For the second year in a row, RoyalsRetro decided to oversee an exercise of epic proportions (the Simulation took place here and here), running a simulation of the baseball offseason in one insane week, handing over the reigns of each team to a writer--or in some cases, writers--from each of the team specific blogs. The two exceptions to these assignments were the Pirates, who were run by longtime Royals Review regular, nwroyal, and the Cardinals (apparently the Best Fans in Baseball can't be bothered to act as the General Manager of their team in what should be every fan's fantasy, running the team for whom they root), who were run by Scott McKinney. Both nwroyal and McKinney ran teams last year, so this was not their first rodeo.
Speaking of second rodeos, for the second year in a row, I ran the Royals, who as Royals Review regulars are surely aware I have dubbed the Shadow Royals, usually with the possessive form of OMD--shorthand for my Twitter handle and (former SBN moniker for the uninitiated), Old Man Duggan--slapped in front of the name. During the past season, I wrote up monthly recaps, which I won't bother linking, and an end of year wrap-up, which can be read here should you feel so compelled. Cliff's Notes version: The Shadow Royals were incrementally better than Dayton Moore's Royals with a payroll $12.8MM less than the actual Royals' payroll while being set-up better for the future, having not shipped the likely American League Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers, off for Wade Davis and Elliott Johnson. (Jake Odorizzi, Patrick Leonard, and Mike Montgomery were traded for Shields, right?)
But I digress; much like last year, this year's team had quite a few issues to address and very little money with which to address them. Once again, I operated in good faith on a budget that was widely reported as staying the same, and just as I did last year, I stayed under the rumored payroll limit despite the fact that I fully expect the Royals to spend at least $95MM on payroll this year with the influx of $25MM of new money from the two new national TV deals that kick in for the 2014 season.
So starting at the last day of the season, with the Royals roster as it stood on that day, I set forth at reshaping the Royals roster in my vision with a budget of $85MM to work with. At the end of the season, the Royals roster looked like this:
For the arbitration figures, they were based upon MLBTR's arbitration estimates, so for the sake of the exercise, the offering someone arbitration meant you were agreeing to the estimates. Here are the arbitration estimates (in millions) for each player who needed to be tendered/non-tendered:
If the end-of-year roster was carried over into the 2014, the according payroll would be $85.23MM. Yes, that's $230K over budget. Clearly, moves were going to have to be made, hearts broken, players culled from the rolls, and others shipped off in deals. Children were bound to be driven to bouts of weeping. When the children cry, let them know we tried.
I should note that in an attempt to appease the teary-eyed kiddos, the Shadow Royals talked Ned Yost into stepping down as Manager while being retained as a Special Advisor. His replacement for the second straight year was Brian Bannister, whose staff will be bolstered by the much-needed additions of Joe Randa as bench coach/bosstone/hype man, and Chris "Disco" Hayes as pitching coach/submarine instructor/team blogger, though the Matt Wieters restraining order means that he cannot be present when the Royals face the Orioles.
Internal Roster Decisions
Per the dictum of Overlord Retro, Qualifying Offers needed to be made to free agents and silent bids on the Masahiro Tanaka and Seung Kwan Oh postings needed to be submitted by Monday at Noon ET.
A Qualifying Offer was made to Ervin Santana and predictably turned down.
Posting bids were made to Tanaka--$6.0MM because if you're the Royals, you still make the bid--and Oh--$2.0MM, which much to my surprise ended up qualifying as one of the best three bids. I offered Oh a three-year deal for $3.0MM per year with a $4.5MM mutual option for 2017. He ended up taking Toronto's two-year offer at $4.0MM apiece.
Options needed to be exercised (or in Carroll's situation bought out) by Tuesday at Noon ET.
I wasted no time in deciding on the fates of James Shields and Jamey Carroll. Both choices required zero thought whatsoever.
James Shields? Welcome to the 2014 Shadow Royals.
Jamey Carroll? Here's your $250K. Hit the bricks.
That left me with just the arbitration eligible players to decide upon.
Brett Hayes, Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Getz, and Luis Mendoza? Best of luck to you in your future endeavors, but make tracks.
George Kottaras, Eric Hosmer, Justin Maxwell, Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, and Tim Collins? Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out.
