In what has become an annual tradition, I participated in a simulated offseason earlier this week, administered by Max Rieper of Royals Review. In the simulated offseason, various SBN writers take on the role of general manager of the team they cover, and look to sign free agents, make trades, and otherwise wheel and deal to get their team where they want it to be for the upcoming season. General managers are supposed to work within the financial framework of the franchise — so the Rays g.m., for example, isn’t going to sign Carlos Correa, Marcus Stroman and Freddie Freeman to blockbuster deals — but otherwise it is up to us in terms of what direction to go.
I generally play this straight, the one exception being the year (I think 2014 or 2015) I just tried to re-assembled the 2010-11 Rangers teams.
That created a problem for me this year, however. After being in rebuilding mode, the Rangers are expected to be buyers this offseason, have a ton of cash to spend, and want to make some big moves.
I wholly failed to do that.
My top target in free agency was Carlos Correa. I pursued him aggressively, and ultimately dropped out rather than top the 10 year, $375 million offer he signed for.
My other top target in free agency was Clayton Kershaw. I matched the 3 years, $70 million the Dodgers offered him, but he chose to stay in L.A. rather than come home.
I had interest in Tommy Pham or Andrew McCutchen as righthanded DH/LF/bench bat guys, but they went for 2/$16M and 3/$33M, which I didn’t feel was worth it.
Corey Seager? 10 years, $355M.
Trevor Story? 7 years, $194M.
I pursued Javy Baez, going to 4 years, $88 million, but he landed at 7 years, $126 million.
I tried Marcus Stroman at 4 years, $100M, with an opt out after year three, but he ended up with a 5 year, $120M deal.
The only free agent I signed to a major league deal was pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who I gave 3 years, $30 million to. That was more than I planned, but I also had lots of money still available, it was late in the simulated offseason, and I had holes in the rotation to fill.
I also signed DH Jose Martinez and RP Alex Claudio to minor league deals. Martinez may be toast, and he basically didn’t play in 2021 due to a knee injury and then an elbow injury, but if there’s anything left in the tank he could be a RH DH bench bat. We all know who Alex Claudio is, of course.
You can see the full run down of free agent signings here.
So, with money to spend and free agents getting ridiculous money, I looked for other ways to try to make progress, and ended up making a pair of deals that involved taking on money in exchange for prospects.
The first deal was sending Steele Walker back to the Chicago White Sox for Dallas Keuchel and Wes Kath. Sim AJM wasn’t going to protect Walker in the Rule 5 Draft and saw this as an opportunity to buy a prospect in Kath, the ChiSox’s second round pick in 2021 out of a Scottsdale, Arizona high school. Kath fits the new Rangers’ profile as a lefthanded hitter with a solid hit tool, questions about his future position, and potential power projection, and BA says he “looks the part of an old-school ballplayer, not using batting gloves at the plate and having a consistency to his game,” and if that doesn’t scream “Rangers target” in the Year of Our Lord 2021, I don’t know what does.
I’m not a big Keuchel believer, and he was bad in 2021, allowing a 5.28 ERA in 162 IP over 32 outings, which is why the Sim ChiSox were willing to part with Kath to move Keuchel’s $18M 2022 salary and $1.5M buyout in 2023. That said, Keuchel was fifth in the Cy Young balloting in 2020, and was fine for several years prior to that, so there’s a potential dead cat bounce with Keuchel in 2022. And as noted above, I needed to plug holes in the rotation, and worst case, Keuchel can be the Jordan Lyles of 2022, the guy who goes out and gives you 30 replacement level starts so you don’t have to rush guys.
The second deal was with the Mets, as I sent Brett Martin to New York for James McCann, Dom Smith, pitching prospect Dom Smith, and $8 million in 2024.
McCann is owed $8 million in 2022 and then $12 million apiece in 2023 and 2024 due to the 4 year, $40 million deal he signed with the Mets after the 2020 season. That deal looked questionable at the time, and now looks even worse after he slashed .232/.294/.349 in 2021.
However...that slash line is better than what the Rangers got from Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim in 2021, and McCann is considered to be a fairly good defensive catcher. I acquired McCann because that was the cost to get the other pieces of the deal, but I figure he comes to camp, makes the roster if Heim or Trevino get hurt, and if everyone is healthy, well, a decision can be made then whether to cut him loose or send one of Trevino or Heim to AAA to start the year.
The net cost to me in terms of salary for McCann is $8 million in 2022, $12 million in 2023, and $4 million in 2024.
So what did I get for Brett Martin and $24 million, other than a backup catcher?
Dom Smith is a name that has been a hot topic here at LSB-land for some time. Still just 26 years old, Smith is a COF/1B/DH type who was the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, a bat-first/bat-only guy who didn’t hit much in part time playing time in 2017 and 2018, mashed as a part time player in 2019, put up a .316/.377/.616 slash line 2020 in a full time role, then cratered in 2021, slashing .244/.304/.363.
If you believe that the bat will rebound — and I do — he’s a worthwhile risk to take, particularly at the cost of cash rather than prospects, with three years team control remaining and a $3.5M estimated salary in 2022.
Robert Dominguez is a 19 year old righthanded pitcher who made his professional and stateside debut this year in the Florida Complex league, and who struggled in 12 innings of work. He was #9 on the BA mid-season list for the Mets and the preseason MLB Pipeline list for the Mets, throws in the mid- to upper-90s with a breaking ball and a changeup, and is seen as having starter potential.
Continuing my goal of having bodies to fill out the rotation, I sent Bubba Thompson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Merrill Kelly. Kelly just turned 33, but he has three years of team control remaining, and he profiles as someone who can provide roughly league average performance while soaking up innings. Bubba seemed a light price to pay for that.
Finally, I got Ryan Weathers from the San Diego Padres for Ronny Henriquez and Curtis Terry. Weathers was the 7th pick in the 2018 draft, was rushed to the majors this year, and was not good, putting up a 5.32 ERA and 5.44 FIP in 94.2 IP. Nevertheless, he was on BA’s top 100 list heading in 2021, he doesn’t turn 22 until December, and he seemed like a good buy-low guy who can be in the rotation mix for 2022.
And that was it. I thought I had a deal for John Means in exchange for Justin Foscue, Nick Solak, Kolby Allard and Aaron Zavala, but the O’s g.m. took another offer instead. I talked to the Astros about Jake Odorizzi, but they wanted Sam Huff. Pursued Yandy Diaz as a RH bat from the Rays, but didn’t get anywhere with that.
So yeah. Bolstered the 2022 rotation, but accomplished little in regards to upgrading the offense. Not a good Sim Offseason for me.