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SB Nation Off Season Simulation 2020: Day 2

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The Fake Rays are making trades!

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres
Chris Paddack
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The fake Tampa Bay Rays entered day two of the SB Nation Off Season Simulation 2020 with the primary goal of adding a middle of the rotation starter or better and some pitching depth.

Previously: SB Nation Off Season Simulation 2020: Day 1

Let’s get to it.

Minor League Deal

This move happened on day one, but was overlooked when recapping the days events.

I gave out a handful of minor league offers to players, but the only one to accept was relief pitcher Pedro Strop.

Strop has a track record of being an effective reliever with a 3.22 ERA/3.41 FIP/3.58 xFIP over 503.2 innings.

Most players that have been good in the past that have to settle for a minor league deal are coming off ineffective or injured seasons. 2020 saw Strop only throw 2.1 innings following a 2019 season where he put up a 4.97 ERA/4.53 FIP/4.19 xFIP.

However Strop’s results between 2011-18 were pretty incredible. In every season but 2013 he finished with a sub 3.00 ERA.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs
Strop
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Trade #1 - Starting Pitcher Depth

After a fewer higher profile starting pitcher trades fell through I was left scrambling to replace some of the pitching depth I traded in day one.

The Tampa Bay Rays trade IF Joey Wendle to the Philadelphia Phillies for RHP Vince Velasquez.

Vince Velasquez was one of the major pieces in the deal that sent reliever Ken Giles from the Phillies to the Houston Astros.

Velasquez is a pitcher that seems like there should always be more. He has a 4.72 ERA/4.33 FIP/4.21 xFIP over 556.2 innings. His 25.7% strikeout rate is very good and his 9.1% walk rate isn’t overly burdensome.

The answer might be as simple as getting him behind a better defense to get his ERA in line with his FIP or xFIP. During his tenure with the Phillies (2016-2020) the defense has put up a staggering -153 DRS which is fourth worse in that time frame. The Rays have put up +161 DRS during that same time period.

This move didn’t fulfill my need for a pitcher at the middle of the rotation or better but did give the Rays an option at the back of the rotation while moving Brendan McKay or Shane McClanahan to depth to cover for injuries that are bound to happen.

MLB: Game Two-Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies
Vince Velasquez
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Trade #2 - Starting Pitcher Star

Most deals would quickly fizzle out or get dragged out forever, but this one came together very quickly. It’s not a very Rays type trade as they usually are on the other side of these big blockbusters, but with me controlling the team this is where I decided to spend my resources.

The Tampa Bay Rays trade 2B Vidal Brujan, RHP Shane Baz, and OF Josh Lowe to the San Diego Padres for RHP Chris Paddack and RHP Javy Guerra.

This is a big deal. The Rays traded a top 50 prospect in Brujan and a top 100 prospect in Baz while throwing in a solid prospect in Lowe to get the deal finished.

Paddack’s major weapon is his changeup. His mid 80s changeup keeps batters off his mid 90s fastball. He strikes out more than his fair share of batters with a 26.0% strikeout rate while being stingy with a 5.3% walk rate.

In his 2019 rookie season he put up a 3.33 ERA/3.95 FIP/4.05 xFIP over 140.2 innings. In 2020 he had a problem with homers as he put up a 4.73 ERA/5.02 FIP/3.77 xFIP over 59.0 innings.

The HR/FB rate surged from a near average 14.6% in 2019 to 25.0% in 2020. His strikeout and walk rates stayed stable, but he did allow less flyballs going from 42.3% to 32.9% which caused his xFIP to fall.

Paddack is one of the better young pitchers in the game and with four years of control including one more year before he heads to arbitration the cost was substantial. This is the type of move that will be career defining and whether I’m still the fake General Manager of this team in a couple years.

Javy Guerra is a young fireballing reliever that hasn’t put up results yet in a very short major league career. His fastball averages over 98 so he qualifies for the Stable.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies
Javy Guerra
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency - Catcher #2

After picking up Mitch Garver to be my starting catcher I still wasn’t satisfied with my catching depth and wanted a solid backup that could step into a bigger role if it was needed.

The Tampa Bay Rays sign C Jason Castro to a 1 year, $5MM deal.

It seems like this courtship has been happening for a while. The Rays were very interested in Castro during his first trip around free agency. A very small market bidding war erupted that sent Castro to the Minnesota Twins.

This time the Fake Rays finally get their man. Castro has a solid bat for a catcher hitting .230/.312/.390 and putting up a 93 wRC+ over 3,114 plate appearances. He strikes out and doesn’t hit for much average but he does draw walks and hit for power.

Castro’s left handed bat seems like a good fit with Garver’s right handed bat. Garver will get all starts versus left handed pitchers and then the time against right handed pitchers will likely start in a 50/50 time share that playing time eventually goes to whoever performs.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Jason Castro finished 2020 with the Padres
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The real Rays GM Erik Neander has done a terrific job of giving me a roster that is coming off a World Series appearance with a team that could stay intact if that was what I wanted.

My main goal was filling the catching position and then picking up starting pitching depth as I traded some away early in the simulation.

I feel really good where this roster sits right now. It looks like the payroll sits around $65MM, so I would like to add one last piece. A veteran left handed reliever like Brad Hand would ideally round out this roster and come in on budget.

Talking with other teams it seems like the final day will be much less action packed than the first two days, but we’ll see if I can pull off any other deals before close of business at 5:00 PM tonight.