Luke? Well, there's no goddamn way the Shadow Royals can afford devote 1/17th of its payroll to you. Other teams, however, do not have the same limitations, so a trade needed to take place before the Wednesday, 5:00 ET tender/non-tender deadline.
Regardless of what happened with Hochevar, the Royals were certainly not going to pay Hochevar in 2014, so after options, tenders, non-tenders, and buyouts, the Royals expected payroll sat at $74.98MM when filling the vacated roster spots with internal options at league-minimum.
This meant that the Royals had $10.2MM of available money to spend to address their issues, though any payroll added did bump someone at league-minimum back off the 25-man roster, so the impact of any move made was reduced by $500K when factoring payroll.
Without further ado, let's get down trades and free agent signings.
Even though the Shadow Royals had until Wednesday to make a decision on tendering Hochevar, I wasn't going to waste any time trying to find Luke a new home. We all know Hochevar reinvented himself in the bullpen in 2013, but it was no secret that he was probably going to be too expensive for the Royals, Shadow or otherwise, so I had very little in the way of leverage in the negotiation process.
The Phillies General Manager sent out an email to everyone alerting fellow GMs of their desire for relief pitching. With a working budget of $178MM, Philadelphia seemed like a good fit for Hochevar.
We kicked around a veritable shitload of theoretical offers, starting with Hochevar and Moustakas for Domonic Brown and Mark Leiter (my opening offer) which showed me very early that their valuation of Brown was radically different from my own. After realizing that they were viewing Moustakas [accurately] as not especially valuable--what a difference a year makes--it was clear that I'd have to pare down any offers to just dealing with Hochevar.
Initially, I offered Hochevar for Mark Leiter, Jr., son of Mark Leiter and nephew of Al Leiter. As a late-round 2013 draftee, Leiter would have had to have been a PTBNL, and as I thought more about it, I was probably being swayed a bit too much by his bloodlines and a very small statistical sample in the minors. I transitioned from Leiter to Carlos Tocci and then Yoel Mecias but was rebuffed on each one and justifiably so.
I then figured I'd go for a top 15 organizational prospect heading into the 2013 season who had a terrible season and asked about Austin Wright, to whom the Philly crew seemed amenable to trading along with Brody Colvin or Kyle Simon. Given a choice of any three of those guys, I still opted for Austin Wright. They then began to probe about a package built around Salvador Perez and Hochevar with them putting Jesse Biddle, Ben Revere/Scott Van Slyke/Darin Ruf, any catcher in their org, and Austin Wright. I told them frankly that a deal involving El Salvador wasn't likely to happen as they didn't have the pieces to get Perez, and finally we agreed to Wright for Hochevar in principle, but they had to clear some payroll.
While they were clearing payroll, they posted a comment in the thread stating that Domonic Brown might be available for young pitching, so I took that as my cue to try to throw Yordano Ventura's name into the negotiations, to which I was told that Arizona was throwing in two young pitchers in their proposal for Brown. They liked Ventura, but talks sort of stalled out for a bit. Then things got held up when Milwaukee's GM more or less demanded Wright in a package for Braun that happened and then un-happened as Braun was traded to Pittsburgh, the deal was vetoed by Overlord Retro, Braun was traded to Philadelphia, the original deal was unvetoed, and Braun was once again dealt to Pittsburgh. When Wright once again became available and Philadelphia had jettisoned the contract of Jonathan Papelbon, we finally agreed to the deal sending Luke Hochevar to Philadelphia for Austin Wright--a 6'3", 24-year-old, 220 lb., left-handed minor-league pitcher who spent 2013 getting shelled in AA-Reading--agreeing to return to the Domonic Brown talks later.
