The Winter Meetings, where baseball's general managers confer and cavort, begin tomorrow in Nashville. That means that Jeff Bridich might be about to get hit with trade discussions involving players like Carlos González, Charlie Blackmon, and Nick Hundley. Even if a deal does not take place in the next few days, the seed for a later one might be planted. A couple of weeks ago, Purple Row held it's own simulated simulated offseason. Led by Ryan Freemyer, a few members of the staff discussed a variety of trades with individuals representing the other 29 teams. We made two big trades that, if they were to happen this week, would please a lot (though not all) of us. We also signed a couple of free agents to tide the team over until 2017.
The first trade we made evolved from the initial offer to the final deal. The Cubs inquired about Eddie Butler. It makes sense, as Butler's struggles resemble the early career woes of another pitcher the Cubs acquired via trade: Jake Arrieta. Arrieta had command issues early on. From his age 24 season in 2010 to his age 27 season in 2013, Arrieta walked four batters per nine innings. Through age 24, Butler has walked 4.6 batters per nine in the majors. In his first major league season, Arrieta only struck out 4.7 batters per nine; so far, Butler has struck out 4.4 per nine. From our perspective, their thought process was to get Butler in the hopes that he would become half as good as Arrieta ended up.
The Cubs also tried to acquire Butler without giving much up. After all, it only took Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to land Arrieta. Our asking price was a bit higher. We wanted first baseman Dan Vogelbach, the number 13 prospect in the Cubs' system and the number 7 first base prospect in baseball. The Cubs did not want to give up such a well-regarded hitting prospect with thump in his bat. They demurred.
The Cubs eventually returned with a counter-offer: They need a center-fielder to replace Dexter Fowler, so they then asked for Charlie Blackmon. We were willing to part with Blackmon, but we also wanted more in return. The final piece of the puzzle was the addition of Ryan Williams, Chicago's 30th best prospect according to MLB Pipleline (as are all other prospect rankings here). A right-handed starting pitcher, Williams drew our interest due to his 1.1 BB/9 rate in the minor leagues. That includes a 1.6 BB/9 in 88 Double-A innings in 2015. His ability to limit walks would fit very nicely with the Rockies. Here's the final deal:
- Rockies acquire Dan Vogelbach and Ryan Williams from the Cubs in exchange for Charlie Blackmon and Eddie Butler
There was not consensus among the staff about this move as some members disagreed. The primary argument against the deal was that it's giving up on Butler a bit too soon. This type of trade could certainly come back and bite the Rockies, but each deal is a gamble. Vogelbach is a professional hitter who, in 1766 minor league plate appearances, has just a 16.5 percent strikeout rate and a 13.5 percent walk rate (which is important). Vogelbach's defense, however, can be charitably deemed well below average. While he's still young and semi-athletic, he can work at first base for a few years before being moved to an American League team to serve as a permanent designated hitter. Williams would likely split 2016 between Double-A and Triple-A before debuting as a back-end rotation candidate or a swingman in 2017.
The second significant move involved Carlos González. We discussed González with several teams, so he was in demand. The Orioles, for instance, expressed a lot of interest in CarGo, but we couldn't agree on an exchange. It was clear, however, that the Rockies would have to eat a portion of his contract in order to yield a quality return of talent. The White Sox ended up offering a pretty great package for CarGo. This deal didn't have quite the evolution the Butler/Blackmon one did. The White Sox inquired, we listened, they identified a possible exchanges, and we opted for the one we found to be the best:
- Rockies acquire Carson Fulmer and Jason Coats from the White Sox in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez and $17 million (his 2016 salary)
Fulmer was the White Sox' 2015 first round draft pick. They selected him eighth overall out of Vanderbilt. As a 21 year-old, Fulmer posted a 1.96 ERA split between Rookie ball and Low-A. He struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings, but he also walked 3.5 per nine. Fulmer slots in as the White Sox's second best prospect. He's also considered the ninth best right-handed pitching prospect and 42nd best overall prospect in baseball. He's not a finished product, but he's the type of high-ceiling pitching talent that the Rockies, like every team, could really use. Coats projects as a fourth outfielder and ranks 20th in their farm system. He has yet to debut, and hit .270/.313/.438 in Triple-A last season—his age 25 season. However, without Blackmon and CarGo, someone has to play the outfield for the 2016 Rockies.
With a mind to fill the 2016 roster, we then went bargain shopping. We were committed to building the best possible team for the 2017 season and beyond. We were less interested in 2016. We made two free-agent signings made for the sole purpose of filling out a 2016 roster:
- Rockies sign Marlon Byrd to a 1 year $6 million contract
- Rockies sign Mike Pelfrey to a 1 year $5 million contract with incentives
Even at 38, Marlon Byrd can still play right field. But we really brought on so he can hit some dingers. And, as we noted above, someone, needs to play the outfield in 2016. Mike Pelfrey's contract looks a lot like Kyle Kendrick's free agent contract, which makes a lot of sense because Pelfrey might be about as good as Kendrick.
Before digging around in the bargain bin for Pelfrey, we made a strong push for free agent pitcher Mike Leake. As Bobby DeMuro recently profiled, Leake would be a good fit for the Rockies' pitching staff. Knowing we would probably have to pay more than his projected five year, $80 million dollar deal to get him to come to Colorado, our initial offer was for five years, $85 million, with a mutual option for a sixth year at $15 million. That wasn't enough, so our next offer was five years, $90 million with the same mutual option. Our offer was again topped, so we upped our final offer to include a guaranteed sixth year, bringing the overall value of the deal to $103 million.
Alas, that still wasn't enough. Leake eventually signed with the Phillies for six years and a whopping $108 million. Given the five years and $90 million Jeff Samardzija, who is two years older than Lake, just got from the Giants, it might not be far off from what Leake actually ends up getting.
The final significant story line from the simulation was a move that we decided not to make. In our fantasy world (as in real life), Nolan Arenado will be a Rockie on opening day 2016. This wasn't due to a lack of interest around the league. We received two offers that were particularly strong—one from the Yankees, the other from the Indians.
New York offered up a very strong package of Aaron Judge (their top prospect, third best outfield, and the 17th best overall prospect in baseball), Jorge Mateo (Yankees number two, number 87 overall), Eric Jagielo (Yankees number six, number seven overall third baseman), Chase Headley, our choice of Adam Warren, Ivan Nova, or Michael Pineda, and $25 million.
Cleveland made a strong push as well. The best offer we received from them was a package of Judge (whom they presumably had acquired from the Yankees), Trevor Bauer, Garin Cecchini, Bradley Zimmer (Cleveland's top prospect, the number six outfield prospect, and number 26 overall prospect), and Justus Sheffield (Indians number six).
Both were very tempting, but ultimately we felt it would be best to hang onto Arenado for the time being. With Arenado still under team control for four more years, there isn't any urgency to move him right now unless the club is really blown away by an offer. Some of us were blow away by these offers and argued that we should take one of them, but the nay votes won out.
In the end, we were happiest with the trades. They were satisfying because we dealt with other individuals who were interested in getting a good deal for their team. It's very easy to think of trade scenarios that benefit the Rockies. The formula is easy: In order to get great player X, the Rockies can give up expensive player Y who we know is not very good but assume that the other team isn't smart enough to know that. To sweeten the pot, we'll throw in marginal prospect Z—maybe even two!
These transactions are easy to imagine because there's not another person to reject the unbalanced offer. The trades gave us hope that the Rockies can get really good returns for the team's most tradable players. As the Winter Meetings begin, now is the time for these deals to start moving forward in real life.
What do you think?