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 Peter Kreutzer
Once again, for the third year in a row, I played the Minnesota Twins management in a project the Mets360.com’s Brian Joura runs each October.
Two years ago, I dealt with the problem of Joe Mauer’s big contract by unloading it on the Tampa Bay Rays, for James Loney, an almost eerily similar player statistically that year who was being paid a lot less money.
But the real Twins would never actually unload Mauer, so in last year’s GM Project I accepted as a limitation that I had to build the team around him, despite his contract. What I learned was that this Twins organization had an impressive amount of pitching and hitting talent coming from the minors, and was mostly constrained because it was paying a motley group of starting pitching real money for mediocre results. This didn’t leave much money for free agents, and, unwilling to trade top minor league talent for temporary fixes, I decided to mostly hang tight and wait for the talent to bloom (which I hoped would happen sooner rather than later). It did, and that team made the playoffs this year as a wild card.
Which brings us to this year. After his solid year, Ervin Santana’s $13M contract looks like a bargain. Phil Hughes is capable of a good year. This might be the year Adelberto Mejia and Jose Berrios bloom. Mauer almost earned his outsized contract in 2017. Brian Dozier’s contract is cheap! And guys like Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Polanco, while they didn’t break out last year, are young enough and cheap enough to give another year. Plus, Miguel Sano, if you know what I mean. My goal, for 2018, was to beat the Indians.
To that end, and with a $110M budget, I saw fit to cut some mid-level contracts (Glen Perkins, too expensive, and Eduardo Escobar, whose arbitration figure wasn’t crazy high, but whose talents overlapped with Jorge Polanco, who showed in the second half last year that he’s learned to hit in the majors), and looked to add an ace starter and a closer. Rather than try to create some suspense here, let me reveal this is not what happened.
What did happen No. 1: The Marlins, who had acquired Gary Sanchez, offered JT Realmuto in a deal for two of the Twins minor league starters and a young relief pitcher. Stephen Gonsalves looks like he’ll see some major league time this year, but he struggled in Triple-A last year. That’s not a sign he’s a failed prospect, but rather a still developing one. He could be, scouts say, a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in a couple or few years. Fernando Romero looks like a No. 3 or 4 going forward, but like Gonsalves, may not be ready in 2018. I tried to pull Trevor Hildenberger, a live-armed closer possibility, from the deal, but the Marlins wouldn’t budge. Realmuto is so much better a backstop than incumbent Jason Castro, I budged, and made the deal.
What happened No. 2: I cut Chris Gimenez and planned to use Castro as Realmuto’s backup, but I also looked around and saw that the Rockies and the Yankees had weak catching. I offered Castro to the Rockies, mostly to unload his $8M salary, and was able to get back Tony Wolters, an inexpensive backup catcher with some stick skills, and Harrison Musgrave, a pitching prospect coming off a bad year. Musgrave doesn’t figure to matter in 2018.
What Happened No. 3: I was psyched going into waivers. I had $31M and needed an ace and a closer. The available aces (Arrieta, Cobb, Darvish, Tillman) weren’t first order, but any of the first three would immediately become my best pitcher. But I let the order screw me up.
First night we bid on Jake Arrieta and Seung Hwan Oh. I talked myself into being a little less aggressive than I might be on Arrieta, worrying about what would happen if he leaves Chicago as a free agent this winter, especially if he goes to the AL. I decided I preferred Cobb and Darvish, and I lost the bid by about $4M, behind five teams. I made a token (and losing) bid on Oh.
Second night we bid on Alex Cobb and Brandon Kintzler. I didn’t bid on Kintzler and he went for real money. I thought the perception on Cobb would be much lower than on Arrieta, and I bid a bit less, and finished second, $5M behind the winning Athletics. Kintzler went for almost $13M.
Third night we bid on Yu Darvish and Addison Reed. I made an aggressive bid, I thought, on Darvish, but maybe not as much as I would have if I didn’t recognize that I needed a closer, too. But I decided that I needed a starter more, and saw that I might be able to land Mike Minor or Scott Mathieson to close off of waivers if I wasn’t able to buy a free agent. My $24M for Darvish, $4M more than Arrieta went for, was second best, $2M behind the Orioles. My $7M for Reed was third, behind a winning $10M bid.
Fourth night, faced with bidding for Chris Tillman, I despaired. I wanted to bid on Wade Davis, but I realized that the winning bid for him would likely be near $15M (it ended up being $13M). That would leave me with a losing bid on JD Martinez, and $15M in my pocket to spend on the rest of the FA market, which did not have top starting pitchers. Instead, I went all in on Martinez, who as a free agent may not land in a situation as fine as Arizona again, but who is a big step up from Kepler and Kennys Vargas and was the best player I could buy at that point. My $30M bid was $8M more than the second-best bid. I might have done better if I tracked money better, but the team budgets aren’t posted, and it would be a lot of work to keep up to date rosters between all the trading and signing.
I did hold back some money to buy two pitchers in the FA market. I was able to pick up my first-choice starter, Andrew Cashner, coming off a solid year, and my first-choice reliever, Mike Minor, who looked awfully good closing at the end of last year. And finally, in waivers, I also added Miles Mikolas and Scott Mathieson, both of whom are looking to come back to the states after very successful runs in Japan as a starter and closer respectively.
Here is my Twins roster. It is not the team I planned on ending up with, but it should be competitive. Can it beat the Indians? If the pitching holds up, maybe, but this is a better offense and has an excellent chance at the wild cart slot.
C: JT Realmuto, Tony Wolters
1B: Joe Mauer
2B: Brian Dozier
SS: Jorge Polanco, Ehire Adrianza
3B: Miguel Sano
LF: JD Martinez
CF: Byron Buxton, Robbie Grossman
RF: Max Kepler
DH: Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas
S1: Ervin Santana
S2: Phil Hughes
S3: Andrew Cashner
S4: Adelberto Mejia
S5: Jose Berrios
C: Mike Minor, Scott Mathieson
SR: Trevor May, Gabriel Moya, Taylor Rogers
LR: Miles Mikolas, Tyler Duffey
|Berrios, Jose O.||S5||$555,000|
|Park, Byung Ho||$3,000,000|
|TOTAL – MIN||$110,000,000|