Howdy all! So, over on Royals Review, I was once again able to take part in their yearly Offseason Simulation (link here: https://www.royalsreview.com/2023/11/5/23943804/the-2023-sb-nation-off-season-simulation-official-thread), and, after running a multitude of teams such as Seattle x2 (last year quite successfully I might add), Pittsburgh, San Fran, Miami, and Colorado, finally, FINALLY I got the chance to control the Rays after multiple years of waiting and hoping for an opening haha.
So yeah, I was excited to put it extremely mildly. Going into things, my opinion on the team was that 2024 would likely be a soft reset year as we wait for the pitching injuries to subside, so my plan was thus:
1. restock the upper farm system in anticipation of a major run in 2025,
2. cut payroll down to a more manageable level (about $90-100 million was my target) so we can better afford the arbitration costs for the 2025 class, and
3. keep the team at at least a wildcard contender status, if not better.
I was pretty open to moving anyone for the right price, but prioritized Glasnow, Arozarena, and Ramirez as my main trade chips, as well as the various bullpen arms. In any case, on to what you’re all here for: the moves!
1. Rays get RHP Touki Toussaint
White Sox get OF Manual Margot, INF Jonathan Aranda
First order of business: clear Margot’s contract and roster spot. Fortunately, the White Sox came calling basically immediately and this deal came together quickly. Didn’t think Aranda had a home with the Rays, and Toussaint has a good curveball, so stick him in the pen, maybe he turns into something, otherwise, he replaces Cooper Criswell. More important is the $10 million-ish in savings.
2. Rays get C Riley Adams
Nationals get LHP Josh Fleming, LHP Graeme Stinson, 1B Evan Edwards
Another trade that came together fairly early. Nats guy came asking about Fleming and Stinson, I settled on Riley Adams as someone I liked in his system, and Edwards ultimately was added to make up the difference in our perceived values. Adams is an okay backup type with power, nothing special but good to have, and none of the guys I gave up are more than filler at this point I think.
3. Rays get C Freddy Fermin, RHP John McMillon
Royals get LHP Mason Montgomery, INF Willy Vasquez
Fermin is a bit of a favorite around here, so ya’ll already know him: solid young catcher with plenty of years of control. McMillon throws very hard with a great slider, but has had trouble knowing where it’s going; if Snyder can fix that, it’ll be nice having another high octane arm in the pen, maybe even the next Pete Fairbanks. As far as the cost, Montgomery has probably peaked as far as his upside, and Vasquez hasn’t developed like we’d hoped, although there’s still time for that. Even so, he’s not super high on the depth charts, so for a controllable catcher, he was expendable.
4. Rays get RHP Emmet Sheehan, C Dalton Rushing, OF Josue De Paula, RHP Landon Knack, RHP River Ryan
Dodgers get OF Randy Arozarena, RHP Tyler Glasnow, OF Raimel Tapia
Alright, the big deal. This one got started fairly early as the Dodgers were one of the few teams I was okay with sending both Randy and Glas to in the same package, and when they gave me basically a blank check as far as prospects go, well, to quote Jack Sparrow, I couldn’t resist, mate. Sheehan has big strikeout stuff and slots right in the rotation to replace Glasnow. Rushing has a great combo of patience and power and hopefully will stick at C (and even if not, the bat still plays I think). De Paula is very high risk being a young IFA guy with limited MiLB exposure, but the upside is HUGE. Lastly, Knack and Ryan are both near MLB ready arms who could either be used in the pen or kept in reserve as AAA depth along with Bradley and Wilcox. All in all, just too much upside to pass up, although there were a fair bit of other quality possibilities to sort through to get there.
5. Rays get LHP Fraser Ellard, INF Bryce Willits
White Sox get C Christian Bethancourt, RHP Cole Sulser
This was actually two separate deals, but only because we both forgot Sulser was on the team til right after we confirmed the deal involving Bethancourt, so I’m combining them for the purposes of. Mainly just got something for nothing - 2 guys who were getting cut anyways for a fringy lefty relief option and an interesting if unspectacular corner INF.
6. Rays sign Joe Kelly to a 1 year/$2 million contract, JD Martinez to a 1 year/$12 million contract, and Liam Hendriks to a 2 year, $9 million contract
Kelly was a low cost bullpen add; turned things around in LA, still gets plenty of whiffs, so feel like he will be a useful back-end guy for us. Wasn’t initially planning on signing a DH, but then I looked and saw JD Martinez, Joc Pederson, and Tommy Pham were all still available, so I went fishing for the best one of those 3 first. Would have gone up to 2 year/$32 mil, but didn’t need to, and his veteran bat and leadership should prove handy. Hendriks I honestly wasn’t expecting to get, but there wasn’t much interest, so I got him at a reasonably low price; more a buy for 2025, when he might help weather losing guys like Armstrong to FA.
