2013 Mock GM simulation: Running the Rockies

Rick Yeatts

For the second straight year I acted as the Rockies GM at the SB Nation Mock GM Winter Meetings Simulation. Here's what went down...

As you may recall, last year I participated in the inaugural SB Nation Mock GM Winter Meetings Simulation - an exercise in which fan representatives from each MLB team came together to imagine how they might remake their favorite teams...if the other GMs were fans like them. It was an extremely fun experience - I wrote a debrief here and a review of how my fake team did after the season here - so I of course jumped at the opportunity to participate again!

Here were the ground rules for the simulation:

  • We rewind to the end of the regular season.
  • The assumption is your GM has resigned and been replaced. The new GM is free to set their own organizational philosophy. Each team has a "recommended" budget.
  • We're not concerned with the 40 man roster.
  • Players with no-trade clauses cannot be traded (this includes players with 10-5 rights). Players with limited no-trade clauses can be traded, but I reserve the right to veto it if I think the player would not accept the trade.
  • Minor leaguers can be traded, but must be specified. No Players to be Named Later. Cash may be dealt, but the amount must be specified.
  • You are free to frontload or backload contracts, although player preferences are for contracts not to be backloaded. Anything ridiculous will not be accepted. You can offer player, club, mutual, and vesting options. Teams up against the luxury tax threshold (Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees) will have their contracts average annual value (AAV) applied to their budgets.
  • Top offer will typically be taken, although there may be exceptions if a player has a preference on where he wants to play (NY over Pittsburgh; older vet may want to play for a "winner.")
  • I am not going to negotiate long-term deals for players that are not free agents.

Colorado's recommended budget for the simulation was $95 million - which would rate as the highest in team history. I started with $79 million in money owed to the roster, including a couple of big club options. According to the ground rules, Colorado's roster as of the end of the regular season was when I stepped in as GM.

My goals heading into the exercise were quite similar to last year:

  1. Add quality ML starting pitching (league average or better) via whatever channel I could. Getting five competent MLB starters gives you a great head start at making the playoffs
  2. Stay within the $95 million payroll limit.
  3. Improve the overall talent level of the team if possible by getting rid of marginal players that my mock manager would have been tempted to give 500 plate appearances to at the cost of winning.
  4. Try not to completely mortgage the future for the present, but actually use some high-level prospects as trade chips, something O'Dowd is loath to do.
  5. Build a contender in one week.

Building quality bench depth on offense and in the rotation - sounds simple right? Let's see how I did (in chronological order over the five day sim)...

Pre-Sim

First of all, I was presented with a list of player options as well as a group of arbitration-eligible players that I could choose to tender a contract to (at the price estimated by the crowd at MLB Trade Rumors). Based on that information, I made the following decisions:

Exercised $11 million club option on P Jorge De La Rosa

This one was a no-brainer - JDLR will carry the Colorado Aberles to playoff glory

Declined $4.25 million club option on P Matt Belisle

While I really like Belisle in the Rockies pen, I felt I could build the bullpen more cheaply than other areas and needed the money to spend elsewhere.

I did make Belisle a two year, $4 million offer that the "commish" didn't see (not surprising given the number of emails he received during the week) and he signed with Arizona for one year, $2 million. Given what I was able to pick up on the cheap later on, it wasn't a huge blow.

Non-tender Jonathan Herrera, Mitchell Boggs, and Manny Corpas

For the second straight year I jettisoned Herrera. This time it was a tougher decision given that he was halfway decent last year, but it would have cost $1.2 million. Boggs and Corpas weren't worth the arbitration salaries.

Trade talk

I was contacted by the Diamondbacks about Cuddyer and the Mets about CarGo/Tulo. While the former deal didn't happen, I was able to work out something with the Mets...though not for either of their original targets.

Monday

Free Agency

We weren't big players for any of the top free agents (the market for them was very pricey), but I did make a few offers on the first morning that ended up getting players signed...just not on Monday.

Trade Talk

Things got pretty crazy pretty fast in the simulation. Several blockbuster trades for players like Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Chris Sale were consummated.

