For five years running, Max has overseen an SBNationwide simulation of baseball’s offseason with a different person—ideally a writer or community member from one of Royals Review’s sister sites—serving as the general manager for each team. The rosters were reset to the last day of the season, so any moves that may have happened since then do not exist in this brave new world. This year’s sim finished this morning at Noon ET.
As is the case in an exercise like this, each faux GM is taking the reins and reforming their club in their vision. As such there are A LOT of moves. In total, this obviously seems excessive, but on a team-by-team basis, there is certainly historical evidence for new management coming in and making tons of moves. While there may not be precedent on the macro level for what transpired, there is on the micro, team level.
With those caveats in mind, I steered the ship for the Royals through a breakneck three-day offseason for the fifth (I think? maybe sixth) straight season.
More so than any other Offseason Simulation in the past the Shadow Royals found themselves in DIRE straits.
Given a budget of $140MM to work with—a budget to which I have historically stuck pretty stringently—I took a long hard look at what I’d be able to do—who am I kidding? Anyone with eyes and a shred of objectivism can look at the lay of this fallow land and see that the ground is cracking, the grass is dead, and attempting to traverse it at all would be a sadomasochistic exercise in futility.
If you can’t figure out a way across, scorch the earth.
“But what about the 2018 Royals?” the innocent child not accustomed to losing pleas.
There is no 2018. The world as you know it—one in which the Royals are competitive—is fucking dead, kiddo. Get ready to get your character built. You’ll be so full of character it’ll be oozing out your orifices.
Commence the fire sale.
Before moving forward with any free-agent signings or trades, the Shadow Royals had internal roster decisions to make.
The Royals had four arbitration-eligible players from their end of year roster. All were offered arbitration. The players and salaries were:
- Kelvin Herrera - $8.3MM, final year of arbitration
- Brandon Maurer - $3.8MM, second of three years of arbitration
- Nate Karns - $1.4MM, first year of three years of arbitration
- Mike Morin - $700K, first of four years of arbitration
Only Mike Minor had an option that the club had any say in. A mutual option. Royals exercised their half. Minor declined his half of the option. The Shadow Royals are on the hook for the $1.25MM buyout.
Shockingly, Ian Kennedy chose not to opt out of the final three years of his deal.
The Royals extended Qualifying Offers to Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Minor. All declined. Hosmer, Moustakas, and Cain all signed elsewhere for more than $50MM. Minor signed for a contract totaling $30MM.
This means the Royals will receive three compensatory draft picks after the first round, and a four compensatory pick after the second round.
So the internal roster decisions have been made. If you want to look at the Royals moves in the order they happened, they can be seen here. For the sake of a streamlined presentation, I’m going to present the trades in one grouping and the free-agent signings in a second grouping.
Shockingly, the first piece I moved was Whit Merrifield. I shipped him to Anaheim for Keynan Middleton, Brandon Marsh, and Jaime Barría. While Middleton—a right-handed reliever coming off a solid 58.1 IP debut—is the only one with major-league experience, he’s the third piece in this trade.
Brandon Marsh was the Angels’ second-round draft pick in 2016. A toolsy outfielder (he played both right and center this year) a stress fracture in his lower back delayed his professional debut until this year. He did quite well in the Pioneer League as a 19-year-old, managing a 125 wRC+, though he was aided by a .417 BABIP.
A right-handed starting pitcher who finished the season at AAA for the Angels, Jaime Barría just finished his age-20 season having continued his rapid ascent through Anaheim’s system. He is probably more of a back-of-the-rotation type guy, but he is close to contributing and could well get the chance this year. Marsh and Barría sit sixth and eighth on MLB.com’s Prospect Watch list for the Angels. Marsh is far away, but between his upside and the present and near-present value of the pitchers involved I think the return was solid regardless what you think of Merrifield’s likelihood of continuing on as an average-to-slightly-above-average major-league second baseman.
The Royals sent Ian Kennedy, $8MM in 2018, $4MM in 2019 and 2020, and prospect Josh Staumont to the Chicago White Sox for crappy right-handed reliever Chris Beck. One could reasonably argue that a team in my position shouldn’t have given up a prospect of Staumont’s stature (however illusory that stature may be) and as much money as I did in this deal. Such criticisms are probably fair, since I wasn’t going to use that money on any big free agent signings. Still, I really did not want Ian Kennedy gumming up the works for three more years, and I don’t believe in Staumont (though this lack of belief will ring hilarious when I get to the trade with the Orioles), so c’est la vie.
