Today’s piece was intended as a final wrap-up of the SB Nation offseason simulation. Instead, I’m going to go through some of the news and rumors of the two-day extravaganza here, and break down the good and bad of the roster we ended up with in tomorrow’s article.
First, a bit of tying loose ends. Among our initial batch of free agent bids was one, prompted by Darren Jackson’s offseason plan, that had us inking Danny Coulombe on a one-year, $3 million deal. Here’s DJ’s rationale:
This is more outside the box, but it is a rebuild, and Coulombe could be a nice reclamation project. He has a great slider, and an above-average curveball. He is a lefty, so any sort of a good slider is a good thing to have. He had a 3.56 xFIP, so the advanced stats expected him to be good, he just wasn’t. He had a good sinker this year, but rarely used it, if he makes an effort to incorporate his sinker more and his fastball less, he could be a very good lefty bullpen option for contenders in July.
Now, when I reminded the simulation’s superagent of our bid, I was told Coulombe wasn’t part of this exercise. I figured, OK, there must be a reason: He’s not a free agent, he has options, something, fine. But then, late Tuesday or early Wednesday, came word that the Houston Astros had signed Coulombe to a minor league deal. Huh?
While no official ruling, or awarding of Coulombe to the White Sox has come forth, screw it, that’s dirty pool. We’re signing Coulombe.
With that, here’s some random news and notes about who we signed, didn’t sign, and hate ourselves for missing out on.
When the Atlanta Braves, among many teams, came to us early for Jace Fry, on a lark I asked for one of their next-tier (AAA) starters, preferably a lefty. It was down to Luiz Gohara and Allard, and I told ATL I wasn’t too hot on Gohara for Fry. Good news: Atlanta wasn’t going to deal Gohara to us, they dug him more, then offered up No. 100 MLB Pipeline prospect Allard. Oh, and a significant sweetener, in AA IF-OF Travis Demeritte. For Fry. This was the first of several times I was pleasantly surprised to be offered more than I hoped to get back.
Anderson being offered up to us, as a salary dump no less, was as surprise. He’s not an ace, but he’s a useful arm. Worst case, he pitches in a longer-relief role like you’d imagine Dylan Covey having in 2019. The choices given, to pair with cheap and severely underrated Domingo Santana, were: Marcus Thames, Jonathan Schoop, and Anderson. No-brainer. Because of salary constraints, Welington Castillo was out of consideration, but knowing Milwaukee still needed a catcher, I pivoted to Omar Narváez. Selling high on Omar worked, because the deal wasn’t scuttled even when Milwaukee’s target for Santana, Jace Fry, was already off of our roster. As with the Castillo pivot, I moved quickly to sub in Aaron Bummer for Fry — and we had ourselves a sweet deal. If Anderson flames out for us in 2019, there’s a cheap ($500,000) buyout and he’s gone.
My gut was to offer a player to be named later for Castillo, and that would certainly fit this deal, as Castillo is a significant question mark. However, no PTBNL deals were allowed in this simulation, so both Soxes were going to have to just cross fingers and hope it works out. Boston started by asking for A.J. Puckett or Tyler Johnson, and that was too high a price in my book. I was looking for close to free, especially knowing Boston couldn’t eat any of Castillo’s salary. With a good assist from DJ, we rolled Danny Dopico out at the Red Sox, and they took it. It’s a huge win for us, even if Castillo doesn’t pan out; he’s another player in our vaunted Cuban connection, which hopefully will keep channeling talent to us. But I’m betting that Castillo getting unleashed in the majors instead of being stashed in Pawtucket, with no hope of promotion, is going to have a dynamite effect on his game.
This was not the most popular move in the SSS war room, but this is one I was bullheaded about and pushed through. If I lose my job taking a gamble like this, so be it.
Postscript: Most observers thought this was a sharp upside move for us, but all definitely found fault with Boston, because the ostensible reason for them dumping this salary (the luxury tax, lord knows they can afford to pay a Triple-A guy $10 million to take BP) is invalid. Apparently, international signing money counts against the signing team’s salary for tax purposes, whether you trade the player or not. Hey, don’t look at me, I’m just the guy who wanted Rusney.
I was pushing Castillo to a ton of teams, knowing that once some catching needs were met, and already-undesirable catcher like Welington would become unmovable. When I first struck up conversations with the Brewers, Castillo was a focus, on my end, at least. We talked with the Washington Nationals and the Tampa Bay Rays early, as well. But ultimately, they all pulled out, while a logical landing spot, the Angels, were receptive — and full salary accepted!
OK, this one hurts. I really debated a hard move on Donaldson, who I suspect is not nearly as worn out as many suspect. But frankly, I expected some team to come on heavy for him, like a 3/60 or more, and that made me edgy. Plus, with trade talks starting in earnest over the weekend but free agent bids not starting until 5 p.m. on Sunday, we’d already had a strong line on third baseman Maikel Franco. So I passed. Well, Donaldson signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, for four years, $64 million — which would have been my starting point (perhaps just three years, and frankly, when given the chance to match, I would have passed). Two catches, though. There’s an opt-out for Donaldson after 2019, so if he kills this season, he’s gone from Tampa. Second, I suspect some of his weird injury woes of late are products of artificial turf, and he’s just signed on to play more than half of his games over the next four years on the stuff. Bad decision on his part.
I’d sort of lumped the closer’s market into Adam Ottavino, Familia and Kelvin Herrera, with David Robertson perhaps a shade below, and perhaps even a set-up candidate. We went in hard for Ottavino but were thwarted by the QO, and the more I looked at Familia and some of his off-the-field issues, I decided I’d rather have Nate Jones trying to close for a whole season than that dude on the field wearing our colors. Thankfully, my will on that wasn’t tested, as Herrera chose the White Sox. Familia went to the Angels for a significantly higher (3/33) deal.
