Every year, Max over at Royals Review runs an offseason simulation, and 30 volunteer GMs take a shot at managing their team. This year, I had the opportunity to represent the Mets, an exciting proposition given the optimism around the team right now. I’ll note the cap number I was given wasn’t as impressive as we were hoping for from our new GM at only $182 million, but that left plenty of room for some fun maneuvering and an exciting end product.
The holes on the Mets roster are obvious to anyone: the rotation is nearly empty, there’s no starting catcher on the team, the bullpen needs more depth, and a real center fielder would be a welcome addition. Furthermore, the Mets have two former top prospects in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith who really don’t fit all that well (particularly the former). Finding a way to leverage these assets for something that would be a more immediate boon to the roster was another major goal.
Entering the exercise, my sights were set on the premium assets that would be available. J.T. Realmuto and Marcus Stroman were priorities, as was investigating a trade for Francisco Lindor or a big investment in Ha-Seong Kim. George Springer was an option to monitor if his market was weak, but not a priority due to his age, as I preferred to acquire a younger option through trade. On the pitching side, a plethora of second tier options would be available for the bullpen and back of the rotation, so I aimed to play things relatively slow there.
Part 1: Laying the groundwork
To start the simulation off, the options on Wilson Ramos, Robinson Chirinos, and Todd Frazier were all declined. I immediately shot out a first round of bids: 6/$135 million for Realmuto, 4/$64 million for Marcus Stroman, 5/$110 for George Springer, and 5/$55 million for Ha-Seong Kim. With those offers out and nothing likely to come together quickly on the free agent side, I turned to trades.
The first in depth discussion I had was actually quite interesting: a swap of Dominic Smith for Justin Upton and Jo Adell. The Angels were looking to shed money and add a first baseman and were willing to give up someone who was a universal top-3 prospect last season before struggling mightily in 2020. This was an offer I heavily considered, as Adell has the potential to be a game-changing talent in CF, nearly a perfect fit for the Mets. Ultimately, however, I decided giving up an already good player in Smith and taking on a huge chunk of money in Upton wasn’t worth the risk.
Several other discussions were had. The Brewers, trying to get off of Lorenzo Cain’s contract, were looking to package him with Josh Hader for J.D. Davis. I approached the Rockies about David Dahl, one of my prime center field targets, but was rebuffed. An inquiry about Frankie Montas with Oakland sparked some interesting discussions (talks started, oddly enough, by their interest in Luis Guillorme), as they seemed ready to move the hurler for Andres Gimenez. Happy with where those talks were at, I turned my attention to Lindor.
Part 2: Frustration
Unsurprisingly, the market for Lindor was intense, with three other teams in the mix. My counterpart in Cleveland was uninterested in Amed Rosario, so I led an offer with a combination of Ronny Mauricio and Dominic Smith with Mark Vientos and Junior Santos as secondary pieces. J.D. Davis also came up in discussions, but I didn’t think adding him to that package would make much sense. Either way, I don’t think it would’ve made a difference in the end, as the Dodgers swiped Lindor in exchange for Gavin Lux, Josiah Gray, Chris Taylor, and Bobby Miller.
Missing out on Lindor was only the first part of a very rough beginning to this exercise. The morning of the second day started with the deal for Frankie Montas falling apart. A few hours later, Realmuto was gone as well, returning to the Phillies on a 6 year, $172 million deal. An unfortunate error led to my initial bid being lost in the shuffle, but I’m not sure I’d have gone to that price anyway. However, with James McCann already off the market (4/$30 million to the Astros), this left the catching situation looking very dicey.
Things quickly went from bad to worse. Springer signed with the Indians for 6 years, $170 million, and with the bidding on Kim (6/$92 million) and Kevin Gausman (5/$70 million) quickly reaching levels I wasn’t comfortable at, it felt like I was running out of ways to spend my money. This pickle required a pivot, and I found a very soft market on Marcus Semien. After submitting a 4 year, $56 million offer, I began to look for alternatives in the catching market.
Part 3: Things come together
Enter the Dodgers. With Will Smith turning into a legitimate star and Austin Barnes still around as a backup, top prospect Keibert Ruiz seemed expendable. Even better, LA was in need of some cap space, having brought in expensive players in Lindor, Hader, and Avisail Garcia. This paved the way for the first major deal of the simulation:
|LAD Receive||NYM Receive|
|LAD Receive||NYM Receive|
|OF J.D. Davis||C Keibert Ruiz|
|SP Steven Matz||SP David Price|
|OF DJ Peters|
Matz had been someone I heavily considered non-tendering, and Davis was eminently replaceable. Meanwhile, at the cost of $25 million, I added one of the most intriguing young catchers in baseball, a solid #3 starter in Price, and a fun gamble on a toolsy center fielder in DJ Peters.
With the non-tender deadline approaching, I chose not to offer contracts to Guillermo Heredia, Chasen Shreve, or Robert Gsellman. The latter may have been an error, but I found close to no interest when probing his market (he later signed a two year, $1.5 million deal with the Braves). Shortly after, the Marcus Stroman bidding began to heat up, and after an hour of escalating bids (a war with the Twins), the Long Island native returned to the Mets on a six year, $102 million deal.
