The SBNation off-season simulation took place this past weekend, and Danny let me GM the squad this time around. JT and Danny were also a huge part of my brain trust, the Auld and Silverman if you will, for free agent discussions/offers, taking the place of President Hatfield, who I understand was elected Mayor of Lakeland or something like that.
Heading into this whole thing I made a couple things very clear with myself: The real life Rays do not have to go crazy this off-season. They don’t have to go out there and sign Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Craig Kimbrel and they don’t have to trade the farm for Jacob DeGrom. So why should I? I tried to keep this endeavor as realistic as possible, and if the right move presented itself I would go for it, but if not, I’d make things work one way or another.
The Fake Rays were given an $80 million payroll, which sounds about right for a max, and we were starting with about $35 million on the books.
Right off the bat I decided to check in on JT Realmuto. The asking price was obviously up there but I figured we had the prospect capital to get it done. There was a preliminary discussion set up around McKay/Sanchez but it just got to the point where it felt like there wasn’t a need to go crazy. Realmuto eventually went to the Fake Astros for a much larger value than I offered.
At the time, the Fake Rays had Matt Duffy at 3B and if nothing worked itself out then I wouldn’t have had an issue moving forward with Duffy into 2019. However, Josh Donaldson was the best 3B on the market and there was plenty of money on the table... so we made an offer.
Fake Rays Sign Josh Donaldson
The Fake Rays went after Josh Donaldson aggressively and eventually came to agreement on a 4 year deal worth $64M with an opt-out after 2019. The deal pays Donaldson $20M in year 1, followed by $14M in 2020 and $15M in both 2021 and 2022. The expectation is that he would opt-out after 2019. It’s a fair contract!
This represented a massive upgrade over Matt Duffy, and likely the only one that makes any sense. Duffy was good in ‘18, he gave the Rays nearly 2.5 WAR and provided them with a 106 wRC+. While it wasn’t flashy, it got the job done and gave the Rays some sort of stability at the hot corner after the Longoria deal.
Yet, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to bring Fake Donaldson to the Fake Rays.
Fake Rays Non-Tender Jesus Sucre, C.J. Cron, Vidal Nuno
We decided to non-tender Jesus Sucre, and Vidal Nuno which are probably no brainers to begin with. Non-tendering C.J. Cron was the one that made me think the most, but I figured I could find someone better or at the very least, a clone of Cron, while saving the roughly $5.5M that he was predicted to make in 2019. In the simulation, he’d sign with the Angels for $3M down the road.
Fake Rays acquire RHP Noe Ramirez
Okay, hear me out on this one.
There wasn’t much interest on Matt Duffy. I wasn’t looking to keep him to ride the bench, it just wouldn’t have made much sense. His profile does align with someone who can fit a utility role given his ability to play multiple positions, but I had to make this move. The Fake Angels reached out and wanted to make a deal ASAP, and they were the only ones interested.
I took a look and figured I’d go after guys that could line up with the new Rays opener philosophy and eventually gave them three names: Felix Pena, Alex Meyer, and Noe Ramirez — 2 starters that could benefit from less exposure and 1 reliever that can go more than an inning at a time. They settled on Ramirez, and I went ahead and pulled the trigger.
The main issue with Ramirez is his propensity to give up the HR ball. Dig a little deeper and you’ll notice that the bulk of his home runs came in Anaheim. There’s still a bit of an issue on the road but you’re comparing a 0.96 HR/9 in that sense, against a 2.17 HR/9 at home. Strikeouts were higher at home than on the road, but I think that’s safe to ignore.
The point here is that Ramirez represents an interesting option that could slide right into the bullpen, and I had to find something of value for Duffy.
Fake Rays acquire 1B/DH Jose Martinez
I’ve had my eye on Martinez for awhile and the Cardinals were willing to listen. I was able to reach an agreement that centered around RHP Austin Franklin and C Nick Ciuffo.
Martinez isn’t a masher, but he’s a doubles guy and it’s something the lineup could use. He hits the ball hard (90.7 EV), and there’s a very contact oriented approach here. Martinez would slide right into the DH spot that was vacated by the non-tendering of C.J. Cron, on a rookie salary.
