I had the privilege of serving as the Colorado Rockies general manager on the 2019 SB Nation Offseason Simulation. I can conclude that I lost several years off my life trying to make the perfect deals for my favorite ball club.
There were several deals made, several close to being made, and several not considered whatsoever. This whole event took place over a 48-hour period from 3 PM MT on Sunday, November 3, until 3 PM MT on Tuesday, November 5. The nice thing about this simulation is that it rewound to the end of the regular season. Since the real-life Rockies lost some players on waiver claims between then and now, this allowed me the opportunity to make sure I could keep the players I wanted.
I first received some “Notes from the Owner.” Unsurprisingly, the task at hand was to “Find a way to win with our core guys.” Obviously, the intention is to improve the roster, but the owner said he wanted the payroll to stay in the $150-160 million range. True to life stuff.
With a 2020 payroll projection of $159,795,00, it clearly wasn’t possible to go after top free agent targets like Gerrit Cole, Yasmani Grandal, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg just yet. I made my first order of business to clear some payroll space.
Okay, that wasn’t the first order of business. I first offered arbitration to all eligible players at their MLB Trade Rumors’ projections:
- Trevor Story— $11.5 million
- Jon Gray— $5.6 million
- Chad Bettis— $3.8 million
- David Dahl— $3.0 million
- Tyler Anderson— $2.625 million
- Kyle Freeland— $2.4 million
- Scott Oberg— $2.0 million
- Tony Wolters— $2.0 million
- Carlos Estévez— $1.2 million
Well, if we’re not non-tendering anyone, that’s not going to be good for payroll! Let’s see what we can do about this.
My primary interest was in moving Wade Davis and Jake McGee, a couple of high-priced relievers. Of course, there were other pricey candidates such as Ian Desmond and Bryan Shaw. Desmond, however, has grown on me, especially if he is used solely against left-handed pitching (132 wRC+ vs. southpaws in 2019). That isn’t to say I made him untouchable by any means, but moving him wasn’t a priority. As for Shaw, I thought it would be beneficial to keep one of the “big three” relievers and after reading the incredible Fixing the Rockies FanPost, I was convinced it should be him. That also influenced my decision to hold on to Anderson and Bettis, as my hope is that we can develop splitters for them during my tenure as Rockies’ GM.
As for a team to jettison the contracts Davis and McGee, my immediate thought was the Miami Marlins. I certainly wouldn’t be asking for much in return, but I would ideally want a reliever. Also based on the FanPost, the type of reliever we’d be looking for would have a splitter as part of their arsenal and also not be a veteran who has grown accustomed to pitching outside of Coors Field for their entire career. So, here’s the first move I made:
1. Antonio Senzatela and Yonathan Daza traded to the Miami Marlins for Ryne Stanek
Unfortunately, the Marlins were not immediately interested in taking on the salaries of our highly paid bullpen pieces. Stanek profiled as exactly the type of reliever I was looking for, however. He throws a splitter and his age is on the right side of 30 (28). He had some command issues in 2019, but he strikes out over 10 batters per nine innings. I was initially more interested in moving Raimel Tapia in this deal than Daza but was willing to do this if it would get the deal done.
Now, this still doesn’t solve our problem of shedding payroll. Maybe the next move will.
2. Pat Valaika traded to the Baltimore Orioles for $400,000
Remember, this simulation rewound back to the end of the regular season. In real life, the Orioles claimed Valaika off waivers. I certainly didn’t mind working out something similar and getting some cash back was all I needed.
It became increasingly difficult to find someone willing to take on Wade Davis and I wasn’t going to make any big free agent offers until I was sure I could move him. While I was spending nine hours (this is not an exaggeration) trying to find someone to take Davis and his entire contract for their worst player in the minors, the Washington Nationals signed Rendon to a 10-year, $310 million deal and the Chicago White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal to a six-year, $150 million contract. I assure you I would have shelled out whatever it took to get Grandal, but I’m sure it’s no consolation at this juncture.
After a great deal of pleading, I was able to find a suitor for Davis.