The next Royal sent packing was Kelvin Herrera, whose $8.3MM price tag rendered him entirely pointless on this team. The Shadow Royals sent him to the world-champion Houston Astros in exchange for first baseman A.J. Reed and right-hander Rogelio Armenteros.
Heading into the 2016 season, Reed was about as highly touted a prospect as a first baseman can get, ranked as high as 11th (by Baseball America) on top prospect lists. He didn’t seize the opportunity when he had the chance and Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman’s emergences had him stuck in the queue in 2017. Stuck in the minors, Reed hung dong 34 times for the second time in three years. He’s got power, and he’ll have a chance to show he belongs in the show with the Shadow Royals.
Signed after defecting from Cuba, Armenteros split 2017 between AA - Corpus Christi and AAA - Fresno. Frankly, his results couldn’t have been much better. The 23-year-old right-hander sported a 1.93 ERA, 2.61 FIP, and 3.09 xFIP over 65.1 IP in AA before making the jump to the PCL and holding down a 2.16 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 3.43 xFIP in 58.1 IP there. His K-BB% was 21.1% in AA and got even better in AAA, notching a 22.8% difference. Though Armenteros only found himself ranked 22nd on the Astros list at MLB.com (Reed is no longer eligible for prospect lists, having exceeded the maximum service time for consideration), it’s not hard to look at the results and be hopeful.
The next deal saw the Shadow Royals taking on an undesirable contract to amass prospects. To make it a trade, the Royals sent Bubba Starling to the Baltimore Orioles. Despite the name recognition, he isn’t much of a prospect in the eyes of new management. The contract the Royals took on was that of Chris Davis. Per the terms of the trade, the Shadow Royals pick up the next three years of Davis’s salary with Baltimore picking up everything from 2021 on. Davis’s contract is structured to have money paid out long after the years in which he will be playing. For each of the next three years, Davis is due $17MM. Any contributions Davis has in 2022 or 2023 will be gravy, and he won’t hurt the Royals in a time in which they could theoretically be playing meaningful baseball.
In exchange for easing the Orioles burden, the Royals receive prospects Tanner Scott, Anthony Santander, Jomar Reyes, and Milton Ramos.
Scott, a left-handed flamethrower whose fastball sits high-90s and routinely touches triple-digits, made his major-league debut, skipping AAA altogether to pitch 1.2 innings in the final week of the season. He’s basically the southpaw version Josh Staumont, but unlike the dearly departed (in this sim) Staumont, Scott enjoyed success this past season.
Anthony Santander also skipped AAA en route to making his major-league debut in his cup of coffee this past year. Missing much of 2017 due to a right forearm strain that landed him on the 60-day DL, the Orioles were forced to add him to their major-league roster after just 16 games played in the minors after having snagged him from Cleveland in last year’s Rule 5 draft. 2017 was basically a lost developmental year, but he looked great in 2016.
Jomar Reyes is a Shadow Royal for the second straight year. After an aggressive assignment saw him struggle as the youngest everyday player in the Carolina League in 2016, Reyes repeated the level, though not without suffering through an injury-plagued campaign. When healthy, he managed a 114 wRC+ in 50 games played at high-A Frederick as a 20-year-old.
Milton Ramos got dealt from the Mets to the Orioles for international bonus slot money this past season. The glove-first shortstop out of the Florida prep ranks hasn’t fared well in full-season ball after holding his own in short-season ball. There is virtually no power in the profile, but he’s hardly the headliner of this deal.
Scott, Santander, Reyes, and Ramos were ranked sixth, ninth, 17th, and 20th on the Prospect Watch list for the Orioles, though not all orgs are equal, and the Orioles’ farm (much like the Angels’ above) isn’t especially strong.
One could probably (reasonably) argue that I should have gotten more for taking on the $51MM owed Davis, but I’m not entirely convinced he’s done, and if he proves to be productive again, he’s no longer an albatross. If given more time, perhaps I’d have tried to suss out who might return a better package if the Shadow Royals were to absorb a toxic asset, but I wasn’t and didn’t.
Next up on the express train out of Kauffman Stadium: Danny Duffy. The Rangers were looking for pitching and of the teams vocally looking to upgrade their pitching staff via trade, they seemed like the best fit. After talks with the Cubs sort of faded away (the only key pieces to build a trade around that were left were Albert Almora and Ian Happ, and the Cubs weren’t looking to move them), the Rangers emerged as a possible trade partner. I’m a big believer in Willie Calhoun’s bat, and Jurickson Profar is obviously the odd man out in Arlington, so I grabbed those two and right-hander hurler Ariel Jurado.
