For the past few years I’ve offered to follow up the GM Project by publishing a “Report Card” on the armchair GMs who took part. Each year I have someone else grade my team and I would like to thank Joh Fox for doing that this year. I have gone through and done a review on all 30 teams, including those who took a pass on participating or a pass on sending in their final rosters. I’m not Sherlock Holmes, so I did my best in these last two cases.
Please let me know how off-base you think my rankings are in the comments section, and enjoy.
Atlanta Braves – Eric Stashin: In any type of game or simulation there needs to be a winner and while I can’t say that these Braves are, far and away, the favorites to win the World Series, I can say that Eric made some devilishly good moves to make his team much, much better. There are free agents like Neil Walker, Logan Forsythe, Jamie Garcia and, of course, Jonathan Lucroy. There are trade targets like Alex Bregman, Aaron Nola and Marcus Stroman. The Braves, Marlins, Phillies and Mets all got much better in this exercise of ours but it’s hard for me to argue with a lineup (not to mention bench and rotation) that Eric put together.
Miami Marlins – David Groveman: (By John Fox) The trade of the generational talent Giancarlo Stanton (along with the useful Dee Gordon) was clearly the centerpiece of the Marlins offseason, and they hit a homerun in acquiring the four solid starters/prospect. Gary Sanchez has had a great start to his career and may well be the kind of slugging catcher who is the foundation of a dynasty, ala Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra. Clint Frazier won’t duplicate Stanton in the outfield but he will be a solid starter and indications are Torres has a long and successful career ahead of him at shortstop. The GM made a clever move in signing utility infielder Derek Dietrich at a bargain price, and he may be needed with the aging Brandon Phillips penciled in as second base. The GM followed his plan of focusing on younger high ceiling starters and prospects. He may be a little over-optimistic in thinking the Marlins could threaten the Nationals in 2018, but all in a solid plan was developed and executed.
Chicago Cubs – Tim Mester: The Cubs are doing this exercise on easy mode. The team is young and talented which means that, while they have expensive contracts, they don’t have a ton to do. What they managed to do was pretty impressive. They replaced their departing Ace with a younger model, nabbing Gerrit Cole from the Pirates and they managed to sign some useful depth in free agency. I’d rank them higher if they actually had to do much to make their team a success.
Boston Red Sox – Joe Barbieri: They have a high budget but they also have some nasty contracts to contend with. David Price was basically untradeable but it was going to be telling to see if this team could improve their pitching on budget. The deal for Zack Grienke was a boon and basically made their offseason a win. They would have been even higher if they didn’t make a confusing deal for Jed Lowrie.
Cleveland Indians – Brian Kobil: Sometimes you have an offseason where the best thing you can do is sit tight. The Indians didn’t do anything too fancy. They are rolling the dice on an Anibal Sanchez rebound and made some savvy moves to acquire Justin Smoak and Manuel Margot. Overall, they didn’t make any big splashes but this Indians team looks to have another playoff run in their future which I’d count as a win.
Minnesota Twins – Peter Kreutzer: The Twins made a handful of moves and some were better than others. Their deal for J.T. Realmuto was a wash as they got a good young player but gave up three talented pitchers to get him. The trade of Castro for Tony Wolters was huge as it saved tons of money on a player going to waste. They also signed J.D. Martinez and a few names off the final free agent list. It wasn’t a badly run offseason and this team should be competing for a playoff spot.
Cincinnati Reds – John Fox: I think that John did a good job with some pretty steep handicaps. Trading Homer Bailey or Devin Mesoraco was a pipe dream and it is what separates his offseason from being an A. The Reds improved their starting rotation with Steven Matz, improved their farm by adding Christian Arroyo and improved their reliability of their outfield with Ender Inciarte. The team is better and will improve as prospects develop, just like the real Reds.
New York Mets – Brian Joura: There was a lot to like about the Mets offseason. They picked up one of two bonafide aces available, in Jake Arrieta, and they improved their defense and bullpen. The problem here was that the Mets improved their pitching and defense but let their offense rest, more or less, stagnant. Having Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Dominic Smith in the middle of the lineup is fine but more should have been done.