3. Wade Davis traded to the Chicago White Sox for Evan Skoug
After signing Grandal, the White Sox evidently didn’t have much need for catcher Skoug. Well, they probably didn’t need him much to begin with. The 24-year-old was Chicago’s seventh round pick in 2017 and hasn’t been able to reach the Mendoza Line at Class-A or High-A. He did hit .529/.600/.882 in 20 plate appearances in Rookie ball, but his .889 BABIP may have been a clue. Whatever. All I know is I got someone to take Wade Davis.
4. Yonder Alonso signed to a minor league deal
Alonso was quietly one of 2019’s most valuable Rockies’ hitters. There are no bad minor league deals and for a guy who had a 102 DRC+ after being traded to the Rox in 2019, this one was especially Not Bad™.
5. Peter Lambert, Daniel Murphy and Jake McGee traded to the Miami Marlins for Chris Mokma
Jettisoning McGee was the next big task. This was almost as difficult as moving Davis. I even got to the point where I was just asking for some cash for McGee. The Marlins were not even interested in this but did express an interest if I also included Murphy. I jumped at this opportunity but would obviously need more than just a couple hundred thousand bucks sent back in this scenario. Chris Mokma stuck out to me as a low-end prospect who put up good numbers in a brief stint in Rookie ball after being selected in the 12th round of the 2019 draft. The Marlins insisted I also include Lambert and after realizing there may be no other opportunity to shed McGee (and realizing that moving Murphy would free up money as well), I was ready to say “Yes!”
6. Derek Deitrich signed to a minor league deal
As I said, no bad minor league deals. And there’s plenty of bat-flipping fun potential here too.
7. Raimel Tapia traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Michael Hermosillo
Dahl, Desmond, Charlie Blackmon and Sam Hilliard look like they will factor into the mix for the 2020 outfield. While rosters will be expanding to 26 in 2020, I was still worried about finding a spot for the out-of-options Tapia. Is Tapia probably better than Hermosillo? Yes. Was this the best offer I could get for Tapia? Also, yes. What made this deal work for me is that Hermosillo has an option left.
8. Jhoulys Chacín signed to a minor league deal
Why the hell not?
9. Neil Walker signed to a one-year, $3 million deal
Oh god, is this really the big move the Rockies are making this year? Listen, I get it. I certainly hope I have some bigger moves up my sleeve too. But let’s just compare Walker to Murphy. He’s a year younger. He saves $5 million. His DRC+ was only two points worse (or actually 13 wRC+ points better because of the more significant park adjustments). You lose some slugging percentage but gain some OBP. We’re not planning on playing Walker full time here, but this is a worthy investment in my opinion. He’s also right-handed and could make a nice pair with Alonso at first base.
10. Lonnie Chisenhall signed to a minor league deal
It was a finger issue and then a calf issue for Chisenhall that resulted in the Pittsburgh Pirates getting nothing except 24 attempts at the plate in Triple-A for their one-year, $2.75 million investment in 2019. Chisenhall just turned 31, so there’s certainly some hope for him yet—and he was a comfortably above average hitter when healthy from 2017-18 with the Cleveland Indians. If he can get healthy, he could be a contributor.
11. Juan Nicasio signed to a minor league deal
See the note on Chacín.
12. Nick Hundley signed to a minor league deal
I became rather concerned about the possibility of adding a catcher. It could be worse than Tony Wolters and Dom Nunez, I suppose, but I didn’t want to turn to Drew Butera as depth. Tyler Flowers, Jason Castro, Robinson Chirinos, and Travis d’Arnaud were already snatched up. I put in minor league offers for Austin Barnes and Mike Zunino, but they received MLB offers I wasn’t comfortable giving them. I offered a minors contract to Martín Maldonado, but he retired from baseball to open a bed and breakfast. Looks like Hundley it shall be.