If you were living under a rock a few years ago, Profar was the consensus pick as the game’s top prospect before a slew of injuries derailed his ascension to baseball’s Mount Olympus. With injuries getting in the way, Elvis Andrus remained viable at short, and Rougned Odor emerged at the keystone for the Rangers. While Odor’s been up and down, he hasn’t punched his ticket to the bench. Entering what will be his age-25 season, Profar has remained in the background, bouncing between Oklahoma City and Texas’s bench, playing well if not spectacularly in the minors.
As a 5’8” second baseman/left fielder, Willie Calhoun clubbed 31 dongs at AAA, split between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City. He was the piece around whom the deadline deal sending Yu Darvish to Los Angeles was built. His worst wRC+ at any level in the minors was 124 in 2015 after having been drafted in the fourth round of the that year’s draft out of Yavapai College and assigned to the Pioneer League. In his first partial season of professional ball, he moved through three levels, and the season after he was drafted, he was already in Tulsa in the Texas League. The dude does nothing but rake.
As for Ariel Jurado, after finishing the 2016 campaign with a two-month stint in the Texas League, he spent his age-21 season in Frisco again. The Ks dipped, the BABIP jumped up, the FIP jumped up to 4.33. It wasn’t a great season, but he’s still very young and will be just a year removed from making BP’s top 101 list, so there’s cause for hope in regards to a return to form.
Given his monster 2017 campaign and his proximity to the majors, it’s not hard to envision Calhoun returning to top 100 lists for the 2018 season. He was the second-ranked prospect in the Rangers system per the MLB.com team, and Jurado came in number nine on their list.
Duffy is a big piece (at least for these lowly Shadow Royals). It seems like I got a big return for him, especially considering there are still three years of control on Profar. If he can put it together, this is a slam dunk deal, as Profar should at least be a primo trade chip and his first year of arbitration pegs him at just $1.1MM, depressing his value down the line.
It’s no secret that the Joakim Soria deal hasn’t looked great for the Royals. To move him and get anything back of any note, money was going to have to be eaten. So Toronto seemed a willing trade partner and had a couple prospects they were willing to part with if I kicked in some of old man Glass’s coin.
The Shadow Royals sent Soria, $4MM in 2018, and the $1MM to cover the buyout of 2019’s mutual option to the Blue Jays for catcher Max Pentecost and southpaw Ryan Borucki.
Pentecost was the 11th pick of the 2014 draft out of Kennesaw State. Multiple shoulder surgeries have derailed his development. As such, he missed all of 2015, some of 2016, and some of 2017. He’ll be turning 25 in March, but he’s only played 171 games over the course of four years. When he has played, he’s hit well, particularly for a catcher, never totaling a wRC+ lower than 100 (excluding one game played at rookie ball this year), and he had a 124 wRC+ in 71 games at high-A Dunedin this season. He’s been logging time in the Arizona Fall League, so at least it looks like he might be healthy to end a season.
Borucki, a 6’4” southpaw heading into his age-24 season, advanced from high-A all the way to AAA this year, where he made one start. He held his own at each level, maintaining sub-3.00 FIPs at each stop. He struck out plenty, walked few, and made me fall in love with him.
Pentecost came in eighth at on the Prospect Watch. Borucki was 13th.
It would be nonsensical to pay $3.8MM to have Brandon Maurer pitch for these Royals, so why not pay him to pitch somewhere else? The Royals sent Brandon Maurer and $3.8MM to cover his 2018 salary to the Colorado Rockies. In return, the Royals receive prospects Jordan Patterson, Tyler Nevin, and Daniel Montano.
We know Maurer. We probably don’t want to see Maurer again any time soon. Patterson made his major-league debut in 2016, looking good in a meaningless ten game sample. Though he never got back to the majors in 2017—likely owing to the Rockies being in the playoff hunt all year—Patterson continued to do what he’s always done in the minors: put wood to balls. He owned a 124 wRC+ and hung dong 26 times. Since being drafted in the fourth round of 2013, the 6’4”, left-handed hitting and throwing right fielder has never had a wRC+ lower than 121 at any stop in the minors. He’s basically ready to get a shot tomorrow.