Just as Hochevar trade talks were nearing their end, the Angels came a-knockin', stating that they had an offer on the table for Howie Kendrick (this was on Sunday before the simulation officially started). They asked if I was interested in Kendrick saying they needed pitching. I played coy and said I was and asked what they wanted. They proffered the three following packages for Kendrick: Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow/Kelvin Herrera; for Yordano Ventura; for Kelvin Herrera, Donnie Joseph, Sean Manaea, and Sam Selman. I countered with Duffy and Davis for Kendrick, telling them I needed to offset Kendrick's salary with players going over in the deal and that all things being equal I thought Davis was the better reliever, adding that I'd throw Crow in for a legit prospect or could do the Duffy and Crow deal if they ate $1.5MM a year. They countered with a deal in which they got Duffy, Crow, Davis, and Michael Mariot as insurance. I said if I could get minor-league right-handed reliever Daniel Tillman (a prospect who I knew they couldn't possibly value highly but had also been a top 15 organizational prospect heading into the 2013 season) they could consider the deal done. A couple of emails later the Shadow Royals netted Howie Kendrick and Daniel Tillman for Danny Duffy, Wade Davis, Aaron Crow, and Michael Mariot. Kendrick is due $9.35MM in 2014 and $9.5MM in 2015. Coming off the rolls in 2014 would be the $4.8MM due Davis, $500K due Duffy, $1.9MM due Crow and in 2015 the increases in salary that Duffy and Crow would have seen in arbitration, meaning Kendrick's salary only adds a net $3.15MM to the Shadow Royals' payroll this season. After this move, the Royals payroll sat at $78.13MM.
The Royals followed the Howie Kendrick acquisition with a free agent signing. Given payroll constraints, the Royals were not going to be in the mix for any of the big name starting pitchers on the free agent market. Chris Capuano made sense for the Royals given his likely low price tag and decent upside. The Royals offered Chris Capuano a deal on Monday that broke down as follows: $5.0MM in 2014 with performance bonuses of $500K at 100, 150, and 200 IP and a $6.5MM option for 2015 that vests at 150 IP. I followed up the next day, asking if Chris had received our gift basket filled with Billy's Hit It a Ton Barbecue Sauce, $100 Walmart Gift Cards, and a PS4. He responded with the following statement: "I like that you mean business and I'm a big fan of Ned Yost since our days in Milwaukee. I'm in. Deal." I then informed him that Ned Yost is no longer managing, but that he'll be kept on as a special advisor, particularly as pertains to Keeping Chris Happy. Following the Capuano signing, 2014 payroll was $82.63MM.
Knowing that starting pitching depth was going to be a big issue for the Shadow Royals, I began implementing the tried-and-tested strategy of throwing shit at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. Largely to placate Loose Seal, the Shadow Royals offered Luis Mendoza a deal he'd eventually accept: a minor-league contract with a $700K guarantee if he's added to the 25-man roster with the promise that for any home start he makes for Kansas City there will be Mendoza's Majestic Mane wigs for sale with all the proceeds going to the charity of Luis's choosing. He chose Wigs for Kids.
In the same breath as the Mendoza offer, the Royals reached out to another recent Royals hurler, Bruce Chen. After assuring him that he'd be in the mix for the fifth starter's spot, the Shadow Royals signed the Sino-Panamanian Sensation to a one-year, $2.0MM deal. Payroll check: $84.13MM.
In an attempt to add a little infield depth, the Royals signed Luis Valbuena to a two-year deal paying him $1.2MM in 2014 and $1.6MM in 2015. Valbuena has a career .316 wOBA and 94 wRC+ against lefties (in an admittedly very small and largely meaningless statistical sample) but more importantly was worth 2.0 fWAR and 1.6 rWAR in 108 games in 2013. It's quite possible that he's redundant, but he can also play 2B in a pinch, so he's also Howie Kendrick insurance at a pittance. Shadow Royals' payroll at this juncture was running up against the cap at $84.83MM.
At this point, the Shadow Royals had Tim Collins, Will Smith, Donnie Joseph, Chris Dwyer, and possibly Bruce Chen as lefties in the pen. With a
dearth glut of southpaw relievers at the Shadow Royals disposal, it made sense to shop one. After attempting to get Zach Britton straight-up or throwing him in larger packages to no avail, the Royals traded Tim Collins to the Mariners for Hector Noesi. Noesi had one more year of club control (read: he isn't arbitration-eligible until 2015), so this cleared $500K in payroll, bringing the money committed to the 25-man roster at that point to a cool $84.33MM. Noesi is probably bad, but from 2006 to 2010 Noesi was impressive in the minors, walking fewer than two batters per nine at nearly every stop. For his minor-league career, he still sports a 4.37 K/BB. Again, he's probably terrible, but the Shadow Royals need starting pitching depth. Noesi is out of options but if it came to it, he seems like a prime candidate to clear waivers and accept an assignment. He could also move to the pen, and at the very least be long relief.