Fry, by far, was the player most asked about during the simulation, and that’s pretty astounding considering he was the first deal of the session for us. At least the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants checked in. The Cubs wouldn’t even part with Albert Almora for Fry. Meanwhile, we had a nice deal in hand from Houston, Single-A starter Brandon Bielak Triple-A outfielder Drew Ferguson (Ryan Cordellish). I thought Fry was going to Houston, until Atlanta came hard with the Allard package. I would have been content with Bielak and Ferguson, but the Atlanta deal turned out much better for us.
Kikuchi was another wild card in free agent bidding. If we were in, it would have made sense to hit the bid with at least $12 million annually, and for a variety of reasons (similar to Hyun-Jin Ryu) including health and an early stock of starters via trade, I passed. The Astros ended up getting Kikuchi for 6/65, with an opt-out after 2022. Grr.
When it was clear we were losing out on Grandal, things got a bit panicky at Bill Veeck Drive. For a nerve-wracking period of time, our MLB catching corps was Seby Zavala and Yermin Mercedes, with perhaps Kevan Smith in that mix (not sure, he would have elected free agency if not claimed by the Angels, right?). That’s not too hot. Knowing the Houston Astros had non-tendered McCann, I figured he might be a safe guy to float a one-year out to, maybe $5-10 million. While knee-deep in Carson Kelly talks with the St. Louis Cardinals, confident I would reel him in but unsure about a backup or platoon, the San Francisco Giants reeled him in with a curiously-low, $3.5 million deal, with a club option. Probably best we don’t invite the Vice President of the Fun Police onto the roster, anyway.
Count me among the crew interested in adding Cutch, even now, past his peak. As seen in Hamster’s plan, among others, at a reasonable rate, there was a place for McCutchen’s skill. I’d also have wanted him to fill the shoes I eventually gave to Curtis Granderson: leadership and mentoring. But after surprisingly scoring my ideal under-the-radar, potential sneaky-great OF of Eloy, Rusney Castillo and Domingo Santana, there was no room for Cutch, who isn’t yet in the fourth-outfielder territory Granderson now occupies. Had the two trades not clicked, particularly the Santana one, which we were out on for about 12 hours, I would have gone three years, $27 million on Cutch. And we would have lost out on him to Cleveland, who snagged him at 3/39.
Had Ottavino not taken the QO from the Colorado Rockies, it was intimated to me the White Sox would have snagged him as our closer with a three-year, $30 million bid. So we moved to Plan B, Herrera, and got him for $1 million AAV less.
Just after we got word that Gio Gonzalez was signing on with the White Sox, word came through that Pomeranz wanted to sign our one-year, $9 million offer. But, with trades already netting Kolby Allard, Kyle Gibson and Chase Anderson, we were quickly getting starter-heavy. As we were already well past “just give the five-spot to Jordan Stephens” territory, we pulled back on Pomeranz, who ended up with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a 1/8 deal.
Another crazy deal was the first one with the Minnesota Twins. Minny indicated it was looking for some OF power and I threw Avisaíl García out there. The Twins were interested. Now, I’ve got García no longer filling a role for the White Sox with Santana on the club playing right, so this is found money. And it gets better, because a bevy of starters, headlined by Kyle Gibson, are thrown at me as gettable (Minnesota was in the process of acquiring Zack Greinke from Arizona, and I presume that was a factor). Gibson was an easy choice, validated by the rest of the war room. Minnesota wanted to add a reliever, but we were RP-poor at the moment, so on DJ’s suggestion I threw out Jordan Guerrero as a lefty who could well fill a bullpen role for us in 2019 (if he survived a second Rule 5 draft, of course). Boom, done. Jason Castro was a bit too much of an ask as a second piece back, and Minny suggested Travis Blankenhorn. Blankenhorn is in the AFL right now, perhaps in a showcase-for-trade situation, but this Raley guy seemed much tastier, and though the Minny GM knew he was going to get roasted at Twinkie Town for including him, he send Raley to us as a second piece.
Honestly, knowing I wanted to shed Avi, I might have just flipped García to Minnesota for Raley. Instead, Gibson fell into our laps for a pitcher who might be plucked from our system next month in the Rule 5. Whoa.
I intended to make Ryu a possible target, because frankly I thought he was as good as any other starter out there. But when the Los Angeles Dodgers extended a qualifying offer, I figured he’d take it. If not, his offers (say, $16 million per) on top of losing a second-rounder, might prove too steep, especially for a guy with some injury issues. Oops. Ryu ended up signing with the goddang devil Rays for 3/30. Absent the QO situation, I would have gone $16 million per on Ryu, but the impediments above, plus our quick success in stockpiling some decent starters to fill out the rotation, made Ryu a bit more moot. Now, I wonder if I shouldn’t have laid out at least a lowball offer, because I would never have gone as low as 3/30. Sigh.
Among many almosts during the simulation was an interesting possibility with Rays outfielder Smith. I love the guy, and when he was tossed out as trade fodder, I jumped. We’d gotten to a point of talking José Abreu and Welington Castillo (we’d eat half of both salaries) for Mallex, but it drowned in many bigger deals Tampa was suiting up for.
There are more names I can include, but this is long enough already. Perhaps I’ll continue tomorrow, or just move on. Hope you enjoyed this glimpse behind the curtain. Maybe we’ll unfurl the whole thing again next year, as our Quest for 81 Wins continues ...