13. Ryan Vilade traded to the Seattle Mariners for catcher Omar Narvaez
I actually initially set out to potentially reacquire Tom Murphy from the Mariners but hadn’t realized exactly how good of a hitter Narvaez has been. He’s put up at least a 100 DRC+ in each of his four MLB seasons in part-time action. He set a career-high with a mark of 123 in 2019. Defensive metrics don’t like him one bit, but that’s what we have Wolters for! It’s unfortunate that both Narvaez and Wolters are left-handed batters, but Narvaez did post a solid 102 wRC+ vs southpaws last season.
The next one was the big one.
14. Brendan Rodgers, Colton Welker, Riley Pint, Terrin Vavra and Helcris Olivarez traded to the St Louis Cardinals for Dakota Hudson, John Gant and Harrison Bader
This started out as Pint and Vavra for Gant, but we clearly weren’t going to make a big free agent splash (no offense to Walker), so I wanted to go all in here. This particular trade took over three hours to iron out.
Let’s break down a few components here:
- I did not go into this simulation looking to trade Rodgers and Welker. I got some inquiries about them prior to this, but nothing interested me. It became clear that the inclusion of Hudson would also require the inclusion of Rodgers and one of Welker or Ben Bowden. And the Rockies need pitching.
- On the other hand, I did want to move Pint. I think it’s time a new organization sees if they can turn the pedigree into results.
- Gant was used as a reliever in 2019 but has been utilized out of the rotation as recently as late-2018. I believe he will make for an interesting rotation battle in spring training and if he does not win a spot, he will be an effective bullpen piece.
- Bader is probably the best defensive outfielder in baseball. He’s also right-handed, even if he’s not an impact bat. Blackmon, Dahl and Hilliard are going to play the majority of the outfield in 2020, but this addition switches things up a bit.
I really wanted to also get Kolten Wong in this deal as a bit of a stopgap option for Rodgers and was even open to including Bowden to acquire him, but the Cardinals made it clear they did not want to move him. I can be a prospect hugger at times, but I had to convince myself that a move that makes the team better in the short term would be the right one. And I believe this does.
15. Matt Adams signed to a minor league deal
After the mega-deal with the Cardinals was finalized, I came down from my adrenaline high and there was about two hours left in the simulation. What could the team still use? The immediate hole on offense looked to be first base. I made inquiries about Freddie Freeman, Carlos Santana, Brandon Belt, Justin Smoak, Ji-man Choi, Mark Canha and Kevin Cron but could not reach any deals. I put in a minor league offer for Adams, who will serve as depth behind Walker and Alonso.
16. Gerardo Parra signed to a minor league deal
17. Jesús Tinoco traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Chad Spanberger
I think this effectively brings the Troy Tulowitzki and Seunghwan Oh trades full circle. Oh was a pretty good add for the Rockies at the end of the 2018 season, but I honestly never wanted to give up Spanberger—so I made this move for me!
This deal was made at 2:26 PM and it’s the last move the Rockies made in this simulation.
The Moves That Weren’t
I made the following offers to free agents but came up short of their asking prices. Their eventual signing details are in parentheses:
- Shogo Akiyama— two years, $6.5 million, club option for 2022 (Arizona Diamondbacks signed him to a two-year, $30 million deal, with a mutual option)
- Homer Bailey— one year, $5 million, club option for 2021 (Mariners signed him to a one-year, $6 million deal)
- Gio González— one year, $9 million, mutual option for 2021 (White Sox signed him to a two-year, $26 million deal, with a player option)
- Dallas Keuchel— three years, $42 million (White Sox signed him to a four-year, $88 million deal)
- Jake Odorizzi*— three years, $54 million (Cardinals signed him to a three-year, $54 million deal)
- Marcell Ozuna**— five years, $115 million (Tampa Bay Rays signed him to a six-year, $132 million deal)
- Yasiel Puig— one year, $8 million (San Diego Padres signed him to a three-year, $33 million deal)
- Hyun-Jin Ryu***— three years, $64 million, club option for 2023 (New York Mets signed him to a three-year, $75 million deal)
- Stephen Strasburg— five years, $140 million (Philadelphia Phillies signed him to an eight-year, $324 million deal)
- Zack Wheeler— three years, $54 million (New York Yankees signed him to a six-year, $180 million deal)
* I’m not sure if Odorizzi would have chosen the Rockies over the Cardinals or not, but we pulled back our offer over concerns about his ground-ball rate. We initially looked toward a two-year deal in the initial offer for his services.