For days, I worked tirelessly attempting to get someone to take on Jeremy Guthrie's horrible contract. I offered to take on $6.0MM of his salary. I offered to throw a prospect into the deal in return for only a lesser prospect if they'd take on the entire salary. No one was having any part of it. Much of the problem was that there were very few teams who had the available payroll to take him on, leaving a relatively small market for baseball's answer to Imelda Marcos.
I finally worked my way around to the White Sox, who had a ton of available payroll and Jeff Keppinger for two more years fresh off a -1.5 fWAR/-2.0 rWAR 2013 campaign. Their GM countered with Adam Dunn and $4.0MM for Guthrie, but obviously I had nowhere for Dunn to play. I fired back an offer for just Kevin Vance in which I'd be giving up Sam Selman, Jeremy Guthrie, and $4.0MM in 2014 and $2.0MM in 2015. He countered with Jeremy Guthrie and Sam Selman for Jeff Keppinger and Kevin Vance, which I gladly accepted, clearing $7.0MM in 2014 and $4.5MM in 2015 from the Shadow Royals payroll. At this point, the Royals payroll was $77.33MM.
The Guthrie deal was especially important because I had worked out a deal previously with Shaun Marcum, but I needed to be sure that I could clear enough payroll to bring him on. My starting point with Marcum was a minor-league deal that became $1.5MM if added to the 25-man roster with $500K bonuses at 75, 100, and 140 IP with a $3.0MM bonus at 180 IP. The offer sat there for a while before I heard back that he'd been offered a Major League deal but would love to come home to K.C. In bidding against someone else, we eventually worked up to a one-year, $4.0MM deal with $500K performance bonuses that kicked in at 100 and 140 IP and a $2.5MM bonus at 180 IP and an $8.0MM club option for 2015 with a $2.0MM buyout. The Marcum family also gets a private luxury box for the duration of Shaun's time in a Royals uniform. After the Marcum signing, the Shadow Royals had a 2014 projected payroll of $80.83MM.
After a bit of wrangling, the Shadow Royals took a chance on Cuban defector Dalier Hinojosa, signing the 27-year-old righty to a minor-league deal with a $4.25MM signing bonus. The signing bonus is applied to 2014's payroll. Per Ben Badler at Baseball America, Hinojosa, who reportedly stands roughly 6'0" and 200 lbs., should be ready to head to the high minors, though some scouts think he may end up a reliever. His repertoire features a fastball that sits 88 - 92, though there have been reports that it's been touching mid-90s--albeit inconsistently--since defecting, along with a splitter/changeup and a slurvy breaking ball that he throws with variable speed and shape. The money to Hinojosa is exempt from counting against the Royals allotted international amateur bonus spending pool. The Royals payroll for 2014 at this point was $85.08MM.
In another effort at stockpiling middling pitching in the hopes of catching a break or two, the Royals signed Kevin Slowey to a minor-league deal with a $900K guarantee if he's added to the 25-man roster with $1.0MM performance bonuses at 100, 150, and 200 IP. Glass approved the disaster insurance bonuses. Since 2009, Slowey has only had one season in which any of the bonuses would have been triggered.
And now we get to the biggest risk I took this time around.
In the ungodly hours of the ante meridiem, I noticed an email that had gotten filtered to junk. The Indians had offered Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Bourn for Billy Butler and Lorenzo Cain. I told them that there was no way I could take on that much salary, that I had no need for Cabrera having already acquired Kendrick, and that I was basically up against the cap.
They then asked about Bourn for Butler and Cain, at which point I noted that Cain was projected to be more valuable than Bourn and at league-minimum and that to make that deal make sense they'd have to take on an absurd amount of money. They dropped Cain out of the deal at that point, and offered to make up the difference between the two. We ended up ironing out a deal that worked out as follows: The Royals send Billy Butler to Cleveland in exchange for Michael Bourn and $6.0MM in 2014 and $1.0MM in 2015. This means Bourn will make $7.5MM in 2014 ($1.0MM less than Butler was set to make), $12.5MM in 2015 (the same amount that Butler was set to make), and $13.5MM in 2016 (just $250K more than Alex Gordon in the final year of his contract, a year in which he has a player option that he's likely to exercise). There is also a $12.0MM vesting option for 2017 that kicks in at 550 PA in 2016, but if Bourn's performance is unlikely to be worthy of the $12.0MM, a strict platoon should all but ensure that he falls short of the 550 PA trigger.
