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Old Man Duggan's 2015 Shadow Royals: A simulation recap

Your 2015 Shadow Royals are here. Payment for tickets to home games are payable by check to Josh Duggan.

The Shadow Royals' ace
The Shadow Royals' ace
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

As has been the case for the past few years, Max, our fearless leader/overlord, has taken it upon himself to run an SBNationwide offseason simulation (the goings-on found here and the debriefing found here) in which [ideally] readers and/or writers from each site took the helm of the team for whom they call themselves fans. Max sets the budgets for each team, acts as agent for all the free agents, and handles the posting of all the trades while monitoring the payrolls for each team the entire time.

Some might say that it is an act of madness. Those people would probably be right, but it's damned fun for anyone taking part in the proceedings. Obviously, many thank yous go out to Max.

I'll refrain from getting too far into talking about how some of the other teams were run.

As far as how I wanted to set about running the Royals, I had a few objectives.

While I wasn't going to obsess over having a front-line starting pitcher, the rotation clearly needed to be addressed. It is no secret that I've not been fond of either of the contracts handed out to Jeremy Guthrie or Jason Vargas, and James Shields was neither a realistic nor a prudent option for the Shadow Royals.

Given Aoki's free agency, the right-handed half of a Jarrod Dyson platoon in right field needed to be addressed, and with Billy Butler's club option not being exercisable, it made sense to try to have any of that help in what was presumably going to be a corner outfield spot come in the form of a bat that would be playable at designated hitter.

Vaya con Dios, Billy - Photo credit: Doug Pensinger

Obviously there were other areas of less significant concern, but this was the starting point for the Shadow Royals.

The payroll constraints handed down at the beginning of the simulation for the Shadow Royals was $101MM. Max was going to allow for the Shadow Royals to go up to $105MM after this Jeffrey Flanagan piece went up, but I decided that $101MM was probably more prudent and kept myself there.

With that in mind, here were the internal issues that the Royals faced.

Shadow Royals Internal Decisions

James Shields extended Qualifying Offer

The offer was declined. The Royals get the sixth compensatory pick and the 32nd pick overall.

Billy Butler's $12.5MM club option for 2015 bought out for $1MM

No thought had to go into this. Wanted more flexibility going forward.

Wade Davis's 7MM club option for 2015 exercised

Also required zero thought.

Jayson Nix and Aaron Crow non-tendered

Nix is not good at playing baseball. Crow is not worth $2MM and probably wouldn't be worth half that.

Arbitration offered to Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, and Kelvin Herrera

When you look at the table below, you'll see that all of these players are relatively safe bets to make what they're paid in arbitration. As the Shadow Royals' trades are discussed, operate under the assumption that any of those players involved in trades who are arbitration-eligible were extended arbitration. Tim Collins was dealt before the arbitration/non-tender deadline. Louis Coleman was traded after it, so if the Rays were to elect to non-tender him, they would still owe him at least a portion of his $700K salary.

Ned Yost is promoted to the position of Special Advisor to the General Manager in Charge of Wild Game. Brian Bannister is named manager.

Yost will be in charge of both hunting and preparing the meat for the front office and the players. He is a master meat man. David Glass stated that he will spare no expense in his quest to have only the finest wild game available for the organization. Bannister reportedly wants to bring in Chris "Disco" Hayes as his pitching coach.

The Moves

Jason Vargas, Christian Binford, and Cody Reed traded to the Chicago Cubs for Edwin Jackson, Luis Valbuena, and $6MM--$4MM in 2015 and $2MM in 2016

Jackson's value is extremely depressed. He was abysmal in 2014. Beyond bad. Obviously the thinking here is that he rebounds. The Shadow Royals' desire was to move Guthrie in this deal, but the Cubs seemed insistent upon Vargas. Valbuena seemed to be a man without a home in the Cubs infield, a luxury that I could get them to part with--a luxury who has been worth a combined 4.8 fWAR over the past two seasons. While I like Guthrie less than Vargas, I don't like either, and I certainly don't like the idea of having Vargas for three more years. As for the prospects, Cody Reed has been an awful pro despite where he was drafted, but Binford was coming off a year in which his status rose. Let's just say, I'm not a believer in Binford, and his ceiling isn't one that leads me to believe that I'm parting with too much. Sadly for the real Royals, I think the best player in this deal is probably Luis Valbuena. Not a Vargas fan, and I like Jackson's chances in a theoretical Kauffman Stadium with this outfield defense. I'm betting on a drastic change from his 2014 BABIP of .352--the worst in baseball of any one with at least 140 IP.