Tyler Nevin, son of former All-Star Phil Nevin, plays first and third like his pops. He was a supplemental first round pick in 2015. His 2016, which was going to start in short-season ball was cut short with a hamstring injury that sidelined him and was then reaggravated one at-bat into his return. Despite having lost an entire year of development, he tore up the Sally League in Asheville, notching a 136 wRC+ as a 20-year-old.
Daniel Montano is a toolsy lottery ticket. As a 17- and 18-year-old, he kicked it in the Dominican Summer League, both times putting up wRC+ in the 120s. He’s RAW, but there’s cause for hope.
Patterson, Nevin, and Montano were ranked 13th, 17th, and 20th on Colorado’s Prospect Watch.
For a while, I toyed with using Scott Alexander for the Shadow Royals’ closer, as I didn’t bother adding relievers until the tail end of the sim. Then I thought about how temporary this existence is and how futile it is trying to predict how effective relievers will be from one year to the next. So I started looking at moving him. Houston was looking for left-handed relievers, so I went back to that well after going down a couple paths toward a trade with no success.
In return for Alexander, who has six years of club control left, I wanted Gilberto Celestino and another prospect, who I eventually settled on being Cristian Javier. To pry Celestino from Houston’s grip, I needed to take on Jon Singleton, who was designated for assignment last year and accepted assignment to AA - Corpus Christi but was paid $2MM. Due $2MM again this year with a club option that requires a $500K buyout for next year, Singleton isn’t the sexiest acquisition, but it’s a relatively modest price to pay, and a team like these Shadow Royals could theoretically be a place where Singleton could get a second chance.
Though Singleton is a known if mysterious commodity, Celestino and Javier are less known. Celestino, playing as an 18-year-old last year, was playing stateside for his second straight year, having been the youngest regular playing in the Gulf Coast League over the final month of the year before. He didn’t light the world ablaze this past year, but there aren’t many international free agents playing stateside at 17 or 18 years old. Right now, he’s a raw, toolsy center fielder to salivate over like any good prospect lech would.
Javier split 2017 between the three levels of A-ball. In seven stops over the past three years, he’s yet to put up a FIP worse than 3.39. He currently throws four pitches, and if he doesn’t stick as a starter, he reasonably projects as a ROOGY. There’s a lot to like, and next year, as a 21-year-old, there’s no good reason to think he can’t finish the year in the Texas League.
Celestino was #18 and Javier was #30 on MLB.com’s Prospect Watch for the Astros.
At this point, it should be clear that there was no point in having Brandon Moss on the 2018 Shadow Royals. A team in full rebuild mode doesn’t need him gumming up the works, especially with Chris Davis on the roster. As one could probably surmise, other GMs weren’t lining up to take him off the Royals’ hands. There was another deal that almost happened, but things just couldn’t line up right. With Moss fans few and oceans apart, he was sent to Detroit along with $6.25MM for 2018 and $1MM to buyout his 2019 mutual option. In return, the Shadow Royals got right-handed relief prospect Adam Ravenelle. In his age-24 season, he was serviceable in his second go-around in AA - Erie. A fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2014, he can light up the radar gun, consistently pumping in triple-digit heat. He’s ranked 26th on the Tigers’ prospect list.
As the sim was coming to a close, the Shadow Royals felt the need to move Paulo Orlando to open up a spot on the roster for the younger, switch-hitting (!) Billy Burns, whose speed plays better in-game than Orlando’s has historically. With teams scrambling to get deals in under the wire, there weren’t many that were materializing that made sense roster-wise. That’s when Miami stepped out of the shadows and offered Shawn Kelley (this was the last transaction, and my bullpen was even thinner then) and prospect Jordan Guerrero, who they’d acquired from the White Sox. Shawn Kelley is due $5.5MM this year, which is a hilariously the sixth-highest salary for a member of the projected 25-man roster.
Jordan Guerrero finished his second straight season in AA - Birmingham in his age-23 season. He’s probably a back-of-the-rotation arm, but there’s no reason to think he can’t start in Omaha and be of help should the big-league rotation need arms—something that should be expected.