Bourn's 2.0 fWAR season was his worst season since 2008, when he got screwed by the BABIP gods. Starting in 2009, Bourn put up seasons worth 4.6, 4.3, 3.7, 6.2, and 2.0 fWAR. Butler has had just two seasons better than Bourn's worst season in six years. Neither of those two seasons were better than Bourn's second-worst season in that stretch. It's a calculated risk, but one with more potential upside than virtually any move I made this year. Here's to hoping Bourn comes back strong in 2014. Shadow Royals update: $84.08MM.
Royals sign Jose Mijares to a minor-league deal that becomes a guaranteed $602K if he's added to the 25-man roster. Chump change. Left-handed bullpen depth. Attempting to replace the girth lost in the Butler deal. Paint this one however you'd like to.
I harassed the Astros. It was terrible for their GM. I'm sure he's in the midst of a PTSD episode as I type this. I'd imagine the only person more irritated with me than the Astros GM was Overlord Retro. After ceaselessly trying to pry a certain prospect from their grips, I saw that they needed infield depth. I offered Jeff Keppinger straight up for Lucas Harrell, who Houston was actively shopping. They said they'd do it if I added a player. I proffered Keppinger and Jason Adam for Lucas Harrell, and the deal was accepted. Harrell has one option remaining and is making league-minimum. Harrell was a 2.6 fWAR pitcher in 2012 and could pitch out of the pen as well should that need arise. The move clears $3.5MM of payroll, bringing it down to $80.58MM.
The Royals then took a shot on a former highly touted prospect who appears to have flamed out and signed Travis Snider, who the Pirates had been attempting to trade to me before they non-tendered him, to a minor-league deal that becomes $700K guaranteed if he's added to the 25-man roster with a player option for conditional release if he's not added to the 25-man roster by June 1st. The hope, of course, is that he does something to warrant his being added to the 25-man. If not, nothing lost.
With a Butler-sized hole at DH, the Royals spent Keppinger money (new Meche money?) on Paul Konerko, signing him to a one-year, $3.5MM deal. If Konerko can still crush lefties--and in 2013, Konerko still had a .401 wOBA and 153 wRC+ against LHP--he should still have some value. Maybe (read: probably) not $3.5MM-worth, but if he's even worth 1.0 WAR he'll have given the Shadow Royals surplus value. Shadow Royals payroll is $84.08MM.
Moves #17, 18, and 19
The Royals closed things out with a spate of minor signings addressing pitching depth, adding Jeff Karstens, Blake Wood, and Jerome Williams on minor-league deals.
The 2014 Shadow Royals Roster
Minor League Deals
For the sake of clarity, they are as follows:
- Gained: Dalier Hinojosa, Kevin Vance, Daniel Tillman, Austin Wright
- Lost: Michael Mariot, Sam Selman, Jason Adam
Behind the Scenes
Some people seemed interested in the goings on behind the scenes--what offers were made, rejected, etc.--so I'll attempt to go into this a bit. I sent 235 emails over the course of the sim, so I can't possibly list every single offer that was rejected, or every proposal sent my way. I will, however, try. If you don't want to read this--and it's pretty long--just skip to the "Roster Reflections" section now.
Phillies: As one could discern from reading about the Hochevar trade, there was a lot of discussion with Philadelphia, mostly centered around Domonic Brown and Yordano Ventura. They really wanted Zimmer, and I was a bit too worried about Brown's overall worth, the defensive metrics not being very kind to him. My proposals for Brown basically included Ventura and then guys like Jason Adam or Sam Selman. In the final hours of the sim, while I was at work, I got an email offering Jonathan Pettibone, Severino Gonzalez, and my choice of Phillippe Aumont, Michael Stutes, or Justin De Fratus for Ventura. They were apparently going to add Roman Quinn to the mix if they could get the competitive balance pick added to the deal, but ultimately I didn't have enough time to adequately research the trade offer.
Rangers: Just as the discussions with the Phillies were getting underway, I started talks with the Rangers, trying to get Jurickson Profar. They wanted Salvador Perez but were cagey about what they wanted, though Profar would have been involved in the deal. I offered Perez and Wade Davis for Profar, Rougned Odor and Nick Tepesch, which wasn't to Texas's liking. They seemed ready to trade Profar plus something to get Perez, but El Salvador's contract is such a valuable commodity (especially given the payroll constraints under which the Shadow Royals have to operate) that I really couldn't justify trading him without getting Profar and Odor while getting rid of at least a little bit of payroll. He then asked about Butler, and I said I'd probably need a Major-League ready arm and a prospect and proposed Tepesch and Odor for Butler, which they understandably turned down, even though Tepesch is likely headed down the road to Tommy John Surgery.