Greg Holland traded to the Boston Red Sox for Allen Craig, pitching prospect Brian Johnson, and $5MM--$1.5MM in 2016 and $3.5MM in 2017

With the plan being to sign Luke Hochevar to a contract paying him significantly less to pitch in the seventh or eighth while promoting Wade Davis to the role of closer, Greg Holland's $9.3MM arbitration figure that the Shadow Royals were married to was likely high enough that it would make more sense to try to address one of the other issues on the roster with the value that Holland provides. Unfortunately, a quick look at the lay of the land revealed a very limited market for Holland. I tried to start talks with Detroit centered around J.D. Martinez but got no response. The Angels would have made sense and a proposal was sent to their absentee GM in which Holland, Omar Infante, and Cheslor Cuthbert/Jorge Bonifacio would have gone to Anaheim for Howie Kendrick, Collin Cowgill, and Vinnie Pestano, which would have made Shadow Ryan Lefebvre so happy. The Red Sox were one of the only teams that had the budget to spend that much money on a closer who had the need. Of course that meant that I was dealing with an eight-headed monster from Beyond the Box Score.

They were not interested in Infante as an option at third--can't blame them, though it was a concept I tried to pitch to a number of General Managers in trying to promote his value--they offered Victorino, then Nava (who doesn't fit with Dyson), then Jake Marisnick or Bryce Brentz, before finally introducing Allen Craig into the discussion. Obviously Craig was not going to be enough for Holland, at which point they tried to foist Brandon Workman upon me. They balked at Craig, Eduardo Rodriguez, and $5MM, countered with Anthony Ranaudo--no thanks--at which point I said Brian Johnson, who was the only other prospect that I piqued my interest, as he was close and addressed starting pitching depth as soon as this year. They tried to get money off the table, but I insisted that they were getting the second-best closer in the game and that the $5MM was a must for the deal to work. Craig's $5.5MM contract was manageable this season, but if he really is this terrible player he was in 2014, then his 2015 and 2016 contract figures needed to be non-devastating. With the $5MM kicked in by Boston, the Royals would have Craig at $7.5MM in 2015 and 2016 with a $1MM buyout for 2017. It was still a risk given his foot injury that Ben Cherington insists is fine, but his 2014 BABIP was .059 lower than his career mark, so I'm betting on a return to career norms.

Boston acceded and the trade was completed.

Luke Hochevar signed to a three-year deal for $2.5MM in 2015, $3.5MM in 2016, $4.0MM in 2017 with a $4.5MM club option in 2018 with a $2MM buyout

$12MM guaranteed after the buyout. This was a risk, but the annual salary is never high enough that he couldn't be designated for assignment if he is terrible. This obviously allows for a three-headed monster in the bullpen again, only one at a significantly better price point. It'll take three years for Hochevar to make what Holland is making this season. The Shadow Royals would love for nothing more than to get to exercise that 2018 club option.

Tim Collins traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitching prospect Ariel Pena

Pena is a live arm in the upper minors. He went on the minor-league DL in August with elbow pain, but the development is mostly done, as he was in the Pacific Coast League this past season. Collins was going to get non-tendered, which could be argued against but was still going to happen.

