Expansion in baseball brought us the Royals, but baseball has not had an expansion draft in 22 years, the longest period without expansion since expansion began in 1960. The city of Orlando recently held a press conference to push for an expansion team, and there are groups in Portland, Montreal, and Nashville looking for teams, but there has been little discussion on adding two new teams, particularly with the Athletics and Rays still in unresolved stadium situations.
But with an increase in talent from Latin America and Asia, the talent level around the game may be at the point where it can feed two more teams. So we decided to hold our own mock expansion draft to see how strong those clubs would be. I asked fans to help come up with protected lists for their club (I filled in for a few clubs), and I had two of our writers - Shaun Newkirk and David Lesky - serve as general managers for our two new teams, Montreal and Portland. The rules for the expansion draft were the same as they were in the last expansion draft in 1997:
- Each team can protect 15 players in the first round, add three more players in the second round, and three more players in the third round.
- Teams must protect any player with a no-trade clause or 10-5 rights.
- Each team will lose exactly one player in the first and second round. No team will lose more than one player in the third round.
- All players in an organization were eligible to be drafted, except those with no prior major league experience who had less than three years service if signed at age 19 or older, or had less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.
- Free agents cannot be protected.
Here is what the original protected lists looked like, plus the players each team looked to add after each round (we did this a few weeks ago before non-tenders and free agent signings). We flipped a coin, and winner of the toss could choose either (1) the first overall pick in the expansion draft or (2) to allow the other team to pick first and receive both the second and third overall expansion draft picks and the right to pick first in the subsequent rounds of the expansion draft. Montreal GM David Lesky won the toss and deferred the first pick to Portland GM Shaun Newkirk. Here’s how the draft unfolded:
Mock expansion draft
|1||Shaun (Portland)||P Carlos Carrasco, CLE|
|2||David (Montreal)||OF George Springer, HOU|
|3||David (Montreal)||OF David Peralta, ARI|
|4||Shaun (Portland)||P Marcus Stroman, NYM|
|5||David (Montreal)||P Jose Quintana, CHC|
|6||Shaun (Portland)||P Jameson Taillon, PIT|
|7||David (Montreal)||3B Justin Turner, LAD|
|8||Shaun (Portland)||2B Jurickson Profar, OAK|
|9||David (Montreal)||P Yonny Chirinos, TBR|
|10||Shaun (Portland)||P Carlos Rodon, CHW|
|11||David (Montreal)||SS Orlando Arcia, MIL|
|12||Shaun (Portland)||RF Adam Eaton, WSN|
|13||David (Montreal)||P Touki Toussant, ATL|
|14||Shaun (Portland)||RF Nomar Mazara, TEX|
|15||David (Montreal)||LF Clint Frazier, NYY|
|16||Shaun (Portland)||3B Bobby Dalbec, BOS|
|17||David (Montreal)||P Jose Urena, MIA|
|18||Shaun (Portland)||3B Jeimer Candelario, DET|
|19||David (Montreal)||1B Dan Vogelbach, SEA|
|20||Shaun (Portland)||SS Nick Gordon, MIN|
|21||David (Montreal)||P Adrian Morejon, SDP|
|22||Shaun (Portland)||P Vince Velasquez, PHI|
|23||David (Montreal)||P Ben Bowden, COL|
|24||Shaun (Portland)||P Patrick Sandoval, LAA|
|25||David (Montreal)||2B Kolten Wong, STL|
|26||Shaun (Portland)||1B Rowdy Tellez, TOR|
|27||David (Montreal)||P Dean Kremer, BAL|
|28||Shaun (Portland)||OF Phil Ervin, CIN|
|29||David (Montreal)||P Mike Montgomery, KCR|
|30||Shaun (Portland)||P Johnny Cueto, SFG|
|31||David (Montreal)||P Archie Bradley, ARI|
|32||Shaun (Portland)||OF Harrison Bader, STL|
|33||David (Montreal)||C Wilson Ramos, NYM|
|34||Shaun (Portland)||P Brandon Bielak, HOU|
|35||David (Montreal)||P Trevor Richards, TBR|
|36||Shaun (Portland)||P Bryan Mata, BOS|
|37||David (Montreal)||P James Karinchak, CLE|
|38||Shaun (Portland)||IF Hudson Potts, SDP|
|39||David (Montreal)||P Jimmy Nelson, MIL|
|40||Shaun (Portland)||IF Jorge Mateo, OAK|