- Jaime García - LHP - 31 - two years at $7MM per year
- Peter Moylan - RHRP - 39 - one year at $1MM
- Joe Blanton - RHRP - 38 - one year at $1MM
- Bud Norris - RHRP - 33 - one year at $1MM with $200K performance bonuses for every eight games finished
- Wily Peralta - RHP - 29 - split deal worth $750K if added to the 25-man roster, player opt-out clause if not added to the 25-man roster by June 1
- Hisashi Iwakuma - RHP - 37 - split deal worth $1MM if added to the 25-man roster with $750K performance bonuses for every 10 starts made; player opt-out June 1
- Dustin McGowan - RHRP - 36
- Tom Wilhelmsen - RHRP - 34
Obviously, what was going on here was that I tried to piece together enough of a pitching staff to play a major-league season. I didn’t commit any long-term money. I basically signed stopgaps entirely. García was the only one signed for more than $1MM guaranteed. There are a handful of guys who could reestablish value and get shipped off at the deadline.
Here is what it all looks like:
Shadow Royals in a spreadsheet
|Chris Davis (L)||First Base||$17,000,000.00||$17,000,000.00||$17,000,000.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Jurickson Profar (S)||Second Base||$1,100,000.00||A3||A4|
|Raúl Mondesí (S)||Shortstop||$545,000.00||A1||A2||A3|
|Cheslor Cuthbert||Third Base||$545,000.00||A1||A2||A3|
|Alex Gordon (L)||Left Field||$20,000,000.00||$20,000,000.00||$23,000,000.00|
|Billy Burns (S)||Center Field||$545,000.00||A1||A2||A3|
|Jorge Soler||Right Field||$4,000,000.00||$4,000,000.00||$4,000,000.00||A4|
|A.J. Reed (L)||Designated Hitter||$545,000.00||A1||A2||A3|
|Ramón Torres (S)||Infield||$545,000.00||A1||A2||A3|
|Jason Hammel||SP 1||$9,000,000.00||$12,000,000.00|
|Jake Junis||SP 2||$545,000.00||A1||A2||A3|
|Nate Karns||SP 3||$1,400,000.00||A2||A3|
|Jaime Garcia (L)||SP 4||$7,000,000.00||$7,000,000.00|
|Eric Skoglund (L)||SP 5||$545,000.00|
|Bud Norris||RP 1||$1,000,000|
|Shawn Kelley||RP 2||$5,500,000|
|Joe Blanton||RP 3||$1,000,000|
|Peter Moylan||RP 4||$1,000,000|
|Mike Morin||RP 5||$700,000||A2||A3|
|Ryan Buchter (L)||RP 6||$545,000||A1||A2||A3|
|Brian Flynn (L)||RP 7||$545,000||A1||A2||A3|
|Insurance on YV||-$3,125,000.00||-$4,875,000.00||-$500,000.00|
|Jon Singleton||minors, was DFA||$2,000,000.00||$500,000.00|
|Mike Minor BO||$1,250,000.00|
|Brandon Marsh||OF (Angels #6)|
|Jaime Barria||RHP (Angels #8)|
|Rogelio Armenteros||RHP (Astros #22)|
|Tanner Scott||LHRP (O's #6)|
|Anthony Santander||OF (O's #9)|
|Jomar Reyes||3B (O's #17)|
|Milton Ramos||SS (O's #20)|
|Willie Calhoun||2B/OF (Tex #2, #59)|
|Ariel Jurado||RHP (Tex #9)|
|Max Pentecost||C/1B (Tor #8)|
|Ryan Borucki||LHP (Tor #13)|
|Jordan Patterson||1B/OF (Col #13)|
|Tyler Nevin||1B/3B (Col #17)|
|Daniel Montano||OF (Col #20)|
|Gilberto Celestino||OF (Hou #18)|
|Cristian Javier||RHP (Hou #30|
|Adam Ravenelle||RHP (Det #26)|
|Jordan Guerrero||LHP (CWS #20)|
The Shadow Royals payroll on the 25-man roster will be $84,495,000 guaranteed. There are also $36,425,000 in sunk costs, though that is based on just a 50% recoupment of Yordano Ventura’s contract via insurance, which I believe is low. That brings payroll with dead money to $120,920,000, nearly $20MM lower than my advised budget.
I wanted to move Salvador Pérez (or at least Drew Butera to open up a spot on the 25-man roster for Cam Gallagher) and Jason Hammel, but there weren’t any deals that made sense for either. The market for catchers was basically nonexistent.
This is a BAD team. Borne out of circumstance? Sure, but barring a series of major miracles accepted into the canon, they’ll probably be bad enough to challenge for the worst record in baseball.
The hope here is that the pieces acquired (of which there were many) bear some serious fruit. Like watermelons. Or pomegranates.
So, what say ye, commentariat? String him up or throw a parade (in five to ten years)?
How would you grade OMD’s fire sale?
This poll is closed