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Here is what a MLB expansion draft might look like

Would these teams be competitive?

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

Round 1 Team Selection
Round 1 Team Selection
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
Round 2 Team Selection
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
Round 3 Team Selection
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:

Expansion teams

Position Montreal 2020 Salary Portland 2020 Salary
Position Montreal 2020 Salary Portland 2020 Salary
C Wilson Ramos $10,250,000 $563,500
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
C $563,500 $563,500
1B Dan Vogelbach $563,500 Bobby Dalbec $563,500
IF Travis Demerette $563,500 $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
Total $94,048,500 Total $82,908,834

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?