SB Nation's off-season winter meetings simulation is always fascinating. It's more of an off-season simulation than a winter meetings one, but the idea is more or less the same: construct a roster by tendering arbitration to your players (or not), executing trades with other editors taking part, and bidding on free agents with an independent arbiter.
Last November my results were admittedly mixed. While I came away feeling that my 2015 Twins were improved, I also paid a price in prospects in order to shed salary. Every team is given a rough payroll ceiling, and in an attempt to stay within mine I may have executed one or two ill-advised trades.
Here are all of my moves, including a grade. It won't be pretty.
Days 1 & 2
Non-Tendered Anthony Swarzak: A
Declined option on Jared Burton: A
Sign P Kris Medlen (2 years, $12 million, plus 3rd year option): C
Trade P Michael Cederoth to Cardinals for OF Randal Grichuk: A
Non-tendering Swarzak and declining Burton's option were pretty obvious moves, and nothing that's happened in 2015 gives me reason to regret those decisions. Production from both players should have been easily replaced by cheaper, in-house options.
Signing Medlen was seen as a low-risk, medium-reward maneuver. I knew he wouldn't be ready to contribute right away but could be a rotation or bullpen reinforcement after the All-Star break. In real life, Medlen made eight starts and seven relief appearances for the Royals in 2015, giving them a 4.01 ERA in 58.1 innings.
The Grichuk trade came as a result of a failed Jon Jay proposal. The Cardinals' owner had traded Jay to two teams, and the other trade had gone through first. But he still wanted Cederoth, and in return I was able to pick up Grichuk. All he did was hit .276/.329/.548 with 17 home runs in 350 plate appearances. He also accumulated 3.1 fWAR. Not bad for a player who just turned 24 in August and who wouldn't even be eligible for arbitration until 2018.
Non-tendered Brian Duensing: B
Non-tendered Eduardo Nunez: C
Tendered Trevor Plouffe: B+
Tendered Jordan Schafer: D
Tendered Casey Fien: B
Trade P Tommy Milone and P Stephen Gonsalves to Astros for OF Dexter Fowler: B-
Sign OF Colby Rasmus (2 years, $22 million): B
Cutting loose both Duensing and Nunez was the result of firm beliefs that I could make the team just as good - or better - by plugging their holes with internal options. Duensing wasn't terrible in 2015 but wasn't particularly effective, while Nunez provided an early-season boost to the offense off the bench and ended up being relatively valuable as a backup. Tendering Schafer ended badly but wasn't a move that would harm the team, and tendering both Fien and Plouffe looks justified in retrospect even if neither player was as good as they were in 2014.
Trading for Fowler was like pulling teeth, as the GM of the Astros desperately wanted more than the offer he ultimately settled for; I refused to pay more for a player who would be a free agent following his one season in Minnesota. Fowler hit .250/.346/.411 with 20 steals and 17 home runs, and was exactly what I wanted him to be: a good enough defender in the outfield who would also function as my leadoff hitter. I felt Milone was expendable considering the plethora of my in-house options, and moving Milone's arbitration salary helped my goals as well. Throwing in a low-level pitching prospect like Gonsalves doesn't look amazing in retrospect, considering the season he had, but I was achieving two goals in this trade and knew I'd have to give something to get something. Milone pitched better than I would have expected, and that bumps me down to a B- for this trade. Fowler accumulated 3.2 fWAR in 2015.
As for Rasmus, I wanted him on a one-year deal, but he wouldn't sign in Minnesota for less than 2. He hasn't made me regret it, hitting .238/.314/.475 with 25 home runs. Always considered a place-holder until my young outfielders were ready to take over the reigns, Rasmus would now be on the trade block. He accumulated 2.8 fWAR in 2015, bringing that total to 9.1 fWAR for all three of my new outfielders.
Trade OF Max Kepler to Brewers for UT Jason Rogers: F
Trade P Mike Pelfrey and OF Eddie Rosario to Cubs for OF Ryan Sweeney and P Felix Doubront: F
Trade P Ricky Nolasco, UT Travis Harrison, $2 million to Nationals for P Bryan Harper: C+
Sign P Francisco Liriano (3 years, $36 million): A-
I had no idea that Max Kepler was on the verge of becoming a stud prospect, and I liked Rogers. He's a .326/.406/.582 career hitter at Triple-A and could play multiple positions, both things I felt would improve the quality of my bench. He did hit .296/.367/.441 in 86 games for the Brewers in 2015, but considering Kepler's trajectory it's clear I vastly undersold him and should be raked over the coals for it.
The first of two deals I made on the last day purely to shed salary and stay within my limits, I was foolishly more interested in staying close to my $94 million salary ceiling than worrying about asset management. Sweeney, of course, was released and didn't play in 2015; Doubront made 12 starts and four relief appearances for 75.1 innings of 5.50 ERA baseball. He was better for the Cubs down the stretch, but trying to fit him into my bullpen was a mistake.
It was the Nolasco deal that may have caused the most ire at the time last year, but in retrospect I'd still do that deal. Travis Harrison's prospect status has plunged, $2 million is nothing, and Byran Harper didn't have a bad year as a minor league relief prospect. The big thing here was getting out from underneath Nolasco's contract, and I'm happy with the results. But there's no denying that it was a risk.
After shedding Nolasco, I was able to get in the Liriano deal just before the final bell. I refused to go to a fourth year guaranteed, and instead got Liriano for $13 million per year through his age-32 season. In year one of his deal, the 30-year old gave me 31 starts of 3.38 ERA baseball including 205 strikeouts in 186.2 innings. He accumulated 3.6 fWAR.
Considering the seasons that Kepler, Gonsalves, and Rosario had, I do wish that I'd been a bit more tentative in giving away my prospects. But the goal was to be aggressive in building a competitive Major League team without giving away the best prospects on the farm, which I still think I did, while also adding the prospect Grichuk in the process.
This team would have had a rotation led by Liriano and Kyle Gibson, with Phil Hughes acting as the number three. Trevor May probably wouldn't have been able to go to the bullpen, leaving him as the number four. The number five would have been a mix of Tyler Duffey, Medlen once he was healthy, and no doubt there would have been room for Jose Berrios as well. But without Nolasco, Pelfrey, Milone, or Ervin Santana, that group of starters would have looked much different.
I also put too much faith in the internal options for solving the bullpen's issues. I was ready to trust Lester Oliveros, Alex Meyer, Michael Tonkin, Caleb Thielbar, and Felix Doubront as the bulk of the relief crew, with Casey Fien and Glen Perkins closing things down. Even if Oliveros and Tonkin could have translated their Triple-A success to the Twins, and even if Alex Meyer's confidence had allowed him to pitch better in the Majors, knowing what both Fien and Perkins went through from a health standpoint it's hard to say my bullpen would have been anything other than a dumpster fire.
My lineup is where I think I put the Twins in the best position. While Josmil Pinto, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, and Oswaldo Arcia all struggled to produce in 2015, down the stretch the lineup could have looked something like this.
Dexter Fowler (RF)
Brian Dozier (2B)
Joe Mauer (1B)
Miguel Sano (DH)
Trevor Plouffe (3B)
Randal Grichuk (LF)
Colby Rasmus (CF)
Kurt Suzuki (C)
Eduardo Escobar (SS)
It's not a terrible team, but I definitely failed the bullpen and - while I did upgrade the Major League roster - I played a bit too fast and loose with a couple of the Twins' best prospects. We'll consider it a lesson learned for this year's exercise.
With that in mind, how would you like to see me go about the mock winter meetings this year? If there are certain areas you'd like to see improved or free agents/trade targets chased after, put it in the comments.