This year I was named the General Manager for the Tampa Bay Rays in the SB Nation Off-Season Simulation organized by Max Rieper of Royals Review.
I’ve been in a fortunate position to be given a roster that is mostly complete and has made the playoffs four straight years. I was given a recommended payroll of $88MM which is a slight increase on the 2022 Opening Day payroll that came in just shy of $85MM.
The 40-man is quite thick and my goal is to consolidate some of the 40-man roster and potential rule 5 eligible players.
The Rays have a very large arbitration class but there are a few places they can trim some money in order to bring in a couple of veterans on the offensive side of the ball. The Rays have 19 players eligible for arbitration and there will be some cuts specifically in the bullpen where the Rays have an abundance of relievers without options that the Rays will look to add optionable arms in their place that are ideally not currently on the 40 man.
Rays decline the team option on Kevin Kiermaier
I followed the lead of the major league club by choosing the $2.5MM buyout on the $13MM team option for Kevin Kiermaier. The Rays have better ways to spend the $10.5MM net than on a defense first center fielder. Kiermaier was the longest tenured Ray and has been an important piece of the team’s success over the last nine years.
Rays trade Ji-Man Choi and Greg Jones to the Pirates for Kyle Nicolas and Jack Hartman
This trade started as the basis for the real world trade that saw the Rays send Ji-Man Choi to the Pittsburgh Pirates or Jack Hartman. I was able to move Greg Jones, who is rule 5 eligible, for an interesting pitcher with upside Kyle Nicolas, who isn’t rule 5 eligible until next winter.
I didn’t love where this puts the team if they aren’t able to acquire a veteran first baseman but I like the idea of being forced to make something happen. There are enough quality options like Jose Abreu, Anthony Rizzo, Brandon Belt, and Josh Bell that give you some options to chase that should fit in the Rays budget.
Rays sign Michael Brantley to a 2 year, $28 million deal
My main focus was adding a veteran left handed bat to the middle of the Rays lineup. Michael Brantley and Anthony Rizzo were my two primary targets, but I did enter talks in acquiring Max Muncy from the Dodgers.
Getting a disciplined batter to add to the top of the lineup for a reasonable cost was ideal. Brantely has put up wRC+ of 131, 121, and 127 the last three years. He is coming off a shoulder injury but is expected to be ready for Spring Training. He will mostly fill in at designated hitter but will play left field occasionally.
Athletics trade Sean Murphy to the Rays for Curtis Mead, Josh Lowe, and Cole Wilcox
I went for the biggest prize on the trade market and was able to get the deal done. Sean Murphy is coming off a 5.1 fWAR season and over the past three years has been one of the three best catchers (Murphy, JT Realmuto, and Will Smith). He’s hit well (116 wRC+ career) and been one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He is expected to receive $3.5MM in his first year of arbitration and should be expected to get about $20MM over his three years of arbitration.
This is a big addition and did cost a fair amount. The Rays were able to clear one 40 man spot in this move after Curtis Mead gets added to protect from the Rule 5 draft.
Rays sign Anthony Rizzo to a 2 year, $32 million deal
Anthony Rizzo declined the qualifying offer tendered by the New York Yankees. The Rays will give up their fourth pick (third round) in order to bring in a veteran first baseman after falling short on pursuits of Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman in recent years.
Rizzo pairs nicely with Brantley as veteran bats to the top of the Rays lineup. In real life Rizzo would sign for an extra $8 million than this to return to the Yankees.
Rays non-tender Ryan Yarbrough, Francisco Mejia, Andrew Kittredge, Harold Ramirez, Jalen Beeks, Ryan Thompson, JT Chargois, Roman Quinn, and Nick Anderson
In the real world many of these players would have been traded for lotto tickets or relief prospects that have options and aren’t on the 40 man. Time and the focus of only the 2023 roster by most in the simulation made it difficult to discuss these levels of trade.
C Sean Murphy
C Christian Bethancourt
1B Anthony Rizzo
2B Brandon Lowe
SS Wander Franco
3B Yandy Diaz
LF Randy Arozarena
CF Jose Siri
RF Manuel Margot
DH Michael Brantley
BE Isaac Paredes
BE Taylor Walls
BE Vidal Brujan
SP Tyler Glasnow
SP Shane McClanahan
SP Drew Rasmussen
SP Jeffrey Springs
SP Yonny Chirinos
RP Pete Fairbanks
RP Brooks Raley
RP Jason Adam
RP Colin Poche
RP JP Feyereisen
RP Garrett Cleavinger
RP Shawn Armstrong
RP Javy Guerra
I was able to stay within my $88MM budget coming in just shy of $86MM for the Opening Day payroll.
The Rays made big splashes for the Rays and are looking to take advantage of Wander Franco’s contract paying him $2MM over the next two years before it starts to get in the $15MM+ a year range.
The Rays added Michael Brantley and Anthony Rizzo through free agency. They traded for Sean Murphy. The Rays look to get larger contributions from their three best players Tyler Glasnow, Wander Franco, and Brandon Lowe as they come back from injuries.
Everything lined up perfectly in this simulation for the Rays. They were able to fill their holes at reasonable costs when the there were five deals that paid players over $400MM and Aaron Judge received a 10 year, $500MM deal to re-sign with the Yankees.
I’m very happy with the outcome of this roster and would love to see it replicated in the real world but other teams would likely get in the way of every deal getting done.