Baltimore Orioles – Greg Jarvis: Some teams don’t do very much at all and they get pummeled for it. The Orioles get a gentle but nervous pat on the back. The only move they made was to add Yu Darvish (done at a good price) and it improved their team from 2017 to 2018. It does leave their 2019 team further into doubt but they should at least have plenty of money to address those issues.
Philadelphia Phillies – Dan Spiro: Despite making a suspect deal for a thirteen million dollar pitcher, past his prime, the Phillies join the Marlins in looking to challenge the Nationals for the top spot in the division. The additions of Rick Porcello and Julio Teheran give them a strong rotation though I would weep to ever lose a pitcher like Aaron Nola. The outfield of Carlos Gonzalez, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Odubel Herrera is elite but the team could have used some money to improve the bullpen or improve the infield offense.
Detroit Tigers – John Coppinger: The Tigers made a few good trades and I liked what they did in acquiring Kolten Wong and Sean Newcomb but this is not a team that is likely to be in direct competition for the playoffs. That’s okay. The idea behind the GM Project is to make a plan and follow through. These Tigers won’t make the playoffs but they will be much better poised to craft a winner in 2018/19.
Oakland Athletics – Matt Bruce: The team wasn’t particularly active in the offseason which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. They spent some serious money on Alex Cobb, who is a great pitcher but wasn’t worth the amount he got. Their best trade (only trade) netted a useful utility player and a prospect and saved them money. The big bargain for the team was Carlos Santana but, in the end. This team looks to have only maintained their status from the previous season without making major strides.
Kansas City Royals – Ray Kuhn: There is a lot to like in how the Royals spent their offseason. Some savvy free agent moves nabbed them Logan Morrison and Asdrubal Cabrera for affordable contracts. What held them into the C range was that they acquired eighteen million dollars of backup outfielder between Rusney Castillo and Juan Lagares. Add the risky moves of A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin and this team did some things right and others wrong.
Colorado Rockies – Paul Festa: The team had good plans and good intentions but this team looks to have taken a step back from contention. Yonder Alonso made a lot of sense and wasn’t a bad pricing move considering his upside. The problem is that they failed to improve their pitching. I would even argue that the pitching got worse.
Tampa Bay Rays – Josh Lerner: The team didn’t really do anything after selecting their non-tenders which would usually have landed them lower on the list but the team’s goal was not to become a playoff team. This team needed to let their players develop another year and then look to make their big moves in 2018/19. In this owner’s defense, he tried to make moves… he just didn’t succeed.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Robert Lowe: On one hand, the dodgers came in severely under budget but on the other you might be confused why this team did not make significant improvements with that money. They moved Scott Kazmir to the Yankees and shed an unsightly payroll hit who is coming off injury but they left lots of talent on the board when they had money to do otherwise.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Dan Capwell: So, during the process it seemed to me that the Diamondbacks were doing very well, but when things were said and done the team appeared to take a full step back from their gains of 2017. They hadn’t become a bad team and their rotation which includes Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker was still impressive but the team’s need to cut salary left them forced into a ground of mediocrity.
Toronto Blue Jays – Joe Vasile: Things didn’t start poorly but once this team locked in twenty two million on Chris Tillman their offseason was going to be panned. The bullpen isn’t very good, the rotation is thin and the team is not exactly “better” than it was when this began. I like Dansby Swanson and how they attempted to use Josh Donaldson to fill their multiple gaps in the team but I look at the final product and can’t help but thing it’s $164.5 poorly spent.
Milwaukee Brewers – Matt Netter: The Brewers start in a bad spot so I might be being harsh again. The starting lineup is potent and the bench isn’t thin but this team is not good. The pitching is bad and the bullpen fails to bail them out. If this team had spend their twenty million dollars of payroll on any of the cheap and talented options in the final round of free agency, they would have done much much better.
