This is a project where 30 people got together to act as the GMs of the 30 MLB teams with the idea of conducting the offseason in one week. This is what happened in this simulation, not a prediction of what will happen in real life.
By Brian Kobil
After being assigned the Cleveland Indians, I went into my first GM Project with two goals in mind: (1) stay under budget, and (2) don’t screw up a perfectly good World Series team.
I began by cutting loose several arbitration players – Zach McAllister, Chris Gimenez, Jeff Manship, and Michael Martinez. Basically, I avoided arbitration on middle relief, a utility infielder, and a third catcher.
I learned several things about the Indians after reviewing the roster and salary commitments. First, the real-life GM has this team in terrific shape – not a lot of big-money commitments, plus some good young talent on affordable contracts. The only real weakness on this team was at catcher, where Roberto Perez made for a nice backup at just above the league minimum, while Yan Gomes was damn near a sinkhole in the lineup at $4.58 million for 2017.
Once trading began, I sought to upgrade behind the dish. Because no-trade clauses do not exist in this project, I succeeded where the real-world Indians failed, trading for Jonathan Lucroy. In exchange for Lucroy, I sent Trevor “Drone Mechanic” Bauer plus prospects Francisco Mejia and Bobby Bradley to the Rangers. Bauer is a fine pitcher, but given the 2017 returns of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to go along with Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and innings eater Josh Tomlin, he became expendable. Factor in his proclivity for, uh, eccentric behavior, and Bauer was the ideal candidate for a trade to a team in need of pitching.
Next came free agency, where the plan was to keep much of the team together without breaking the bank. This meant letting Rajai Davis walk, as the 2017 Indians already had a packed outfield, with Michael Brantley returning from injury to a group that also included relatively low-cost options like Lonnie Chisenhall, Coco Crisp, Tyler Naquin, and Brandon Guyer. I re-signed Mike Napoli for $8 million to platoon at first base and designated hitter with Carlos Santana. All the while, I was also trying to unload Yan Gomes but could not garner any interest.
I mostly laid low after the Napoli signing, partially by choice and partially by circumstance. I still needed a fifth starter and a bench infielder. I was outbid for Kelly Johnson. I stayed away from the free agent pitching market, correctly assuming that the price for pitching would exceed my budget. And full disclosure – I missed a couple of free agent bid deadlines (in both cases I prioritized Real Job and/or Real Family over Fake GM; I apologize for nothing). In the end, I grabbed a couple of NRIs (Daniel Descalso, Dillon Gee) to fill out the end of my roster, which also includes top prospect Bradley Zimmer.
Toward the end of the project, I realized I had made a big mistake in my salary calculations and needed to cut salary to get under budget. My best trade chip was reliever Andrew Miller, who had been sought by other GMs all week. Despite being semi-desperate, I would insist on including Gomes in the deal. In the end, I traded Miller and Gomes to the Mets for four prospects led by shortstop Ahmed Rosario. It was a tough deal to make, but it re-stocked my farm system and gave me a replacement at second base for Jason Kipnis once he hits free agency.
My real error was re-signing Napoli. While I felt it was a good deal at the time, had I not re-signed him I could have afforded to keep Miller.
So I fell a little short of my goals. While I stayed under budget, I was not able to keep a World Series team intact. That said, the Fake 2017 Indians are in good shape – I improved their one offensive weakness, they have a talented rotation, a deep bullpen, and low-cost talent all over the diamond, including superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and breakout third baseman Jose Ramirez. And coming in under budget, the team is positioned to make a midseason trade to fill a need.
Even without Miller, this team is prepared to contend in 2017. When do I get my ring?
Carlos Santana DH
Jason Kipnis 2B
Francisco Lindor SS
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonathan Lucroy C
Michael Brantley LF
Jose Ramirez 3B
Lonnie Chisenhall RF
Tyler Naquin CF
Roberto Perez C
Brandon Guyer OF
Daniel Descalso IF
Coco Crisp OF
Bradley Zimmer OF