Mariners: I talked at length early on with Seattle trying to get Dustin Ackley. He seemed to want Cain back if he was losing Ackley, so I offered Cain and Guthrie/Davis for Ackley and Paxton, but there seemed to be a fundamental difference in how each of us valued Paxton, and he had no interest in Guthrie's contract and only a bit of interest in taking on Davis. He countered with Cain and Guthrie for Ackley and a single-A prospect like Pike, Sanchez, Gohara, or Diaz, but just as he put that offer out there, he pulled off a deal for Peter Bourjos, negating the need for Cain, and the talks went on the back-burner. Deals went down. We eventually worked out the Collins/Noesi deal. We also talked about Ludwick (who they were saddled with when they traded Nick Franklin to Cincy for Tony Cingrani) with Seattle eating some of the contract, but not the ugly buyout, and then later Smoak, but the Smoak offer happened no more than 10 minutes after I'd signed Konerko.
Orioles: I inquired with Baltimore about Zach Britton, who they were actively shopping. They turned down a Tim Collins for Zach Britton offer, countered with Jorge Bonifacio, and then countered again with Herrera when Bonifacio was turned down. I tried to get them to take either Christian Colon, Selman, or Adam with John Lamb at which point they turned the discussion back to Herrera and then immediately changed the target to Paulino. Then I tried to transition that into a deal that was either Moustakas or Escobar along with Ventura, Bonifacio, and Bubba Starling for Manny Machado and Britton. He didn't want to move Machado, something for which I can hardly blame him.
Cardinals: I tried to pry Oscar Taveras loose from Scott, starting with Shields, Bonifacio, Mondesi/Ventura, and Selman/Adam for Taveras and whatever 7th starter Scott would part with, but he wanted no part of that. While I was trying to work that deal, I offered up Collins for Tyler Lyons, which Scott thought about but turned down. I tried sweetening that pot with Jason Adam and Giavotella to no avail. I then offered Butler, Zimmer, Bonifacio, and Collins for Taveras and Lyons but was turned down.
Astros: Now the only reason I started going after Taveras was because I'd grown tired of sending email after email after email trying to get George Springer. I asked initially what it would take to get Springer, and they responded with something like Billy Butler, Aaron Crow, and a throw-in like Dwyer or Colon would get them thinking, which had me really excited. I'd just dealt Crow, but I offered Butler, Collins, Dwyer, and Colon for Springer and Aaron West. He said at second glance, he probably couldn't do that. I then offered Butler, Guthrie (while eating $4MM in 2014 and $2MM in 2015), Starling, and Colon/Dwyer for Springer and West. They responded saying that Hosmer might make them more interested, which I chose to ignore and asked if Ventura instead of Starling would get it done. No. I offered to throw in Ventura and Starling. Then I immediately thought that maybe if I offered Butler, Guthrie with the compensation, Starling, and Lorenzo Cain for Springer, West, and a C+ prospect. He countered with Hosmer, Zimmer, and Starling for his three guys. At this point, it seemed that there was simply no way I'd be able to get Springer, so I turned my attention at trying to get Houston with their roomy budget to take on Guthrie. I offered Guthrie and Selman or Adam without compensation for Aaron West. Then I offered Guthrie with compensation, Selman/Adam/Colon, and Lamb for West, but before that offer was acted upon I dealt Guthrie to the South Siders. I then returned my attentions to Springer with a Butler, Ventura, Bonifacio, and Adam for Springer, which was once again refused. Then I offered Butler for Dallas Keuchel, Chris Carter, and Aaron West, and then offered to throw in Keppinger. No response. Then I offered Keppinger for Harrell, added Adam, and a deal was done.
Phillies (again): In the midst of everything, Philly checked to see if I'd have an interest in Michael Choice plus another piece for Zimmer, but I wasn't really interested in moving Zimmer at that point. They invited me to work up a deal with Keppinger and Zimmer or one with Gordon, but those talks never attempted to take off.