San Diego Padres – Scott Ferguson: Why so low? The answer is in Scott’s own recap. He knew the goal was not to create a winning club but to build out a foundation. This is what makes the Manuel Margot for Danny Salazar trade confounding. Then the Arizona trade brought in prospects and more money to players who could not play. Finally trading A.J. Pollock for Kelvin Herrera was the final nail in the coffin. You gave up a arbitration eligible player who has a high ceiling for a closer who will be leaving town at his first opportunity. They didn’t trade their “prospects” so they didn’t get ranked lower, but I considered it.
Washington Nationals – John Caputo: Some teams do very little but occasionally a team does absolutely nothing. The GM Project is intense. It’s one week of wheeling and dealing where you need to make a plan and execute. Unfortunately, every year there’s a few people wo volunteer to help and then don’t do anything. For this reason the Nationals are in jeopardy of losing the National League East to the Marlins and Phillies and could even finish in fifth because they just sat idle. The sad thing is… They could still have the best roster in the division even after doing absolutely nothing.
Los Angeles Angels – Will Morin: Another owner who did nothing. The Angels are a team that I truly believe could be run agressively in either a win-now or rebuild mode and the owner just sat out. The owner didn’t go over budget or make any terrible moves so I guess… that doing nothing isn’t the worst thing you could do.
Seattle Mariners – Dan Kolton: Like the Nationals, Angels and a few others, the Mariners took a pass on the exercise. Why you would sign up for something like this only to skip out is anyone’s guess. Because of their inaction the Mariners continue to dwindle towards irrelevance but don’t come away with any new glaring mistakes.
Houston Astros – Brian Mullen: The team needed to make moves because of salary cap concerns but it seems like the budget got away from them. The salary cap infraction drops the team by a full grade. Now you might argue that this team is still a playoff team but I am looking at that Alex Bregman trade with open astonishment. Why the trade was made, I cannot say. Spending $23 Million on Todd Frazier to replace him, just looks bad.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Brian Cartwright: While it’s possible to love a trade that both team wins on, they don’t come around too often. The Pirates spent a lot to bring in Ian Happ and I don’t hate the idea of the Pirates getting him but this team could not afford to lose. The Pirates are a team with not enough offense to win games with their bats and not enough pitching to rely on their arms.
New York Yankees – Mark Healey: I feel like I’m being a little overly harsh with Mark but again, he blew past his substantial budget and turned the Yankees into the bloated budget Yankees of the late 90s. They traded away much of their best youth and have put together a murderer’s row of sluggers that will hit a ton of home runs but the pitching got worse and the lineup can only do so much.
Texas Rangers – Julian McCarthy: The rangers only did a handful of things so the fact that I cannot see their payroll doesn’t make me too worried. The trade they made for Kyle Barraclough and Wei-Yin Chen was not particularly wise as it took on a salary that will only go up after this year. The signing of Seth Smith for eleven million also smacks of poor money management.
San Francisco Giants – Steve Hoeffler: For one thing, they went over budget. For another, they didn’t really improve their team or their future. It appears that the owner for this club went into the offseason with a goal of treading water. They brought in a pair of outfielders who could boost the offense, in Jayson Werth and Austin Jackson but I wouldn’t bank on it. If they get lucky and Los Angeles and Arizona implode they could successfully make the playoffs but I see this team missing the postseason.
Chicago White Sox – Todd Gallagher: Regardless of their moves they were getting a pretty steep deduction for their absurd budget infraction. It makes me pose the question, “Can a team blow twenty five million dollars beyond their payroll and still produce a team that doesn’t reach the playoffs?” Sure, Jose Altuve is a great player. Sure, the bullpen featuring Dellin Betances, Ken Giles, Addison Reed, Greg Holland and Wade Davis is absurd. However, the owner projects 120 wins for a team that only has three starting pitchers and a mediocre offense.
St. Louis Cardinals – Jon Williams: The Cardinals made multiple moves but submitted no roster so their team is too complicated to judge. They trade Kolten Wong and Delvin Perez for Ian Kinsler, which seemed short-sighted, and they traded an army of players for Josh Donaldson. They then traded away even more prospects and pitching for A.J. Reed and Tyler White. I would doubt that this team would score above the D range if they submitted a roster.