I put out feelers to a few GMs about trades. Rick Porcello was my top pitching target and, having acquired him in this exercise last year, the Tigers GM and I were already acquainted. We didn't come to a deal right away, but the groundwork was laid.

My big bat that I was targeting was Edwin Encarnacion...and the Blue Jays GM initially expressed interest in trading him - wanting Wilin Rosario as part of the return. I offered Rosario + DJ LeMahieu for him, but after that the GM went dark and the trade stalled out.

Other trade scenarios I discussed included getting Kris Medlen from the Braves (flat no, though the Braves GM traded me him last year), Brandon Phillips from the Reds (they weren't willing to absorb salary), and Giancarlo Stanton (nope).

Tuesday

Free Agency

I had expressed interest in both Kendrys Morales and James Loney in an effort to fill Colorado's first base hole. My best offer for Morales (who I view as a stretch at first base) was three years, $24 million - which felt like I was stretching it - and he ended up re-signing with Seattle for 3/26. I offered 2/12 or 3/15 for Loney but he ended up taking 2/14 from the Marlins (?!?!).

Trade Talk

A lot of radio silence on my offers. Nobody contacts me asking for anybody except the Braves GM asking me to take Dan Uggla's onerous salary. I think people forgot we existed.

Wednesday

Trade Talk

After two days of silence, I see that Toronto has traded away Jose Bautista, making it very unlikely he wants to part with Encarnacion too. However, I do make an actual transaction.

The Tigers GM finally counters my initial Cuddyer + Pacheco offer (same offer that snagged Porcello last year) with Corey Dickerson + Rex Brothers. I swap out Dickerson for the older Charlie Blackmon and ask for a reliever in return. Here's the package:

Trade P Rex Brothers and OF Charlie Blackmon for P Rick Porcello and P Luke Putkonen

Obviously I would have preferred not to trade away a 25 year-old closer with filthy stuff, but Porcello's such a perfect fit for Coors with his groundball tendencies, youth, and 3+ rWAR talent that I couldn't help it. Blackmon and Dickerson have redundant skill sets, so I kept the younger guy with more pop in the bat. Putkonen's a MLB reliever, though not a particularly good one.

Another big potential happening on the trade front on Wednesday was a potential trade for Cliff Lee. I offered Fowler + Butler + Chatwood + Story for Lee and Domonic Brown. If salary hadn't been an issue, that would have gotten the deal done, but I needed Philly to absorb some of Lee's contract to make the money work on my end. That definitely would have shaken things up a little bit, but I'm okay with not going through with it.

Free Agency

A couple of my free agent offers come through. I'm able to get a back-up catcher that isn't Yorvit Torrealba or Jordan Pacheco:

Sign C Kurt Suzuki to a one year, $2 million deal

Suzuki is a catcher who has been rated very positively by the defensive metrics for years, won't kill you with his bat (at least, not any more than Colorado's 2013 options), and isn't expecting a starter workload.

Another of my targets signs to provide a platoon partner for Corey Dickerson:

Sign OF Rajai Davis to a two year, $4 million deal

Davis is a right-handed player that can play all three outfield positions, steal bases (has averaged 40 over the last five years), and hits lefties really well (.319/.383/.474 against them in 2013). For those reasons, he's a perfect fourth outfielder for this team (and he replaced the traded Blackmon).

Thursday

Trade Talk

Coming into Thursday, the Rockies were looking to get one more starter and get an upgrade at second base so that DJ LeMahieu would be pushed into more of a utility role. In the New York Mets I found a willing trade partner to accomplish these goals:

Trade P Juan Nicasio, P Drew Pomeranz, P Wilton Lopez, SS/2B Josh Rutledge, and C Jordan Pacheco for P Jonathan Niese and 2B Daniel Murphy

I feel like this trade makes the Rockies contenders in 2014. Murphy's a 2-3 win second baseman while Niese makes a heck of a 5th starter for the club with his track record and GB rates.