Prospects Kyle Zimmer, Hunter Dozier, Ryan O'Hearn, and Ramon Torres dealt to the Washington Nationals for Jordan Zimmermann and outfield prospect Brian Goodwin

Depending on where you fall on the prospects, I may have overpaid. Zimmermann already has one Tommy John surgery in his past. Either Zimmermann or Doug Fister was available via trade. I opted for the higher ceiling. Of course, he's coming off a 5 WAR (5.2 fWAR/4.8 rWAR) season. Initially it was supposed to be Steven Souza not Brian Goodwin in the deal, but Shaun Newkirk had him tied up in another trade proposal at the time--or so I was told. Goodwin is a toolsy center fielder a year removed from being near the top of the Nationals' prospect lists who has done something that Hunter Dozier hasn't: hit above A-ball. Age-to-level shows Dozier is more advanced relative to level, of course, but it's hard for me to see Dozier having a future with the organization right now. O'Hearn--the Royals eight-round draft pick from this year--would technically have to be a PTBNL. He raked in his Age-20 season (July birthday, so he's 21) in the Pioneer League, but he's a first base prospect in Rookie ball. A LOT would have to go right for O'Hearn to do something. Torres is a lottery ticket. Zimmer threw 14.1 innings this season and just had shoulder surgery. Jumping ship on Dozier and Zimmer may prove to be costly, but Zimmermann had the tenth-best fWAR in baseball last year. Given that I believe in neither Zimmer's health nor Dozier in general, it's a risk I was glad to take, even if Zimmermann is set to make $16.5MM this year.

Luis Mendoza signed to split contract

Mendoza will make $700K if added to the 25-man roster. #RememberTheMane

Jonny Gomes signed to a one-year, $2.5MM deal

Gomes and Craig can share DH/RF duties against southpaws.

Omar Infante, Jeremy Guthrie, and $2.2MM in 2016 shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for R.A. Dickey and catcher Josh Thole

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski

These were the last two unwanted contracts that the Shadow Royals were saddled with from the previous regime. Both Guthrie and R.A. Dickey have club options for 2016 with $2.2MM being the difference between them. The Jays were one of the few teams who had room in their budget to take on a little money. Between their hole at second base after dealing Lawrie, and their apparent disdain for Dickey, they seemed happy to make this deal, even though their GM stated in his recap that he may just cut Guthrie loose and eat the money. That is a luxury that the Royals cannot afford. Thole is Dickey's catcher, which will ensure that Perez gets every fifth day off.

Southpaw Joe Thatcher signed to a one-year, $1.3MM deal

At this point there were very few left-handed relievers available, and Andrew Miller was clearly not an option. Other than Francisley Bueno, the Royals really didn't have a left-handed reliever with major-league experience. Thatcher fills that void.

Jason Frasor signed to a three-year deal worth $1.75MM in 2015, $2.25MM in 2016, and $2.5MM in 2017

Like many in these parts, I am not of the mind that But I Don't Know What To Do With Those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs is a ROOGY. As such, I was willing to outbid (if just barely) the purported two-year, $6MM deal that was on the table for the 37-year-old righty. Even if he needs to be cut loose before the end of the deal, he's not making so much as to render that problematic.

Cuban free agent second baseman Hector Olivera signed to a three-year, $9MM deal

I tried to get him for a three-year deal at $2MM per year with a $3MM performance bonus each year he started 100 games. His agent countered with three at $3MM per without performance bonuses. It put my payroll up at $101.1MM, which was $100K over the original budget I was handed, and one which I was still under the impression I was to operate under, as it wasn't raised to $105MM until the closing hours of the sim. He is far from a safe bet, but I wanted a little insurance at second base. Hopefully, he exists, unlike the other Cubans the Royals have signed in the past. He would be a free agent at the end of the contract, not subject to arbitration.

Louis Coleman and pitching prospects Sam Selman and John Lamb sent to the Tampa Bay Rays for Sean Rodriguez and $1.4MM

With as deep as the bullpen was at this point, Louis Coleman had been rendered largely unnecessary. Sean Rodriguez was further insurance at second base while being able to man just about every position on the field in a pinch, an invaluable trait. He is in the final year of arbitration and was set to make $2MM in arbitration. As my payroll was at $101.1MM, the $1.4MM and the $200K over minimum that Louis Coleman was making set the Shadow Royals' payroll precisely at the initially prescribed $101MM. I'm pretty sure this is the third straight year that I've traded Sam Selman, and it's at least the second time that Lamb has been dealt. I believe in neither as a key cog in the Shadow Royals machine, though I'm sure they're both nice guys.