** After starting with a three-year, $45 million offer, we made seven additional back-and-forth offers for Ozuna. While we were willing to offer a higher average annual value, we were not comfortable with the sixth year and thus lost this bidding war to the Rays.
*** Our initial bid for Ryu was two years at $28 million, with a mutual option. We made two additional offers but were not comfortable going higher than $64 million over three years.
In trades, there were multiple teams with interest in Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl, Jon Gray and Scott Oberg, but we could not find a match in any trades that would have made it worth it.
In addition to players mentioned previously, we checked in on the following players in trade talks:
- Yonny Chirinos, Yandy Díaz, Oliver Drake, Brandon Lowe, Charlie Morton and Colin Poche of the Rays
- Paul Fry, Mychal Givens and John Means of the Orioles
- Mitch Haniger of the Mariners
- Carter Kieboom of the Nationals
- Trevor May of the Minnesota Twins
- Frankie Montas of the Oakland Athletics
- Joe Musgrove of the Pirates
- Buster Posey and Chris Shaw of the San Francisco Giants
- Mike Tauchman of the Yankees (I just might have offered to swap Phillip Diehl for him)
Two particular deals were closer than others:
- We were deep into talks with the Rays on a deal based around Gray and Rodgers for Chirinos. There were other pieces likely to be involved as well, but this did not come to fruition.
- We were also in talks on a three-team deal with the Orioles and Texas Rangers. We agreed on a framework that would send Desmond to Texas and we looked to acquire John Means from Baltimore for Pint, Josh Fuentes, Roberto Ramos and one of Welker or Bowden. After being unable to come to a deal here, doing a deal with just Texas to move Desmond was considered, but this idea was dropped after losing the Ozuna bidding war.
The 26-Man Roster in 2020
Now that all the logistical stuff is out of the way, let’s see what our faux Rockies look like in 2020.
German Márquez, Jon Gray, Dakota Hudson, Kyle Freeland, John Gant or Jeff Hoffman
Scott Oberg (closer), Chad Bettis, Jairo Díaz, Carlos Estévez, John Gant or Jeff Hoffman, James Pazos, Bryan Shaw, Ryne Stanek
- David Dahl
- Trevor Story
- Charlie Blackmon
- Nolan Arenado
- Ryan McMahon
- Sam Hilliard
- Neil Walker
- Omar Narvaez
Yonder Alonso, Harrison Bader, Ian Desmond, Garrett Hampson, Tony Wolters
Tyler Anderson will likely start the season on the Injured List.
In my estimation, Gant and Hoffman will battle for the fifth starter spot in spring training, with the other working out of the ‘pen. Chi Chi González will also factor in, but I believe he is on the outside looking in at the moment.
As for position players, I chose the lineup based on who I feel should see most playing time, but I definitely anticipate timeshares and platoons to factor in, so the eight players chosen as starters should be taken with a grain of salt.
After all our moves, the Rockies have a payroll of $132,015,000. I believe we made the team better while shedding $27,780,000 from payroll projections. In an ideal scenario, we would have brought in additional free agents (I especially would have liked to add Grandal), but there is also added flexibility for the 2020 trade deadline and the 2020-21 offseason.
According to Steamer’s projections, our version of the 2020 Rockies will accrue 28.1 WAR in 2020. This isn’t particularly great, but it’s also better than the projected 24.5 WAR based on RosterResource’s projected 26-man roster.
In summary, I will present the following potential responses to how I should feel after doing all this to your favorite team:
How should I feel about what I’ve done?
This poll is closed
I am so sorry. Fortunately, this is not real life.
You’re welcome. I’m glad I could help.
★ ★ ★
Thank you to Max Rieper, manager of Royals Review, for setting up the simulation. Thank you to Eric Garcia McKinley and Adam Peterson for providing me feedback on potential deals while I was pacing the floor. And thank you for Jordan Freemyer for not letting me do anything (even more) stupid.