As for what I gave up, Nicasio never showed me that he could consistently get deep into games - the same with Pomeranz. Lopez tied the deal together, while Rutledge was expendable given the acquisition of Murphy, and Pacheco was a throw-in.

Free Agency

Looking to fill out my bench, I brought back a familiar face to be the glove man:

Sign SS Clint Barmes to a one year, $1 million deal

Barmes is a fantastic defender up the middle and would serve as the 25th man on this roster. Not too shabby considering the detritus Colorado had in 2013.

I also started to rebuild the bullpen I had disassembled with my earlier trading:

Sign P Roberto Hernandez to a one year, $750k deal

Hernandez is a guy that was a durable replacement level starter for the Rays last year but who I feel would be a great fit for a long-man Ottavino-type role in the bullpen.

Sign P Mitchell Boggs, P Jeff Francis, and P Manny Corpas to minor league deals

I would like all three arms back...and for minor league deals, it's very low risk.

Friday

Free Agency

All that was left to do on Friday was to fill out my depleted bullpen with cheap arms on short-term deals. First up:

Sign P Kevin Jepsen to a one year, $750k deal

Jepsen is a right-handed reliever with a decent K rate and excellent FB velocity.

Sign P Chris Perez to a one year, $750k deal

Perez is a hard-throwing righty in the same mold as Jepsen, with the bonus of the PROVEN CLOSER label. His marijuana proclivities make Colorado an excellent fit for him.

Transaction Summary

Please see this post for a summary of what every team did in the simulation, but here's a more detailed look at the new Rockies.

In tabular form...

Transaction Type Add Subtract
Options De La Rosa ($11M) Belisle ($4.25M)
Non-tender None Herrera ($1.2M), Boggs ($1.5M), Corpas ($1M)
Minor league deals Boggs, Corpas, Francis (not in roster salary) None
Detroit Trade Porcello ($7M), Putkonen ($500k) Blackmon ($500k), Brothers ($500k)
NY Mets Trade Niese ($5M), Murphy ($5.8M) Nicasio ($1.7M), Lopez ($2.2M), Pomeranz ($500k), Rutledge ($500k), Pacheco ($500k)
Free Agency (Hitters) Suzuki ($2M), Davis ($2M), Barmes ($1M)
Free Agency (Pitchers) Hernandez ($750k), Jepsen ($750k), Perez ($750k)

I wasn't able to make any incredibly lopsided trade like I did last year (like Carlos Gomez for Edwar Cabrera and Rob Scahill or Kris Medlen for Dexter Fowler + Chad Bettis), but I feel like I learned my lesson from last year in terms of staying away from big ticket free agents while waiting until late to sign some bargain guys for cheap to fill out the bullpen. Still, I probably cut a little too deep in the pen while making the other moves.

Here's the 25 man roster of the Colorado Aberles with projected payroll numbers:

Position Player 2014 Salary
SP1 Jhoulys Chacin $4.85M
SP2 Jorge De La Rosa $11M
SP3 Tyler Chatwood $500K
SP4 Rick Porcello $7M
SP5 Jonathan Niese $5M
CL Chris Perez $750K
SU Kevin Jepsen $750K
RHP Luke Putkonen $500K
RHP Adam Ottavino $500K
RHP Roberto Hernandez $750K
LHP Josh Outman $1.4M
LHP Christian Friedrich $500K
C Wilin Rosario $500K
1B Michael Cuddyer $10.5M
2B Daniel Murphy $5.8M
SS Troy Tulowitzki $16M
3B Nolan Arenado $500K
LF Carlos Gonzalez $10.5M
CF Dexter Fowler $7.35M
RF Corey Dickerson $500K
C-Bench Kurt Suzuki $2M
INF-Bench DJ LeMahieu $500K
INF-Bench Clint Barmes $1M
OF-Bench Rajai Davis $2M
OF-Bench Charlie Culberson $500K
Total $91.15M

The bullpen is a gamble, but the starting rotation and bench look to be much improved to me. The team might not be the favorite to win the NL West, but I think it's got a much better chance than our current squad does. Tell me what you think! What would you have done differently?

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