Even in a year in which his production was putrid (though seemingly tied to an incredibly and unsustainably low BABIP), he was worth 1.6 fWAR. A 3.5+ fWAR season would be entirely within the realm of possibility. More importantly, the upper end of what Weeks is capable of is 6.0+ fWAR. Is that a likely outcome? Probably not, but it has happened and could again.
In overhauling the rotation, Dempster is a strong bet for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.0 fWAR. Westbrook could very likely give the Shadow Royals 2.0 fWAR. Bud Norris should produce at least 1.5 fWAR. That's a rough estimate of 6.5 fWAR in the acquisitions this faux off-season, and that doesn't include the belle of the ball, Trevor Bauer. When one contemplates the possibilities of the pitching rotation over the course of the season, once factoring in the call-ups of Bauer and Odorizzi--who would both get called up in mid-to-late May once free agency is delayed by a full year--and the returns of Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy from Tommy John surgery, it isn't out of question to expect more than 10 fWAR from the rotation. Actually, that could easily happen without any of those four guys contributing. In 2011, the combined fWAR of Royals pitchers who made starts was 7.1. I would feel fairly confident predicting at least a gain of 3.0 fWAR produced by Shadow Royals starting pitchers in 2013 to from their predecessors in 2012.
When looking at the bullpen, I doubt there will be a substantive difference, positive or otherwise between last year's pen and the 2013 Shadow Royals' pen.
Offensively, the differences between Weeks and Getz, Johnson and Moustakas, and Francoeur and ~170 days of Wil Myers could very reasonably be thought to be at least another 3.0 fWAR.
Between the probable net gains in fWAR from the roster changes made, the hope that Eric Hosmer is at least replacement value, and the chance that Salvador Perez is healthy for a whole season, a quick and dirty estimation (I'm approaching 4,000 word here; I can't be bothered to actually do real number crunching for a fake team now, can I?) of 10 fWAR difference from last year's roster to this year's is certainly feasible. The cost? A three-year deal worth up to $16.0MM a year if Dempster reaches 150 IP, a bunch of prospects that I had deemed unlikely to pan out, Mike Moustakas, and two relief pitchers who were neither the set-up men or the closer. Oh, and I got rid of Jeff Francoeur.
The Shadow Royals 25-man roster looks like this:
|Eric Hosmer||First Base||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3||Arb-4||FA|
|Rickie Weeks||Second Base||$10.0||11.0||11.5**||FA|
|Chris Johnson||Third Base||$2.2||Arb-2||Arb-3||Arb-4||FA|
|Irving Falu||Utility Infield||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3||FA|
|Tony Abreu||Utility Infield||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3||FA|
|Alex Gordon||Left Field||$9.0||$10.0||$12.5||$12.5****||FA|
|Lorenzo Cain||Center Field||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3||FA|
|Jarrod Dyson||Right Field||$0.5||Arb-1||Arb-2||Arb-3||FA|
|Noel Arguelles||does not exist||$1.38|
^^Could drop up to $23MM if Weeks misses significant time in 2013 or 2014 and Butler's final year is bought out
That 25-man roster does not include Wil Myers, Trevor Bauer, or Jake Odorizzi, all of whom will be up with the Shadow Royals by the beginning of June at the latest. Payroll was at $69.1MM counting Soria's buyout, Arguelles's worthless Major League contract, and the money committed to Duffy and Paulino, who will start the season on the 60-day DL as they recover from Tommy John surgery. In addition to the prospects who will not start the season on the 25-man roster, Major League veterans Jesus Flores, Brandon Inge, Kyle McClellan, and Mitch Maier are with the club on minor league deals.
For all of the talk of prospects lost in the message board, let's look at what's left of the Best Farm System Ever™. For the sake of keeping it in the SBNation family, we'll use John Sickels's preliminary top 20 list as a starting point:
- Wil Myers
- Trevor Bauer (he is Sickels's sixth-ranked pitcher overall)
- Kyle Zimmer
- Bubba Starling
- Jake Odorizzi
- Kyle Smith
- Adalberto Mondesi
- Sam Selman
- Orlando Calixte
- Cheslor Cuthbert
- Jorge Bonifacio
- Cameron Gallagher
- Bryan Brickhouse
- Patrick Leonard
- Miguel Almonte
- Alexis Rivera
- Donnie Joseph
- Colin Rodgers
- Justin Marks
- Edwin Carl