With the 2013 season firmly in my rear view mirror, looking back on my decisions as the armchair GM of the Twins during the SB Nation Mock Winter Meetings I am left with mixed feelings. At the time I was comfortable with most of the decisions I made but, as in life, hindsight has a way of changing your mind. No doubt the Twins have felt the same way on occasion.
At the time, we were first asked to tender or non-tender our arbitration-eligible players. After that it was open season. Teams were expected to stick to realistic payrolls (I imposed a limit of $100 million on myself), and we were free to explore trades with the armchair GMs of other teams. Here's what I did, including a grade and how the players performed in 2013.
Denard Span traded to New York Mets for Jeurys Familia (Mets' #2 prospect at the time) and Rafael Montero (#9)
Familia and Montero were ranked the Mets' #5 and #8 prospects respectively for 2013. Familia was a starter in the minors and I acquired him with that end in mind, but the Mets used him in the bullpen this season before he was shut down due to injury. Montero, meanwhile, had a very good season between Double-A and Triple-A at age 22.
As far as Span goes, he had the second-worse season of his career offensively - although his defense did make up for some of that lost ground.
|2013 - Denard Span||153||610||75||170||28||11||4||47||42||77||20||6||.279||.327||.380|
While neither of these players has the big upside of Alex Meyer, I had the opportunity to make that trade with Washington and I chose to go this route instead. Sadly, Familia was hurt for most of the season which makes this deal look not as good as it might have otherwise. Still, I achieved my goal of acquiring young, talented pitching with an eye towards giving the rotation plenty of options in the future. Familia would be ready to try again in 2014, and Montero would be competing for a job in spring training, too.
The real-life return for Span has turned out pretty exiting, which dulls my return, I think (since I'd grade the Span-for-Meyer trade as an 'A' for the Twins). But both of these pitchers will be around for a long while, and they both made my revised Top 10 prospect list at the time.
Ryan Doumit traded to Philadelphia Phillies for Jonathan Pettibone (#10) and Julio Rodriguez (#13)
Pettibone was Philly's #4 prospect for 2013, but Rodriguez was unranked for Baltimore. Pettibone made 18 starts for the Major League team in 2013, and while the peripherals weren't very good he was actually fairly effective. His job was to come in and compete for a starting job with the Twins in 2013, and he would have done just that.
|2013 - Jonathan Pettibone||5-4||18||18||0||0||0||0||100.1||109||50||45||9||38||66||4.04||1.47|
Rodriguez, meanwhile, was also cut short due to injury. That makes this the second in as many trades which can't be fully evaluated, but at the time he was a 22-year old starter with a knack for lots of strikeouts. He wasn't as MLB-ready as Pettibone, but he may have been the one with more upside.
As for Doumit, he went on to have a disappointing season. He's slowly being moved out from behind the plate, and while the power didn't dip as much as the base hits did, his overall value (0.6 WAR bref) was his lowest since 2010.
|2013 - Ryan Doumit||135||485||49||120||28||1||14||55||48||99||1||0||.247||.314||.396|
I sold high on Doumit, and I'm happy I did. I'm also happy with who I received in return.
Ben Revere traded to Texas Rangers for Martin Perez (#3) and Justin Grimm (#11)
Going into 2013, Perez became Texas' #6 prospect, was #81 on Baseball America's Top 100, and also came in at #95 on MLB.com's list. Grimm had moved up one spot on the Rangers' list, to #10. Grimm made 17 starts for the Rangers and, unfortunately, went from "holding his own" over his first few starts to "whoops, batters have him pegged" over his last few. He was traded to the Cubs where they used him out of the bullpen. There's certainly potential there, but right now it's unclear whether he'll be a starter or a reliever.
|2013 - Justin Grimm||0-2||10||0||0||0||0||0||9.0||4||3||2||0||3||8||2.00||.78|
The real steal in this one was Perez, who made 20 starts with the Rangers after six incredibly effective ones in Triple-A. He has good command and the strikeouts aren't bad, and at just 22 it's safe to say he had a pretty good season. His ceiling looks like a number three starter, but considering he's under control through 2018 the Twins will get plenty of value here.
|2013 - Martin Perez||10-6||20||20||1||0||0||0||124.1||129||55||50||15||37||84||3.62||1.34|
Revere had a pretty good season, until he got hurt. But all of his offensive value still stems from his ability to land a base hit.
|2013 - Ben Revere||88||315||37||96||9||3||0||17||16||36||22||8||.305||.338||.352|
Both of these pitchers are under team control for the next five seasons, one of which should hold down a rotation spot for the duration and another who will compete for a spot but who will be, at worst, a bullpen arm. Perez doesn't have the upside of Trevor May, but he's MLB-ready and he certainly pitched better than Vance Worley this season.
Trade Conclusions (B Grade)
Of those six players I picked up in return, all of them are pitchers. Familia, Perez, and Grimm are all ready for at least part-time MLB duty this season. Pettibone is almost ready. Montero and Rodriguez might need another couple of seasons. All of them are among their organization's top prospects.
With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear that Perez and Pettibone would have been in the Twins' rotation this season, perhaps negating the need to turn to pitchers like Liam Hendriks or Cole De Vries quite as often. Neither put forward full seasons, but they would both be ready to take full-time roles in 2014 along side Kyle Gibson. Montero and Familia would be competing for a spot as well, with Grimm having an outside shot. Rodriguez would need more time in the minor leagues.