Nelson Cruz could’ve been an option here, but I didn’t really feel like getting into a bidding war. Cruz eventually signed for only 2/28, and it felt a little annoying at the time but I feel like Martinez is a very good option to have.
Fake Rays sign LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
Quick note: the Fake Dodgers did not extend a Qualifying Offer to Ryu.
Heading into this exercise, we felt the Fake Rays needed to acquire one or two starters. Ryu fell right into our laps. He had a fantastic year and while we don’t necessarily see him repeating his 2018 statistics, there’s still a reasonable expectation that he’ll come out and pitch like a 3 and maybe like a borderline 2. While FIP and xFIP pegged him at 3.00 and 3.11, there’s still a few things that stand out. Ryu seems to have reverse splits, and it’s something that has affected him throughout his entire career, as have injuries, but the dude can pitch.
Beyond that, Ryu presented himself as one of the top options we had aimed for (J.A. Happ was the other, but he signed for more guaranteed years than we were comfortable offering the 36 year old), and we were happy to land him.
Fake Rays sign C Martin Maldonado
Maldonado turned out to be, like, Plan E, but we had to settle on someone at catcher, and 1/$5M is actually a very fair price.
Realmuto could’ve been had, but again, it didn’t make much sense to mortgage the farm. I was in talks for another catcher, but the asking price was so ridiculous that nothing was worked out. This is who we eventually circled around (the other option was Lucroy).
Maldonado fits the Rays mold as another catcher that is a very good defender and not much of a hitter. He’d have a chance to be the primary catcher and Michael Perez would be the other man on the 25-man.
Fake Rays acquire RHP Ray Black
This was one of Danny’s targets, a kid who just made his major league debut.
On the surface, a 6.17 ERA is horrid. However, FIP and xFIP had him at 3.98 and 3.45 respectively. Black posted a K/9 of 12.73 and can consistently hit 100 on the radar gun. Black also has a shut down slider that can most definitely work on both righties and lefties.
We landed on Black while the reliever market was going crazy, giving $30+ million deals to average names at best. Considering that we needed a reliever and Ramirez alone would’ve been extremely underwhelming, this move for Black at the very least eased our worries.
In the end, we sent Travis Ott and Ford Proctor to the Fake Giants for an 80-grade fastball.
Fake Rays acquire RHP Kyle Gibson
I made numerous attempts at acquiring high-end starters. Again, it came down to the price.
We kept looking for starters and it become incredibly clear that there wasn’t much left. With the passage of time, it was either Mike Fiers or nothing.
Kyle Gibson might come across as a very “meh” pickup, but he’s actually trending upward. His K/9 jumped to 8.19, though it did dip a bit in the 2nd half. There was an increase in velocity, and it seems like mostly everything he threw went up a good MPH.
We believe in the velocity increase, and we also believe that’ll continue to correlate into good results. Gibson’s only a rental, and for the price (Michael Mercado and Kean Wong) we felt like it was a deal we could make. It made too much sense, and it was a perfect way to close things out.
Minor League Deals
- C Drew Butera
- OF Brandon Guyer
- RHP Jesse Hahn
- RHP John Axford
- LHP Matt Moore
- LHP Jerry Blevins
These are merely depth moves. Guyer and Moore, it must be 2015 again!
This was fake. It wasn’t real. I just didn’t want to approach it like that.
I though that meant payroll would have to stay tight, but in practice I found it was damn near impossible to work out a trade.
Most conversations went like this:
Me: Hey, I want your utility player. Solid depth piece.
Them: Sure. Let’s start at Franco + McKay + Sanchez + Liberatore + Solak + Brujan.
But still, it was fun. I think the finished product we put out there is something that is somewhat believable. We didn’t go crazy, and things took a little bit of a Rays-type turn in the end.
We kept the payroll around $65 million, and perhaps that’s higher than the IRL Rays will go next season, but given the team’s track record it felt fair. And best of all, not a single prospect in the team’s Top-20 was traded.
You can read all the moves made in the simulation here.
How do you think we did?
How would you grade our performance in building the 2019 Fake Rays?
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