Pirates: The Pirates, managed by nwroyal, attempted to get Hosmer. Their opening offer was Tabata and Taillon for Hosmer, one in which I wasn't particularly interested. He also offered up Starling Marte for Hosmer and Zimmer, to which I countered with Butler and Ventura, which was understandably turned down. After Scott had nabbed Marte for the Cardinals, the Pirates dangled Joe Kelly (who strikes me as a cheaper Jeremy Guthrie) but wanted Miguel Almonte and Elier Hernandez. They balked at my Jason Adam, Elier Hernandez, and John Lamb counter, as they had a better offer on the table but said if I'd go Almonte and Elier that Kelly was mine. I countered one more time, inserting Selman in Lamb's place, but he said he had an offer with a top 100 prospect on the table to which I responded that he should accept that deal. Unless I'm mistaken, Joe Kelly stayed in Pittsburgh. [Correction: Joe Kelly was flipped for Clayton Blackburn and Andrew Susac.] The Pirates also tried to get me to trade for Travis Snider, but I ultimately decided it wasn't worth a lost prospect (nwroyal was asking for Jason Adam, Christian Binford, or Sam Selman), especially if I could get him on a minor league contract, which ultimately happened.
Nationals: Washington's GM sent out an email before the sim started stating that Jordan Zimmermann was available for a young, ML-ready infielder and a young, ML-ready pitcher. I offered Danny Duffy/Yordano Ventura, Alcides Escobar, and Tim Collins for Zimmermann and Danny Espinosa to no response. I emailed again reiterating the offer after Duffy had been traded, sans the departed Lompoc resident. He responded that he liked the pieces involved but that he was looking for an infielder with a better bat who can play a position other than shortstop because he already had Ian Desmond. I tried to impress upon him that he could move Desmond over to second and have a stellar defensive middle infield, and that when BABIP smiles upon Escobar he's decent and that at the very least, his value in 2013 was his baseline. Unfortunately the Washington GM decided to pull Zimmermann off the market, though I was told Espinosa was still available but that he had "a pretty good offer from Seattle for an excellent young pitcher with several years of control." If I'd known that Charlie Furbush was the pitcher to whom he was referring and that he'd have to give up Erik Davis, too, I could have easily topped that offer, but I assumed someone had offered to overpay for Espinosa, so the talks went cold.
Red Sox: When Boston's GM put out a notice that Dempster could be had, I opted for trying to move Guthrie for Dempster rather than offer up a top three prospect if they were going to eat a significant chunk of his salary, but they weren't interested in adding another crappy starting pitcher. Unless I'm mistaken, Dempster remains a Rouge Stocking.
Giants: I also attempted to ship Guthrie off to San Francisco, as they had a shitload of money available in their budget and I thought he'd be a good fit for AT&T Park. They declined my Guthrie and $6.0MM for Brett Bochy and Adalberto Mejia offer stating that they'd rather make a "high-risk/high-reward move on the market" than a "low-risk/medium reward" move on Guthrie.
Braves: Before I'd traded for Kendrick, I tried to hash out a deal sending Guthrie to Atlanta for Dan Uggla with them eating a bit of money, but they didn't want to spend more money than they'd have had to in the first place. I tried to sweeten the pot with David Lough (they'd stated outfield depth was an area of need), but they just couldn't stomach taking on Guthrie, and I couldn't take Uggla on without losing Guthrie, so the talks died there. The Braves ended up trading Uggla, Cody Martin, and $10.0MM to the Mets for Brandon Nimmo.
Athletics: I asked Oakland's GM about Brett Anderson but was told that his value was too low to realistically get an adequate return on him, so I turned my attentions elsewhere. Anderson ended up getting dealt to Philadelphia along with $6.0MM and Michael Choice for Adam Morgan. I wish I'd known that they'd have sold that low on Anderson.