In retrospect, if I'd had known that I was going to trade Doumit (that wasn't an original plan), I may have chosen the big upside pitcher in Alex Meyer in return for Span. But I didn't know that ahead of time, so I went with what I thought was the best mix of quality and quantity. I'm happy with what I got, because these pitchers do give the Twins better, inexpensive, team-controlled, MLB-ready pitchers than they currently have available. I am kicking myself a bit for not getting the high-upside guy, but at the same time: you can't fix everything in one off-season.
Scott Baker: 3 years, $24 million
|2013 - Scott Baker||0-0||3||3||0||0||0||0||15.0||9||6||6||3||4||6||3.60||.87|
Two caveats. First, quality starting pitching was going at a premium during last year's Winter Meetings, and I got caught up in it a little bit. I needed a good starter. Second, I didn't know that Baker would miss as much of the year as he did. Still, do those things save my decision-making here? Probably not.
On the plus side, I didn't just throw money away on Baker for a single year. I do have him for two more years, and I think I'll have the opportunity to recoup some of the value I lost.
Ervin Santana: 2 years, $16 million
|2013 - Ervin Santana||9-10||32||32||0||0||0||0||211.0||190||85||76||26||51||161||3.24||1.14|
I pegged Santana as a good bounce-back candidate, and thankfully that worked out really well. He held out for a while; I don't think there was much interest, particularly during the early flurry of money flying around for the "good" starters, and I also think teams were hesitant to sign him because people were under the impression he was on the downward trend.
Carlos Villanueva: 2 years, $8 million
|2013 - Carlos Villanueva||7-8||47||15||0||0||0||1||128.2||117||58||58||14||40||103||4.06||1.22|
Villanueva proved to be more effective as a reliever than a starter, and so when it became apparent that some of the younger pitchers could take on innings (like Perez or Pettibone) then I imagine I would have moved him to the bullpen as well. This was an under-the-radar signing and I still like it, although paying a non-closer $4 million rarely seems like a good idea.
Manny Parra: 1 year, $800,000
|2013 - Manny Parra||2-3||57||0||0||0||0||1||46.0||40||18||17||5||15||56||3.33||1.20|
Parra was brilliant this season, and probably would have displaced Jared Burton as one of my set-up relievers once it became clear that Burton wasn't as sharp in the middle of the season. He was a bit of a gamble considering his history of control issues, but he was much improved in that area this season.
Juan Cruz: 2 years, $4 million
Cruz signed with the Phillies but was released just prior to spring training. I'd have been off the hook for his money in this case, but at the time I had intended on him being a power reliever in the middle innings. I suppose I could go "incomplete" here for a grade, but I did swing and miss. Luckily the bullpen didn't need as much help as I'd anticipated it would.
Will Ohman: 1 year, $1 million
Ohman also didn't pitch. He was my first signing, thinking that if he bounced back he could be a more reliable lefty than Brian Duensing. Whoops. Again, I'd have gotten the money back on this, but still.
Kevin Youkilis: 2 years, $16 million
|2013 - Kevin Youkilis||28||105||12||23||7||0||2||8||8||31||0||0||.219||.305||.343|
Youkilis wasn't healthy all season. It's unfortunate, because I had planned on him being my designated hitter. He was my last signing; I had about $10 million left to spend and I wanted to give the offense some legitimate help. As a right-handed hitter I expected Target Field to play to his strengths in terms of power, and I thought I could tap whatever was left from the Greek God of Walks. That didn't work out. I know I still have another year left of him, and that he'll be in his age-35 season, but chances are I wouldn't be recouping as much value here as I might be able to with Baker.
Freddy Sanchez: 1 year, $500,000 (plus incentives up to $2 million)
It wasn't that long ago that Sanchez was a good hitter and a pretty good fielder, too. There wasn't much interest in him considering he'd missed 2012, but the Twins needed help in the middle infield and I took a flyer. Ultimately there's no harm done here, particularly since Brian Dozier had a breakout season at second base.
Rod Barajas: 1 year, $2 million
Barajas was one of my first signings, since I didn't want to leave the backup catcher job to just Drew Butera or Chris Herrmann. Again, Barajas didn't play.
Free Agent Conclusions (C- Grade)
I'm still giving myself an 'F' for all players who didn't play at all in 2013, even though if I'd actually had the same information as GMs around the league most of them (with the exceptions of Ohman and Cruz, because they actually signed somewhere) wouldn't have gotten an offer from me.
I had some successes with my free agent decisions on pitchers, but completely whiffed on the position players. In that sense I think my shadow Twins would have had a better pitching staff, but the offense would have been largely unchanged. Youkilis' injury-plagued season is what really sunk my strategy on that side.
Overall (C Grade)
For the most part I think I executed my blueprint pretty well. I wanted pitching, I wanted veterans to plug a few holes, and I wanted one bat that could really help out in the middle of the lineup. Of course executing a blueprint and then achieving results are two totally different things. It's not my decision-making I'm disappointed in, it's how those decisions turned out.
It was certainly a learning exercise, and it gave me a level of appreciation for how difficult putting together the team you want can be. But we'll be doing it all over again in just a few weeks. Will I do better next time? Here's hoping.
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