|41||David (Montreal)||P Tyler Duffey, MIN|
|42||Shaun (Portland)||P Domingo German, NYY|
|43||David (Montreal)||P Joe Barlow, TEX|
|44||Shaun (Portland)||IF Omar Estevez, LAD|
|45||David (Montreal)||P Ryne Stanek, MIA|
|46||Shaun (Portland)||P Kyle Muller, ATL|
|47||David (Montreal)||2B Donnie Walton, SEA|
|48||Shaun (Portland)||IF Zack Short, CHC|
|49||David (Montreal)||C Yermin Mercedes, CHW|
|50||Shaun (Portland)||3B Colton Walker, COL|
|51||David (Montreal)||P Isaac Mattson, LAA|
|52||Shaun (Portland)||P Keegan Akin, BAL|
|53||David (Montreal)||P Dany Jimenez, TOR|
|54||Shaun (Portland)||P Damon Jones, PHI|
|55||David (Montreal)||P Alex Power, CIN|
|56||Shaun (Portland)||CF Michael Gigliotti, KCR|
|57||David (Montreal)||2B Travis Demerette, DET|
|58||Shaun (Portland)||P Nick Burdi, PIT|
|59||David (Montreal)||P Sam Selman, SFG|
|60||Shaun (Portland)||P James Bourque, WSN|
|61||David (Montreal)||LF Michael Brantley, HOU|
|62||Shaun (Portland)||P Logan Allen, CLE|
|63||David (Montreal)||LF Zach Reks, LAD|
|64||Shaun (Portland)||P Tanner Houck, BOS|
|65||David (Montreal)||CF Mike Tauchman, NYY|
|66||Shaun (Portland)||P Steven Brault, PIT|
|67||David (Montreal)||OF Randy Arozarena, STL|
|68||Shaun (Portland)||P Alec Hansen, CHW|
|69||David (Montreal)||P Jose Alvarado, TBR|
|70||Shaun (Portland)||P Pedro Avila, SDP|
Here is what the two teams look like after the draft:
|Position||Montreal||2020 Salary||Portland||2020 Salary|
|Position||Montreal||2020 Salary||Portland||2020 Salary|
|1B||Michael Brantley||$16,000,000||Rowdy Tellez||$563,500|
|2B||Kolten Wong||$10,250,000||Jurickson Profar||$5,800,000|
|SS||Orlando Arcia||$2,700,000||Nick Gordon||$563,500|
|3B||Justin Turner||$20,000,000||Jeimer Candelario||$563,500|
|LF||Clint Frazier||$563,500||Phil Ervin||$563,500|
|CF||George Springer||$21,400,000||Adam Eaton||$9,500,000|
|RF||David Peralta||$8,800,000||Nomar Mazara||$5,700,000|
|Position||Bench||2020 Salary||Bench||2020 Salary|
|1B||Dan Vogelbach||$563,500||Bobby Dalbec||$563,500|
|OF||Mike Tauchman||$563,500||Harrison Bader||$563,500|
|Position||Pitching||2020 Salary||Pitching||2020 Salary|
|SP||Jose Quintana||$10,500,000||Carlos Carrasco||$10,250,000|
|SP||Yonny Chirinos||$563,500||Marcus Stroman||$11,800,000|
|SP||Touki Toussant||$563,500||Jameson Taillon||$2,300,000|
|SP||Jose Urena||$4,000,000||Carlos Rodon||$4,500,000|
|SP||Trevor Richards||$563,500||Johnny Cueto||$21,833,334|
|RP||Ryne Stanek||$563,500||Patrick Sandoval||$563,500|
|RP||Mike Montgomery||$2,900,000||Vince Velasquez||$3,900,000|
|RP||Tyler Duffey||$563,500||Domingo German||$563,500|
|RP||Archie Bradley||$3,600,000||Logan Allen||$563,500|
|RP||Jose Alvarado||$563,500||Steven Brault||$563,500|
|RP||Jimmy Nelson||$3,700,000||Nick Burdi||$563,500|
Here is what the GMs had to say:
David (Montreal): This expansion draft really took place in the middle of a hypothetical expansion team’s rise to the realm of a real big league club. If this expansion period followed the same path of the last, our teams had been drafting for two full seasons, so I went into this draft presuming there were some prospects in the pipeline beginning to develop and really wanting to key in on the big league club to put a competitive team on the field for the Montreal faithful who were so excited to welcome the Expos back to the big leagues. While payroll was at least in my mind, if a player was available who I thought could help turn the team into a quick winner, I took him.
My strategy was pretty simple. I wanted to build the best possible team while thinking about drafting players who, if all fell apart, could be flipped in July for some really strong prospect capital to help build for the future (even though we’re not going further with this exercise). I probably wasn’t focused quite enough on pitching with just a handful of impact starting pitchers available but in my first two picks, I think I built a better outfield than we currently see with the Royals in George Springer and David Peralta. Not wanting to miss out on any pitching, I quickly pivoted to Jose Quintana before going with another savvy veteran in Justin Turner.
