Well, we have about 30 million to work with this off season. When I look at what is out there I realize that 30 Million just doesn’t buy what it used to, especially if you want pitching. Now, I know payroll can be trimmed a little more. I know Billy will probably make trades and this mental exercise totally ignores the fact that he probably will. It becomes pretty obvious pretty fast that, unless Arte wants us way over the tax limit, but we want to fix as many positions as possible, free agents at the level of Corbin, Grandal and Miller are pretty much a no no. Now, Billy can choose to ignore a need if he wants to spend a lot more elsewhere, but I did my best not to do that here.
So what could we pull off if we could ONLY spend the 30 odd million on hand? Most of the play off caliber teams have at least 6 of 9 positions at or near an OPS+ of 100. So I am shooting for that. Our bench was weak. 1B and OF were too soft, as was catcher. I also know we need pitching, both in the rotation and the pen. That's an average of 6 million per position to spread around. Well here’s a look at some of the bounty of bargains that I found and what I would try if I were stuck with the task, which I am thankfully not.
THE NOT SO SECRETLY GOOD SECRET GUYS
Shawn Kelley (RH) had a .889 WHIP last year. 4.55 K/BB and 145 ERA+ in 2018. 111 ERA+ 1.17WHIP and 3.68 K/BB for his career. To give you a comparison, Jeury’s Familia, who I also like and who is probably the cheapest "established" closer available, has lifetime 140 ERA+ 1.21WHIP and 2.58 K/BB. Maybe offer Kelley more prime time and a nice chunk of cash, but less than we would to say the barely better Kelvin Herrera? He made 5.5 Million last year.
David Robertson (RH) has spent his entire career being a closer stuck behind a closer. He has ten years of 147 ERA+ 1.14 WHIP 3.36 K/BB and has not slacked off. The thing is, he made 13 Million last year. We can’t offer much more than that. All we can offer is a closer’s job.
Adam Warren (RH). Not really a closer type, but solid. 121 ERA+ 1.22 WHIP and 2.55 K/BB for his career. He’d be a solid addition, but there will be teams willing to pay him. He won’t be a 4 million dollar "pick up".
Justin Wilson (LH) 121 ERA+ 1.26 WHIP 2.45 K/BB lifetime. Made 4.25 million last year, a season in which he gave up a few more walks and hits per inning than usual.
Tony Sipp (LH) 108 ERA+ 1.23 WHIP 2.4 K/BB. Consistently good 35 year old who I have heard may be hard to pry away from Houston. He makes 6M a year now.
THE RISKY BROKEN TOYS
Cody Allen (RH). ERA+ and K/BB average is 142 and 3.26. Last year it was 93 and 2.42. He’ll be more expensive than most of the guys on this list, but if he slides back to the norm he is really good. Worth the risk?
Trevor Rosenthal (RH) was out all year after surgery. He was a good closer most of the time for the Cardinals. 130 ERA+ 1.30 WHIP 3.04 K/BB career. He was never as good as Greg Holland etc but there may still be heavy bids for him.
John Axford (RH) 1.5 Million last year. Had 51 innings of 2.5 K/BB and 7.8 hits and 1.1 HR per 9 innings before crashing as a Dodger.
Santiago Casilla (RH) was DFA’d by the A’s and was in the Rockies system. Has a lifetime 1.285 WHIP and 2.1 lifetime K/BB and 0.8 HR/9. He started walking guys a lot more last year but was consistent for 14 years before then, pushed out of 2 really good pens.
Daniel Hudson (RH) was hurt, pitched mostly for LAD last year has a lifetime 2.78 K/BB and 1.2 WHIP. ERA+ was 95 last year, his career ave is a 104.
David Phelps (RH) has had similar numbers to the men above, but lost last year to injury.
Well, one thing I can say about all the men listed below. They have started major league baseball games as pitchers and they are better than Deck McGuire and Despagne. Only Ryu stands out as good (but fragile) and honestly I think he'll get paid more than we can spend.
Anibal Sanchez, WHIP: 1.306 GB%: 43.3 KBB/9: 8/3 Last paid: 1.6 M
Marco Estrada, WHIP: 1.213 GB%: 32.6 KBB/9: 8/3 Last paid: 13 M
Nathan Eovaldi, WHIP: 1.348 GB%: 47 KBB/9: 7/3 Last paid: 2 M
Cole Hamels, WHIP: 1.171 GB%: 44.8 KBB/9: 8.5/2.5 Last paid: 23.5 M
Trevor Cahill, WHIP: 1.359 GB%: 55 KBB/9: 6.8/3.7 Last paid: 1.5 M
Gio Gonzalez, WHIP: 1.316 GB%: 47.2 KBB/9: 8.7/3.8 Last paid: 12 M
Derek Holland, WHIP: 1.363 GB%: 47.2 KBB/9: 8.7/3.8 Last paid: 1.75 M
Jordan Lyles, WHIP: 1.457 GB%: 49.2 KBB/9: 6/3 Last paid: .75 M
Tyson Ross, WHIP: 1.345 GB%: 53.6 KBB/9: 8/4 Last paid: 1.75 M
Wade Miley, WHIP: 1.388 GB%: 49 KBB/9: 7/3 Last paid: .5 M
Hyun-Jin Ryu, WHIP: 1.216 GB%: 47.7 KBB/9:.8/2 Last paid: 7.8 M
James Shields, WHIP: 1.272 GB%: 43 KBB/9: 8/3 Last paid: 21 M
What we have/are stuck with:
Albert Pujols. Had a 93 OPS+ against right handed pitching. Not very good, but not horrible, and 86 OPS+ against left handed pitching. That is very limp. We are stuck with this limp for now, all the wishing in the world can't change it. So we should go buy a crutch.