James McDonald, Scott Baker, Jose Veras, Matt Lindstrom, and Juan Carlos Oviedo inked to minor-league deals

Each of these pitchers provides me with depth at pitcher. As I shipped off a few, it's an issue I probably needed to address.

I also offered minor-league deals to unsigned players Rafael Furcal, Chris Young (the pitcher), Mitch Maier, Kyle Farnsworth, Eric Young, and Hiroyuki Nakajima. I received no response on them.

The 25-Man Roster

Pos. Player 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Clauses
C Salvador Perez 1.75 2 3.75* 5* 6* club options
C Josh Thole 1.4 Arb-4 FA
1B Eric Hosmer 5.2 Arb-3 Arb-4 FA
2B Luis Valbuena 3.1 FA
SS Alcides Escobar 3 5.25* 6.5* FA club options, $500K buyouts
3B Mike Moustakas 2.7 Arb-2 Arb-3 FA
LF Alex Gordon 14 13.25* FA player option
CF Lorenzo Cain 2.3 Arb-2 Arb-3 FA
RF Jarrod Dyson 1.3 Arb-2 Arb-3 FA
OF/DH Allen Craig 5.5 7.5* 7.5* 13* BOS paying $1.5/$3.5MM in 2016/2017, club option w/ $1MM buyout in 2018
Util Sean Rodriguez 0.6* FA TBR paying $1.4MM
2B Hector Olivera 3 3 3 FA
Util Christian Colon 0.5 0.5 0.5 Arb-1 Arb-2
OF/DH Jonny Gomes 2.5 FA
SP Jordan Zimmermann 16.5 FA
SP R.A. Dickey 12 12* FA club option w/ $1MM buyout, plus $2.2MM to TOR
SP Yordano Ventura 0.5 0.5 Arb-1 Arb-2 Arb-3
SP Danny Duffy 2.6 Arb-2 Arb-3 FA
SP Edwin Jackson 7* 9* FA ChC paying $4/$2MM in 2015/2016
RP Wade Davis 7 8* 9* FA club options w/ 2MM buyouts
RP Kelvin Herrera 1.5 Arb-2 Arb-3 Arb-4 FA
RP Luke Hochevar 2.5 3.5 4 4.5* club option w/ $2MM buyout
RP Joe Thatcher 1.3 FA
RP Jason Frasor 1.75 2.25 2.5 FA
RP Francisley Bueno 0.5 0.5 Arb-1 Arb-2 Arb-3
Buyout Billy Butler 1

The disparities between the handful of players listed above where compensation occurred and their actual salaries are to reflect their figure against the Shadow Royals payroll. It is their net salary for the Shadow Royals not their total.

Players on minor-league deals are all pitchers: Luis Mendoza, James McDonald, Scott Baker, Jose Veras, Matt Lindstrom, and Juan Carlos Oviedo

Prospects gained and lost

Obviously, I dealt from the farm a lot more this year than last.

Gone: RHP Kyle Zimmer, 3B/RF Hunter Dozier, RHP Christian Binford, LHP Sam Selman, 1B Ryan O'Hearn, LHP John Lamb, LHP Cody Reed, and 2B/SS Ramon Torres

Zimmer could burn me, but he can't stay on the field. Traded him while he still had value, which may not last. Dozier could burn me, but it feels like his likelihood of hitting his ceiling is lower than I'd like right now. Worth the gamble. Binford is close to the bigs, but his ceiling isn't such that I'm worried about him proving me wrong. The rest do not worry me in the least. If they hit big, it'll be nearly miraculous.

