The first thing I needed to do was determine what the Blue Jays' needs were. It turns out it was pretty simple.
- Starting pitching
- Starting pitching
- Starting pitching
- Relief pitching
- Middle infield help
- A left fielder
- An improved bench (especially middle infield)
- Starting pitching
I could use the Jays' real offseason as a benchmark. It showed me that Alex Anthopoulos was not above trading top prospects for serious talent and that Rogers would approve a massive increase in payroll, if warranted. I can not emphasize that last point enough. Despite this, I ended up getting some grief from a particular general manager about it later in the simulation.
I listed my free agent targets off the top of my head:
Left fielder: Melky Cabrera, Josh Hamilton?
Middle infield: Maicer Izturis, Stephen Drew
Starting pitcher: Brandon McCarthy, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Scott Feldman, Scott Baker
Relief pitcher: Jason Frasor, Brandon Lyon, Francisco Cordero (haha)
So I set about to work it. I would make serious offers to Melky, Macier, Brandon, and Edwin. Next I contacted several GMs about available pitching including the Marlins, as for some reason I thought they might be open to a big trade. I was hoping to land most of my pitching via trade as I suspected that free agents would prove to be rather costly (and boy, was I right.)
My first trade target was Cliff Lee. The Phils GM desperately wanted a 3B. I wasn't going to give up Lawrie as I didn't exactly have any decent 3B options on my roster and I wasn't going to find a capable replacement without paying through the nose. Instead I looked at what some 3B options might cost including Mike Olt in a possible three-way trade. Like most potential three-ways, it proved to be difficult to arrange as not all the parties were willing so I abandoned that idea.
I crowd-sourced ideas for trades because, as some of you know, I'm not all that big on trade proposals. I thank everyone who did throw out names to target.
For most of the starting pitching trade targets, the price was high. The other GMs were asking for more of the Lansing Three than I was willing to trade, some combination of Travis d'Arnaud+, Brett Lawrie+, J.P. Arencibia, or Anthony Gose. Some of the proposals were sort of tempting, but I wasn't going to just get rid of pieces because I had a couple of extra, nor was I going to trade JPA and take the huge risk of giving a top, but unproven at the MLB level, prospect the starting catcher's job, which is the toughest on field position in baseball.
The Marlins proved to be amenable to a trade for Josh Johnson. It soon expanded to include Emilio Bonifacio (I hadn't heard back from Izturis' agent) as for some reason the Marlins GM was unwilling to trade Buerhle and Reyes whereas I was reluctant to trade Jeff Mathis. After several hours of negotiation, we settled on Yunel Escobar, Noah Syndergaard and Jake Marisnick. I was reluctant to give up Noah, but the Marlins GM didn't want Justin and I could keep Aaron Sanchez so that was it.
By this time I had gotten word that Edwin Jackson was going to be expensive. 3/$36 wasn't going to cut it. I upped my offer to him to 4/$48. Apparently I found myself in a bidding war with someone as I went to 4/$52. An hour later, I was told that the offer on the table was 5/$60 and would I match it or beat it? I like E-Jax but I'm not going to 5 years on a third starter so I reluctantly told the agent, "No." E-Jax would be signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates for 5/$60.
I was shocked like everyone else that Andrew McCutchen and a minor leaguer were traded to the White Sox for Chris Sale and Nestor Molina. I don't know what the negotiations were like, but I was amazed that Pittsburgh would trade a MVP candidate for a good rookie starter. The one thing this trade did for me was make me throw out the book and be a bit more bold.
Based on a suggestion by Minor Leaguer, I took a look at Tim Lincecum. I asked the Giants' GM what his price was. The price was Jose Bautista in return for Lincecum and Roger Kieschnick, a AAA outfielder with good stats for the PCL but not a top-100 prospect. Not even for Gary Brown (I do read up on various systems prospects)! For some reason the SF GM thought that was a fair deal. I had to laugh, and with that Day One of the SB Nation Winter Meetings was over.
DAY TWO-FOUR (Free Agent E-Bay)
Day Two was Free Agent day. I followed up on my Maicer and Melky bids. Maicer wanted 3/12, not 3/10. I decided no point in arguing and signed Maicer. I discovered to my dismay that my 2/16 was trumped by a 3/24 offer. It went from there. Bid after bid till I finally got sick of this and went 4/60 (which was an estimate for Melky if he hadn't been busted for Testosterone.) I won, but I wasn't really happy with it as I let my own ego get the better of me. Who did I out bid?
Cabrera came down to a bidding war between the Marlins and Blue Jays.
WHAT???? Yup, those same cash poor Marlins who in real life traded all their good players and massive contracts to Toronto. Perhaps I had reason to complain as the Marlins weren't supposed to be bidding on free agents, but it is a simulation and if Andrew McCutchen can be traded than anything can happen. So 2/16 turned into 4/60.
In the meantime I did sent an offer to the Reds GM for a Lind Votto trade. I did emphasize that this was not a serious offer, but the Reds GM did not see the humor in it. I also offered John Farrell to the Red Sox, but they got back to me (eventually) and declined.
I found out that David Aardsma was non tendered by the Yanks and I picked him up on 1/$2.5 mil deal and offered a minor league contract + ST invite to Dallas Braden for 600K
By this point, I was kind of frustrated not being able to get a starting pitcher. Many of the responses to my queries were looking expensive or no one came back to me. I offered a package built around JP Arencibia for Jonathan Niese as the Mets locked R.A. Dickey up to a contract. After I pushed JP's charm and looks then I didn't hear again from the Mets. News then broke that Sanchez was signed.
I decided to look at Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke. I offered a high AAV but 4 year contract for Hamilton and asked what the bidding was for Zack. I was told 6/160. I decided to go for broke and went 6/175 which was the absolute highest I would go for in both terms and dollars.
But on Tuesday afternoon Greinke really started to heat up with Philly, the Dodgers and Toronto being the most serious suitors. I think at one point I was ready to take the Phillies deal until Toronto came up with their winning bid.
My "final" offer won Zack over. Of course, I got some grief for it. Not about the terms which are expensive, but where I actually got the money. I spent part of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning justifying the massive resources I had at my disposal. Special thanks to shortofbrilliant and bluejays13 for helping me out in the Royals Review Thread.
Day Three was quiet as I pretty much accomplished everything I needed to do.
Day Four I signed Dallas Braden on a minor league contract for 600K
I didn't pore over the COTS contract values to figure out what I could spend, but I had a pretty good idea that most of the money for Zack would come from the money I didn't use to pay the Buck, Buerhle and Reyes Contracts. I was also well aware that the simulation Melky's contract AAV had almost doubled.
COTS Real Jays 2013 Contracts based on AAV = $123+ Million before Arbitration
COTS Simulated Jays 2013 Contracts based on AAV = $125.5+ Million* before Arbitration
*The number includes Braden's 600k/yr, Aardsma's 2.5/yr, Melky's 15/yr, Izturis' for 4/yr, Hech's 2.5/yr, Mathis' 1.5/yr, Greinke's 29.17/yr minus Buck's 6/yr, Buerhle's 16/yr, Reyes' 19.2/yr (ALL VALUES ARE AAV)
Not a bad guess without using Excel, eh?
I ended up with three starting pitchers, two middle infielders, one outfielder and one reliever thus accomplished my goals without going too far over the AAV of the actual Blue Jays contracts.
I wouldn't say this is an accurate simulation nor is it anyway realistic. However, it did give me appreciation of how difficult it can be to be a GM. Our GM knows his stuff.