All along, I thought if I could build a team who could be competitive enough, I was happy. And in my starting lineup that features Michael Brantley at first base because of my strong outfield, I have a starting eight projected by Steamer to hit .275/.344/.458 with 151 home runs, just a 17.2 percent strikeout rate and a walk rate of 8.7 percent. That’s pretty darn good. I’d put that up against most teams out there. Of course, the issue is the pitching and while there’s some upside on my staff, I think it leaves more questions that answers.
Quintana is solid, but he’s not an ace. Yonny Chirinos had a nice year for the Rays, but he’s nothing terribly special. The staff rests on some questions that, if everything goes right, could be quite good, but if not, might be a lot of mid-rotation guys rather than any one top of the rotation starter. Jimmy Nelson finished ninth in the NL Cy Young vote in 2017, but then missed all of 2018 and only threw 22 innings in 2019. Is he back? If so, I feel much better about things. If not, well, hopefully Trevor Richards, Jose Urena and Touki Toussant develop.
I liked Mike Montgomery as a good swingman value and I focused in the later rounds on building a bullpen. James Karinchak struck out 42 batters in 17.1 innings in AAA last year and then struck out eight in 5.1 big league innings, so he’s a possible late inning stalwart. I also added some possible strong arms down the road in Joe Barlow, Dany Jimenez, Sam Selman, Ben Bowden and Den Kremer. Ryne Stanek, Archie Bradley and Tyler Duffey have all been dominant relievers at times, but nobody has been more dominant when they’ve been dominant than Jose Alvarado. If all goes well with that foursome, that could be trouble late game for opponents.
My favorite pick in the first round was Clint Frazier with the 15th overall pick. I know there are some defensive questions with him, but he broke out this year with a .267/.317/.489 line for the Yankees and he’ll be just 25 years old with team control through 2024. I also think Kolten Wong can be a nice piece with an OBP of .360+ in two fo the last three seasons and solid second base defense. I liked getting Wilson Ramos to handle the catching duties early in the second round to provide a strong bat there as well. I just need to make sure Montreal doesn’t trade for Noah Syndergaard now. And I really loved getting Mike Tauchman and Randy Arozarena in the third round as outfield depth, especially with Brantley, Springer and Peralta all heading into free agency following the 2020 season.
Best case scenario, this is a playoff team in year one. That doesn’t seem likely, but they can at least be competitive. Worst case, it’s looking like a 2015 Padres scenario with a lot of good veterans on a club that just couldn’t put it together and these pieces can be moved for potential future building blocks. All in all, I was really happy with how this fell for Montreal.
Shaun (Portland): There are, I think, three strategies for the inaugural season of an expansion team: grab a bunch of prospects, try to win right away, or somewhere in between. I suppose those are all strategies for current MLB teams too, but I opted for the third choice.
An owner/GM (which I just assumed the shoes of both in this) probably wouldn’t want to just sit back and wait for the team to be good 3-4 years from now, particularly after paying the potentially $1B expansion fee. However I thought I could balance long term growth with a mix of guys who should be around for a few years to keep the team from being a complete laughing stock.
It was also helpful that we didn’t need to acquire our entire roster from the draft and could also sign free agents. I didn’t have an operating payroll in mind necessarily, but at $83M, there is some room to sign guys (noticeably a catcher is needed on this roster).
The pitching is obviously the strength of this team, and using Steamer projected WAR prorated to 600 PA/180 IP for SP/60 IP for RP:
Carlos Carrasco 4.1
Marcus Stroman 3.6
Jameson Taillon 3.6
Johnny Cueto 2.3
Domingo German 2.3
I’m happy with that. It isn’t the best rotation ever assembled but those are a unit of good pitchers.
On the hitting side...we’re a bit thin and here is to hoping for a lot of pitcher duels and maybe our ballpark is pitcher friendly.
I do think this is a somewhere ~.500 team depending on the strength of the division and health. There are also a few guys (Nick Gordon, Harrison Bader, Bobby Dalbec, Patrick Sandoval, Logan Allen, Rowdy Tellez) you could see becoming an above average regular.
Also there are several veterans who could/should be traded at the deadline that could help build up the farm system: Adam Eaton, Carlos Carrasco, Johnny Cueto, Marcus Stroman, Nomar Mazara). I think this is what I would hypothetically/ultimately do if this were real.
Regardless of record I think this would be a fun team, a team named the Portland Mavericks.
What do you think? Did teams protect the right players? What players would you have targeted in an expansion draft?