Gained: CF Brian Goodwin, LHP Brian Johnson, RHP Ariel Pena

Johnson is at least relatively close to the majors with a possible debut in 2015. His realistic projection is that of a #4 starter, but he's at least near the majors. Goodwin may just be a fourth outfielder, but he is a likely 2015 arrival to the Majors. If Pena is healthy come 2015, he too could arrive in Shadow Kansas City in 2015. The prospects I went for this year when considering trades were ones who were close to the Majors, in an effort to minimize risk.

Odds and Sods

The Shadow Royals wanted Josh Johnson and actually offered more guaranteed money in the form of a $2MM signing bonus with performance incentives than he got in a guaranteed major-league contract ($1.5MM), but the Shadow Royals couldn't justify guaranteeing a 25-man roster spot on him.

No dice, Shadow Royals fans - Photo credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I just missed out on getting in the mix for Everth Cabrera and Daniel Hudson. I was in on Chris Denorfia early and could have signed him if I wanted, but my outfield picture had been pretty fleshed out by the time Denorfia was ready to sign.

I tried to get Danny Espinosa for Johnny Giavotella which Shaun wasn't especially interested in, but he floated Denard Span and Danny Duffy's names. I was disinclined to do anything with either player, as Span didn't have a home in my crowded outfield. In an unrelated inquiry, the Nationals asked about Moustakas's availability, to which I responded with a disinclination to deal him. The Pirates also inquired about Moose.

The Jays inquired about Jarrod Dyson, but I told them I was having his baby and that we were in love.

I tried to shop Infante to lots of different teams with no interest. Vargas and Guthrie were drawing little early interest, too, which is why I was so willing to take on Jackson for shedding three more years of Vargas. I also felt like Jackson would be better served in Kauffman, which at least holds to the spirit of the sim. I'm sure he'll get dealt to Colorado or Arizona, and I'll get screwed when it comes to comparing the Shadow Royals to the real ones.

I got a few emails deep into discussion for Jeff Samardzija and inquired about Josh Donaldson. Proposals were made including Craig Gentry or John Jaso, but Zimmermann's acquisition rendered Shark unnecessary, at least within the Shadow Royals' budget and in terms of future cost.

There were probably others, but this is getting long.

Closing Thoughts

Free agency was not likely to net me much in the way of significant talent. The market is just too ridiculous, and it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Shadow Royals to try to sign pitchers to five-plus-year deals anyway. The trade market was the only realistic avenue for me to address the significant roster needs. I had one valuable piece to trade who was expendable as the roster stood--Greg Holland--and the market was not a broad one for him. The rest of the value had to come from the farm system or balancing one contract for another.

The opportunities for pitchers on smaller deals likely mean bringing on a weaker pitcher. Obviously, Edwin Jackson has his warts, but he is these Royals' #5 starter. I think a rotation of Jordan Zimmermann, R.A. Dickey, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, and Edwin Jackson is potentially very good.

To make significant moves, I had to also shed the salaries and long-term contracts of Omar Infante, Jason Vargas, and Jeremy Guthrie, none of whom were particularly desirable. Go look at the teams who need second basemen. Then try to see what kind of budget they are working with. It was not easy. I was even willing to eat significant salary on Guthrie if it meant signing a cheap free agent and Josh Johnson, but I couldn't find a taker.

Some risks had to be taken. As in the first year, I did not hesitate to trade prospects in whom I no longer believed. Zimmer's health is too big a question mark. Dozier has yet to hit in the high minors. Binford doesn't strike me as being a valuable piece in the future, but he could prove me wrong. The rest are lottery tickets that I'd gladly have parted with in other trades. I took on some worrisome contracts in the form of Allen Craig and Edwin Jackson, but Craig could reasonably outperform the money he's owed in just two years of the deal.

None of the free agent deals I signed were for large sums of money per annum, so that risk was minimized. This was by design.

I paid a lot in potential value for Zimmermann, the key get of my offseason, but it really seems like there's a higher than usual expected bust rate in the package that I sent to Washington.

In short, I think this is probably the best Shadow Royals team that I've constructed.