7. Rays get RHP Ty Madden, OF Stuart Fairchild, OF Jacob Hurtubise
Reds get OF Harold Ramirez, LHP Jalen Beeks, LHP Brendan McKay, SS Carlos Colmenarez
This deal started from discussions involving Randy, then shifted to Harold when Randy went to LA. Wanted to sell high on Ramirez and make some roster and budget space; Reds got Madden for Jonathan India, and he is a nice addition to the small collection of mid-upper minors arms I added. Fairchild takes Margot’s role for much cheaper, and Hurtubise is an interesting piece in that he’s got speed for days and a fantastic approach, AND he broke out at AA/AAA last year with some power finally showing, but who knows if that’s for real.
8. Rays get OF Jake Mangum
Marlins get INF Vidal Brujan
Not much to say here, just needed to clear Brujan’s roster spot, and I like Mangum enough.
9. Rays get OF Mac Horvath
Orioles get RHP Yoniel Curet
Last move, mainly just a meme deal since I have a tradition of doing last minute minor deals with the O’s that I wanted to continue, but Curet might move in a similar sort of trade this year due to his Rule V eligibility, so it seemed fitting. Horvath has power and was just drafted, but some contact issues are there; Curet has control problems but good stuff, so a case of flawed-for-flawed.
Minor league deals: Brett Phillips, Adam Cimber, Chris Devenski, Steven Okert, Luke Maile
Brought our old friend Phillips back as a depth piece along with Devenski, who was pretty solid last year. Okert was originally signed to replace Poche in the pen, but didn’t end up moving him, so now he’s pretty good LHP depth at AAA, thought I might need a major league deal for him. Maile is just extra catching depth, and Cimber is the usual Rays funky arm angle type, so figured I’d take a flyer on him and see what happens.
Highlights of things that didn’t happen:
I discussed Randy with the Guardians (McKenzie+), Reds (Chase Petty & Connor Phillips+), Mariners (Woo+), and Marlins (Trevor Rogers & Max Meyer+), but all of them ended up being about a piece short. Likewise, I discussed Glasnow with the Phillies for Mick Abel+, but again, no secondary piece for me to work with, and I didn’t want to put too much value into Abel and his spotty control. Considered doing a deal of prospects for Adames to fill in at SS, but ultimately didn’t want to make any decisions there without knowing what’ll happen with Franco, and couldn’t come up with a package I was comfortable with anyways. Also tried to talk myself into trading a haul for Juan Soto, but just couldn't do it for the same aforementioned reason.
Both Adam and Poche were nearly moved several times. Strongly considered Adam+Poche for Joey Wiemer, but didn’t do it in the end due to wanting to maintain bullpen depth with few options to replace them left on the table, Fairchild available as a cheaper alternative, and the Brewers GM being adamant about wanting both of them and not prospects + one of them; also came close on a trade with the Marlins of Adam for Kemp Alderman, along with Poche to either the Reds or Cubs. Tried for Jake Meyers as well but that never went anywhere. Almost got Smyly+cash for Brock Jones from Chicago, but decided it wasn’t really necessary in the end. The A’s wanted to do something involving Soderstrom and Mead, but nothing ever came of that. Lastly, multiple teams asked about Austin Shenton, but I declined, respectfully.
As far as FAs, my main misses were Harrison Bader (was WAY outbid on that one), Robbie Grossman, Jake Diekman, Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham, and Tyler Mahle (never ended up putting an offer in on Joc Pederson due to Martinez signing); Pham was the biggest, I thought I had him for a bit but the Giants jumped in and made a higher bid and I dropped out since the roster fit wasn’t that good anyways after Martinez signed. Still, it would have been nice to do a reunion. Similarly, I didn't sign Longo for $3 million as well even though I was equally strongly tempted, just wasn't a great fit in the end, but I would have liked it all the same.
All in all, I’m quite happy with the results from my first time running the Rays. As far as my three goals, I think I achieved all of them in the end. I definitely added a fair bit to the farm system in anticipation of 2025 (especially pitching), I cut payroll down a decent amount even with FA additions with a little room to spare, and this team still looks to me like at least a wildcard contender. There’s definitely still many question marks in the rotation, but there’s at least some decent depth backing it up now, and with Springs and/or Rasmussen hopefully contributing in the 2nd half, there should be enough innings there. Pen ideally will still be as strong or stronger, as I ended up keeping basically everyone, which wasn't the plan, and the lineup is equally stout, especially if Franco does end up returning. Wish I could have improved SS, but just too much up in the air for me to do that. Am very interested in ya’ll’s thoughts and criticisms, happy to provide further explanation.