Free Agency: I also made offers to Ricky Nolasco, Tim Hudson, Bartolo Colon, David Murphy, Mike Pelfrey, Odrisamer Despaigne, Mitch Maier, Clint Robinson, Kila Ka'aihue, Lance Berkman, Paul Maholm, Joe Nathan, Mitch Maier a second time, Luke Scott, Kyle Kendrick, Travis Hafner, Kevin Jepsen, and Johan Santana. I offered Santana the following deal: a minor-league contract with a guarantee of $1.0MM if he is added to the 25-man roster, and a $1.0MM performance bonus at 100 IP in the Majors, a $1.5MM performance bonus at 145 IP in the Majors, a $2.0MM performance bonus at 190 IP in the Majors, and full ownership of a brand new Wal-Mart Supercenter in a market of his choosing if he finishes in the top three in AL Cy Young Award voting. From all reports, he just signed in Minnesota on a minor-league deal, so he chose the sentimental landing spot. I got close to signing David Murphy and Kyle Kendrick, but Murphy got just a bit too expensive (one year, $6.0MM or guaranteeing a second year) and I didn't want to guarantee Kendrick more than $1.0MM. I probably could have gotten Nolasco for a three-year deal, but I'd made a lot of moves in between when I first contacted his agent and when he was ultimately looking to sign. Most of the last half of the names listed above were offered split minor league contracts.
So that happened.
With only $85.0MM to start with and $10.2MM at my avail, I had to spend money wisely and move money to make moves of significance. Moore hamstrung me (and himself) with ill-advised signings and acquisitions like Jeremy Guthrie and Wade Davis. I didn't go into the sim with a blueprint, per se. I knew where the rosters weaknesses lay and set about addressing them in whatever way made the most sense.
Second base was a weakness and a solution presented itself in the Angels' offer of Howie Kendrick. After largely offsetting his salary by jettisoning the contracts of Wade Davis and Aaron Crow, two fungible relief pitchers, the Shadow Royals were set at their biggest weakness, adding a legitimate bat at second. Adding Luis Valbuena to the mix in the infield provides back-up for both Moustakas and Kendrick, so the Royals infield should be improved from last year's incarnation.
Aside from maybe buying an upgrade to the platoon in right and moving Dyson back to back-up center field and pinch-running duties, I had more or less determined that the outfield would return in tact. While I didn't lose anyone in the outfield, I gained a Michael Bourn. On paper, the outfield is almost inarguably better. Maxwell will still get his reps against lefties. Bourn improves the outfield defense as he's been a spectacular center fielder and at the very least will be an improvement in right if Cain were to prove to be better suited to roam center.
The Shadow Royals will have to take a jazzier approach at designated hitter in 2014, as Butler's gone. Konerko seems the likely option for the bulk of the reps, but should he falter, the Shadow Royals have guys like Kottaras and Maxwell who can rotate in and take reps, along with guys like Gordon and Kendrick, who can easily take a day off in the field while still getting to handle the stick.
On the pitching front, the rotation is basically James Shields and a bunch of question marks, but there are a lot of options. Capuano, Marcum, Paulino, and Harrell have the potential upside of being league-average-or-better starters. Ventura and Zimmer could both help out this season, and Zimmer's ceiling is tantalizing. Rounding out the back end are guys like Chen, Noesi, Slowey, Karstens, Mendoza, and Williams, which means that what the Shadow Royals lack in sure-fire talent, they more than make up for in depth. In case you were not counting, that's thirteen pitchers listed above in the mix for the rotation. Thirteen. Thirteen is a veritable shitload. Aside from Marcum and Capuano, none of those guys are making more than $2.0MM.
The bullpen was the obvious area of strength. Perhaps the absurd depth that the Royals pen has had in years past emboldened me too much. I dealt Crow, Collins, Hochevar, and Davis undoubtedly weakening the pen. I feel like internal options (Donnie Joseph, Chris Dwyer, Buddy Baumann, Everett Teaford, and Nate Adcock) combined with a couple of options from the pool of starters who end up on the outside looking in when the rotation is set should more than compensate for what was lost, at least in terms of being able to eat those innings. Coleman can be relied upon much more heavily. Smith, also.
Any talk of the pitching also has to include the possibility of Dalier Hinojosa contributing, though he's a bigger wild card than Charlie Kelly, as his role isn't even certain.
Aside from DH, the production of which I do actually believe can largely be replicated in aggregate by the pieces mentioned above with a drop-off of less than a win, I do believe this team is improved on the whole. Of course, I constructed it, so I'm bound to believe that myself.
Just as I did last year, I intend to hold myself accountable. Each month, I will compare the Shadow Royals to the real ones. Sure, holding myself accountable is largely an empty gesture, but I'm sure as hell not just going to sit here saying I improved the team in theory without following up on myself.