Over the next few hours, I focused on fleshing out the roster a bit. Greg Holland joined on a two year, $4 million deal, carrying essentially no risk but solid upside as a seasoned veteran who performed well in 2020. Ditto Drew Smyly, who signed for two years and $16 million with an option to serve as a 4th starter (an overpay, based on how the market shook out, but not a huge one). Kirby Yates was the final veteran arm to join in this manner, as I bet on a return to form with a two year, $18 million contract.
In the late afternoon, Marcus Semien accepted the four year, $56 million offer I had made earlier in the day. This was purely a bet on the upside he showed last season, where he posted a career best 137 wRC+ and 7.6 fWAR as a legitimate MVP candidate. His offensive performance was similar in 2020 after a slump to begin his season. Either way, Semien has demonstrated a level of play I don’t think Andres Gimenez or Amed Rosario would ever reach, providing another path for the 2021 team to take a leap forward.
Part 4: Solving the exceSS
With the major acquisitions largely done, I turned back to trades. The market on Rosario was bone dry, and there were few avenues that made sense for moving a player of Smith’s caliber. Moreover, the center field trade market was a dessert. Inquiries on Victor Robles and Brandon Marsh went nowhere, and Ian Happ was traded for a king’s ransom to the Tigers. Oscar Mercado was another option that was considered, but the Marlins swooped in and snagged him before a deal could be made.
Discussions with the Indians weren’t totally fruitless, however, as Cleveland expressed an interest in Andres Gimenez. Emmanuel Clase and Brad Hand were both appealing trade targets, but I was hesitant to pay that much for a relief pitcher in a trade (that’s never gone wrong before has it?). These talks were intense and ultimately highly rewarding, culminating in the following trade:
|CLE Receive||NYM Receive|
|CLE Receive||NYM Receive|
|SS Andres Gimenez||OF Tyler Naquin|
|RP Dellin Betances||RP Emmanuel Clase|
|2B Carlos Cortes||SS Brayan Rocchio|
|3B Jaylen Palmer|
This deal might seem strange on the surface, but it might be the one I’m most please with. Gimenez was very solid in his debut but lacks star upside, and Rocchio is very similar to Gimenez in terms of prospect value. Clase, meanwhile, is a potentially elite relief arm that’s still on a league minimum contract, while Naquin is a useful bench outfielder capable of playing center. Losing Palmer is an unfortunate cost, but getting off of Betances’ money is nice sweetener.
With one shortstop dealt, Rosario was next on the block. Initial discussions with the Reds regarding Raisel Iglesias went nowhere after Cincinatti signed Andrelton Simmons instead. The Braves, however, expressed early interest, and have ample extra pitching depth. Pitching depth is something this roster sorely lacks, leading to our third trade:
|ATL Receive||NYM Receive|
|ATL Receive||NYM Receive|
|SS Amed Rosario||SP Sean Newcomb|
|CF Desmond Lindsay||SP Philip Pfeifer|
|SP Tyler Owens|
None of these players will likely be on the opening day roster, but that’s okay. Newcomb and Pfeifer are both useful additions to the SP depth chart, with Newcomb having some additional intrigue as a relief arm. Owens, meanwhile, is a worthwhile gamble from lower down in a Braves system that has churned out arms in recent years. This could look ugly for either side, but will most likely be remembered as little more than a swap of failed, former top prospects.
Part 5: Polishing the edges
At this point, there wasn’t anything major left to do. The bench was a bit one dimensional, so I brought in Jonathan Villar (2/$8 million) and Ryan Braun (1/$3 million w/ incentives) to add some base-stealing and right-handed power respectively. A useful slate of minor league deals were also struck, with Dustin Garneau, Matt Duffy, Billy Hamilton, Guillermo Heredia, Carl Edwards, and Brad Peacock all joining to provide depth in Triple-A.
Several other avenues were pursued but ultimately abandoned. Korean outfielder Sung-Bum Na received a lot of interest late, eventually signing for three years and $15 million with the Giants and prompting our pivot to Braun. The Orioles’ Paul Fry was explored as a lefty bullpen addition, but no deal could be struck. Acquiring Luke Weaver and Travis Bergen from the Diamondbacks was another late blooming idea that unfortunately couldn’t go anywhere before time ran out.
Here’s our final roster:
And the final balance sheet (not accounting for deferred money or buyouts):
By and large, our initial goals have been accomplished, even if the route to get there wasn’t what we expected. Realmuto went elsewhere, but a catching upgrade (Ruiz) and a big right handed bat (Semien) were acquired through other means. The excess shortstop depth on the roster was used to flesh out the pitching depth while also building the farm a bit. Failign to find a starting caliber center fielder is a miss, but Naquin is a serviceable option and Peters is a very fun gamble. Besides, holding on to Smith for the (likely) eventual return of the DH in 2022 may prove to be the correct move in the end.
Is this team as good as the Dodgers? No probably not, that roster is historically brilliant. Is it enough to challenge for the NL East crown? Absolutely, and once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. Moreover, this roster has been assembled without any gristly long term commitments and while actually improving the farm (Rocchio as a back-end top-100 guy along with Peters, Owens, and Pfeifer more than make up for Palmer, Cortes, and Lindsay).
How many games does this roster win?
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How would you grade my performance?
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If you’re curious about the full list of moves that were made, you can check it out over at Royals Review here.