Welcome back to SB Nation’s annual off-season simulation! This year saw the return of Carl Gonzalez as the Fake Rays VP/GM, with dual team presidents Danny Russell and JT Morgan overseeing operations.
You can check the results from last year here!
This simulation is actually very well run; however, things usually tend to go south in terms of realism pretty quickly. My first 3-4 moves were made with a serious point of view and that changed towards the end because there’s honestly no incentive in taking it so seriously. Also, this season the simulation had a tighter window from start to finish, which kept teams moving at a breakneck pace.
You can find all transaction made in the 2019 simulation here.
The Fake Rays were asked to keep payroll at $80M, but there was room to go over with reasonable justification. Let’s get into the decisions we made.
Rays non-tender Mike Zunino, Matt Duffy, Jesus Aguilar
These were players not living up to their salaries. As a consequence of getting set free on the open market, the Fake Brewers signed Mike Zunino to a 1 year, $2.5 million deal with a $4 million club option and $500k buyout, and Matt Duffy to a 1 year, $1.5 million deal; the Orioles signed Jesus Aguilar to a 1 year, $4 million deal.
Pirates trade Josh Bell, Richard Rodriguez and Jacob Stallings to the Rays for Josh Lowe, Joe Ryan, Cristopher Sanchez, and Grant Witherspoon
Initially, I began the sim looking for a RHB and I wasn’t terribly worried about how they fit in terms of position as I could simply figure that out as a deal began to materialize. Asking prices on big bats remained high, but thankfully the Fake Pirates and I eventually settled on a deal.
Josh Bell had a massive first half and eventually tailed off in the second half. While he put up a 151 wRC+ vs. RHP, he countered with a 94 wRC+ against LHP; however, his xwOBA against LHP clocked in at .351 and his average EV against southpaws was pushing 92 MPH, indicating that there’s still some success to be found there.
Richard Rodriguez is an intriguing add to the bullpen who took a step back in 2019 and I added with the hopes of a rebound in 2020. He features a fastball that sits in the low 90’s, although it carries elite spin along with a very good slider that he likely needs to throw more. The home run posed an enormous problem for him in 2019 and while his K and BB numbers took a dip, his stuff didn’t and that’s encouraging.
Jacob Stallings was a piece I pushed for as I had just non-tendered Zunino and wasn’t particularly enamored by both the free agent/trade market. Stallings carried a 13.6 FRAA per Baseball Prospectus in 2019 and performed decently enough at the plate (82 wRC+) and will make the league minimum in 2020.
Rays sign Robbie Grossman to a 1 year, $2 million deal
I looked at Robbie Grossman mostly as cheap depth. He plays a good corner outfield and has shown a knack for putting up offense at league average numbers with outstanding plate discipline. While he only put up a 49 wRC+ against LHP in ‘19, his career number sits at 113 and again, there’s hope for a rebound there.
We wanted a Matt Duffy who could play the outfield and we got one.
Rays sign Austin Barnes to a 1 year, $3 million deal
The Fake Rays front office felt that going into the season with a Stallings-Perez pairing behind the plate wasn’t exactly ideal. While not much of a hitter, Barnes is an outstanding framer that fits the typical profile of a Rays catcher. There’s some hope that Barnes can at least replicate something close to his 2017 success.
Rays sign Marcell Ozuna to a 6 year, $132 million deal
I felt like the Fake Rays needed another big bat in the lineup and after losing out on Anthony Rendon and J.D. Martinez (yes, we were in on both!, so I jumped in on the bidding for Ozuna... and won!?
The bidding started at a decent price of 4 years/$60M; however, it went off the rails quickly. As this simulation isn’t real at all, I decided to go with and kept bumping the price up to get the guy I wanted.
Ozuna is a statcast darling who carried a .382 xwOBA compared to his .336 wOBA. Ozuna vastly under performed his career numbers against LHP which sits at 126 wRC+. He’s quite the enigmatic player, but 2017 gives us plenty of reasons to want to invest in a talent like this. $22M AAV was the internal cap, and we were up against it but got our man.
Rays trade Daniel Robertson to the Pirates for Blake Treinen, via the Athletics, and $2 million
I couldn’t really pass up on this one.
Daniel Robertson could easily turn into a solid piece for a team just like he was for the Rays in 2018. I just wanted to add to a bullpen that’s already damn good. Treinen totally lost it across the board in 2019 and became another home run casualty, and yes, his stuff ticked down just a smidge.
Nevertheless, he still has an elite arm that should he run hot or be “fixed”, could provide the Rays with another shut down option in later innings. Relief pitchers make zero sense, so this one could very easily be a wash.
Giants trade Kevin Pillar and $1.1 million to the Rays for Kevin Kiermaier, Anthony Banda, John Doxakis
Kevin Kiermaier is still owed $46.5M if you count his 2023 team option. After consecutive seasons with a wRC+ under 80 and a combined 217 games played of 324 possible regular season games, we were ready to sell high on his third gold glove (in his third full season of play).
While he’s still the best defensive CF in the game, another poor season at the plate for KK could hamper the Rays to the point where they probably won’t be able to move that contract without eating money.
The Rays have to pay some guys in the near future and I figured this would be the time to move Kiermaier. Kevin Pillar has been regressing defensively, though he has been fairly consistent offensively and provides a solid stopgap for the year until prospect Vidal Brujan is ready to take the reins in center.
Reds trade Fidel Castro to the Rays for Shuruendy Valeriano
I had to.
Minor League deals
Buckle up for this one!
- Juan Lagares
- Tyler Austin
- Abraham Almonte
- Jung-Ho Kang
- Clay Buchholz
- Wade LeBlanc
- Marco Estrada
- Heath Hembree
- Tyler Thornburg
- Tony Barnette
- Hunter Strickland
If there was a depth name we liked, we offered a MiLB deal and these are the ones who said yes!
The directive was to stay around $80 million but with the caveat that the Fake Rays could spend if justified, which we took to mean on a big name. We decided to go get that big name and, all in all, this exercise could’ve gone in many ways.
I put in offers for Rendon and Strasburg, not at the same time, but I wanted to go BIG big. I had offers lined up Morton, Pham and Yandy Diaz that could’ve really spiced things up had I signed one of Strasburg or Rendon... then when J.D. Martinez didn’t work out, so Marcell Ozuna it was.
The Kiermaier move should prove to be the most controversial, but I think things turned out well, and it brought the payroll down to a more manageable $91 million in 2020. This is a massive increase over 2019, but could be better thought of the Rays finally putting their banked money to use.
Fake Rays 2020 Lineup
C Jacob Stallings
1B Josh Bell
2B Brandon Lowe
SS Willy Adames
3B Yandy Diaz
LF Marcell Ozuna
CF Kevin Pillar
RF Austin Meadows
DH Tommy Pham
C Austin Barnes
1B Ji-Man Choi
INF Joey Wendle
OF Robbie Grossman
SP Charlie Morton
SP Blake Snell
SP Tyler Glasnow
SP Yonny Chirinos
SP Ryan Yarborough
CL Emilio Pagan
RP Nick Anderson
RP Blake Treinen
RP Diego Castillo
RP Colin Poche
RP Chaz Roe
RP Jose Alvarado
RP Oliver Drake
Players of note in Triple-A: C Michael Perez, 1B Nate Lowe, 2B/CF Vidal Brujan, 3B Michael Brosseau, SS Taylor Walls, SP Brendan McKay, SP Trevor Richards, RP Peter Fairbanks, RP Richard Rodriguez