Mark Reynolds: .791 OPS against left handed pitching. Made 1.5 Million last year. Or....
Danny Valencia: .864 OPS against left handed pitching. Made 1.2 Million last year
We also have Jose Fernandez coming off the a jet, who is meh, but OK for 3rd string. And Matt Thaiss in the wings, who will probably be about like Fernandez.
Yeah, no way we are affording Grandal.... here's what I liked sort of
Nick Hundley. 91 OPS+ for his career, almost identical splits. Cost 2.5 million in 2018 when he plaid 96 games. For a point of ref, Maldy played 113 this year with an OPS+ of 73.
Kurt Suzuki: 91 career OPS+, 108 last year. Played for 108 games and 3.5 M last year. Hits slightly better against lefties than righties but splits aren’t bad.
I know that watching our pitchers fall apart was painful, but did anything hurt more than watching the clown car of OF not named Trout/Upton this season? All of these guys are 25% better than what we had last year between Hermosillo, Blash, Calhoun and Young.
Jon Jay 100 OPS+
Curtis Granderson Lefty hit 115 OPS+. 1 tick off career ave this year. Made 5 million with Blue Jays. Can’t hit lefties. Would immediately put an end to bad jokes on HH.
Lonnie Chisenhall. 103 OPS+ (Also plays 3B)
Denard Span 103 OPS+ (If the Mariners turn down 12M option)
Marwin Gonzalez. Shortstop, Third Base, Left Field. Made 5.12 M last year for Houston, who maybe willing to let him walk in favor of Tony Kemp and other fill ins. If they do some teams will throw money at him though. He has a 103 OPS+.... same as Kemp who is faster but has less power. This will be his age 30 season.
Steve Pearce. Outfield, Second base, First base. 140 OPS+ last year, 111 for his career. He hit’s left handers solidly and could spell Albert against them. Made 6.25 Million last year. Will be his age 36 season.
So here is what I would try:
Catcher: Offer Suzuki or Hundley or both 3.5 million a piece. Sign one or both. Use what we have now as back ups. 7 million
OF/3B: Sign Danny Valencia to play 1B, 3B, and outfield for 3 Million. Pujols starts at 1B against righties. Valencia against lefties. Fills in at other positions as needed. (note, he is not a good fielder at any spot, 3B being his worst, but we have 3 other options there.) Hermosillo, Fernandez, Thaiss, and other younger prospects fill in gaps as season progresses. 10 Million
Bullpen: Offer Shawn Kelley and Justin Wilson each 3/27million. Pay them 7 million next year and 10 for the last 2 years. If they want more money on the back end give it to them. So you are rolling out a pen of Wilson and Alvarez (LH) Kelley, Robles, Buttrey, Parker and Anderson (RH) You also have Meyer, Middleton and Ramirez working back and Pena/Cole looking for innings all around. 24 million
Rotation: Honestly, I don’t really love any of these options accept Ryu, and I don’t think we’d have half the cash needed to sign him at this point. The thing is, our rotation was in tatters, but isn’t HORRIBLE and Ohtani comes back in 2020. So I’d roll with Heaney, Skaggs, Shoemaker, Barria, Pena, a stretched out Taylor Cole and possibly Ramirez/Meyer depending on how they sort out. Suarez, Canning and Sandoval are down the line.
Add to this mix 6 million dollars worth of either Estrada, Cahill, Sanchez, Holland or Ross. I know that’s not super exciting. I know that’s not ‘THE ACE WE NEED TO GET TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!!" "How dare you, that won’t fix our rotation that was decimated and cost us the season!" But, when you look at the numbers, did our rotation cost us this last season?
This is the big gamble. Ohtani comes back in 2020. We’ll know if Trout’s resigning by then. We’ll also have a better picture of what we have in our three best prospects. If we are REALLY lucky we will also have a resolution to our Pujols issues. THAT is when you sign guys, you trade prospects, etc and get that ace. Until then, I wanted to stock our pen with a couple of good young arms and at least shorten the burden on a weak rotation so we can get it closer to a "2 times through the order" list of starters.
So our depth chart would be something like this:
SP (New Guy)
Cole, Tropeano, Meyer, Ramirez, ST scrap heap, rookies….
RP Wilson (L)
RP Alvarez (L)
25th Spot: Various
I ran into issues that I didn't expect would be as big a deal as they are. Even a meh SP that I am interested in Like Eovaldi or Hamels will cost a big chunk of that 30 million. I really like both Pearce and Gonzalez, but they will also both cost a lot when compared to Valencia/Hermosillo. I chose to sink most of my money into what really sucked, the pen, and I chose to invest in pen arms that are young enough to help out for longer than just a year.
But see what you can do with 30 million. Can you solve all our roster holes and get a better starter? Looking at this also made me aware of what we can and probably can't realistically trade. Maybe you all can think of some actually doable trades (no, no one is trading us pitching for Kole Calhoun) that would clear us some money, kill two birds with one stone, etc. But this was the best I could come up with under my self imposed limitations. It would (if Cozart and the rest of these players hit their norms) actually make most of our line up average 100 OPS+ (even without Trout skewing it too much) and make our bullpen above average. These moves also make us less prone to losing games 2/0 against lefty starters. Maybe seeing all this can point to some even better options without these limitations?