Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to represent Halos Heaven in the annual SB Nation GM Simulation. Along with my trusted assistant 5thStarter, we exchanged offers with the "general managers" of the 29 other MLB blogs on SB Nation in an attempt to build our ideal Angels 2016 squad, working within the basic parameters of the real-life MLB free agents and contract situations. I thought it would be interesting to share how we did and how the fans of other clubs viewed our assets.
First, be glad Billy Eppler is running the Angels and not myself, as I was in over my head against some of the more experienced GM's out there. For the uninitiated, one member of each blog represents their team as "GM". For the purposes of the sim, we rewind back to the last day of the season, meaning options, qualifying offers, extensions and trades that have already taken place do not count. Max Rieper of Royals Review is the organizer and acts on behalf of the free agents, shopping deals around to rival GMs, making decisions on qualifying offers and approving trades. Huge tip of the cap to Max, who did a monster job of tracking emails and keeping the master spreadsheet up to date.
Since we go back to the start of the offseason, we no longer have Andrelton Simmons in our possession. I did reach out to the GM of the Braves to see if he had any desire to rekindle the trade (in the interest of keeping things close to reality) and he informed me he was not a fan of the original deal but was open to listen if I was wiling to sweeten the pot a bit. I passed. Instead, I chose to go the farm-building route, keeping Newcomb and Ellis in the fold and avoiding free agents with qualifying offers attached.
Our "recommended" budget was to go no higher than 10% of the previous year's payroll. While this wasn't going to be strictly enforced, I thought it would be interesting to build the strongest team possible while working within those restraints. My first plan of action was to take care of business on the three David's. Like the real Angels, I declined the options on Murphy and DeJesus. I did, however, make a qualifying offer to David Freese, in hopes of securing an eventual draft pick. Luckily, he declined the offer.
To shed some payroll, I non-tendered Fernando Salas, saving about $2.2 million. The GM of the Rangers was curiously fascinated with re-acquiring C.J. Wilson, so long as I picked up some salary. We had some back and fourth before finally settling on $10 million cash along with Wilson for 18 year-old SS/3B prospect Ti'Quan Forbes, a second round pick in the 2014 draft. Athletic, strong infielder with a name like Ti'Quan? Sign me up!
Now with some modest depth on the farm and payroll cleared, I could get to business filling the team's two biggest holes at the major league level, third base and outfield. I contacted the GM of the Twins about the availability of Trevor Plouffe. He wanted a top pitcher, I countered with one of Santiago, Shoemaker or Tropeano, along with a prospect. He chose Tropeano and Kubitza, saying the deal hinged on him acquiring an outfielder from another squad. I also made a 3-year, $43 million offer to Denard Span, which he accepted after mulling over other offers.
While waiting on the Plouffe decision, I did some low-level shopping, bringing old pal Maicer Izturis back into the fold on a minor league deal. I also put the feelers out on some relief arms, only to discover most of the quality arms had already been locked up to crazy deals. We are talking about 2 years, $14 million for Greg Holland (who isn't pitching next year!) and two years, $10 million for Joe-Freakin'-Blanton, with an option for a third year! I decided quickly I would stay out of that fray and just hold on to the relievers we already had, even though Bedrosian, Morin and Gott were all receiving some interest.
While bargain shopping, Arte (aka 5thStarter) decided he wanted to make a big splash and convinced me to make a strong push for Ben Zobrist, whom I had backed away from earlier after rejecting my 4-year, $60 million offer. After some back and fourth, I finally lost out to San Diego, who nabbed him for 5 years, $108 million. Even in fake GM'ing, I couldn't fathom the thought of paying a 39 year-old Zobrist $22 million. That wasn't near the craziest deal of the simulation, as David Price received 7 years, $259 million from Arizona (which now we know wasn't all that crazy, after all), Cespedes got 7 years, $200 million from the White Sox and Jason Heyward scored 11 years, $310 million from St. Louis.
With essentially all the high-end free agents spoken for, I was left waiting on the Plouffe deal, which fell through at the last minute. Luckily, making Freese a qualifying offer worked out in my favor, scaring off other teams and allowing me to scoop him up at the last minute for 2 years, $12 million. I also did some last minute shopping, landing Alejandro De Aza for $1 million to be a left-handed outfield bat off the bench and signed another old pal, Jerome Williams, as well as an old nemesis, Bud Norris, to minor-league deals to build some pitching depth.
In all, I felt good about landing Span at what I thought was a pretty good rate, considering what the other top outfielders received. As uninspiring as it was to welcome Freese back, he was a complete bargain, getting him at two years for less than he would have received for one year had he accepted the QO. I removed C.J. from the picture, clearing some salary while injecting an interesting young player with projection into our system. All our top prospects are in place and it looks like we get to pick in the middle of the first round in next year's draft.
The players who received the most interest from rival GMs were Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards, with a couple being bold enough to check in on the availability of Trout. When telling the Cubs any conversation would have to start with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, he broke off talks but said it was the first time their names had come up in trade talks where it didn't make him laugh. Other names thrown my way for Trout's services included Jackie Bradley Jr., Bradley Zimmer, Rob Kaminsky, Robert Stephenson, Brady Aiken, Jesse Winker, Alex Blandino, Billy Hamilton, and Amir Garrett. In the end, there was no way anyone was going to offer enough to make me part with Trouty.
It was a fun simulation and while I didn't get any "awards" from the GM poll the followed the exercise, I felt confident with the value acquired in my offseason, even if I missed out on some of the biggest fish in the deepest free agent class in recent memory. If I could do things differently, I would probably crowd source the rest of you fine folks at Halos Heaven for hidden gems I wasn't considering. If interested, here is the complete recap on how every team did during the simulation.