Over the past week, SB Nation has been simulating its own set of Winter Meetings. Essentially, myself and a number of other writers from around the network got together and took over as the general managers of our own teams, trying to wheel and deal our way to the best possible teams.
Anyone who's ever tried to play a game of poker with no real money involved will immediately guess the problem: people by-and-large went crazy.
I may be trying to deflect blame and judgement here a bit, I'm not entirely sure. Because at the end of the day, when we're talking about our greatest need--starting pitching--I come to you bearing the gifts of Joe Blanton and Brett Myers.
I know, I know, you don't need to tell me how much that sucks. For all Joe Blanton's peripheral goodness, he's not exactly the archetypal A.L. East pitcher and he certainly doesn't profile well for tiny Fenway with all his homer problems. And Brett Myers is little more than a hopeful starter who can pitch out of the bullpen if we can't find a space for him and if he can prove himself worthy of such an opportunity in spring training, given the stacked bullpen available.
So how did we come to this? Well, it's pretty simple:
Toronto Blue Jays sign P Zack Greinke to a 6 year $175 million [deal].
Milwaukee Brewers sign P Anibal Sanchez to a 6 year/$90 million deal.
Colorado Rockies sign P Brandon McCarthy to a 4 year/$55 million deal.
Houston Astros sign P Shaun Marcum to a 5 year/$52 million deal.
Kansas City Royals sign P Ryan Dempster to a 3 year/$42 million deal with up to $6 million in incentives.
Washington Nationals sign P Kyle Lohse to a 3 year/$45 million deal.
Pittsburgh Pirates sign P Edwin Jackson to a 5 year $60 million deal.
It was a mad, mad, mad world out there.
Ultimately the closest we came on a high-level pitcher was Jake Peavy. With a three-year, $40.5 million offer on the table, we offered a 2-year deal worth $18 million a season with a club option for $9 million and a $4 million buyout. Those of you savy on the whole tax situation will see what we were trying for here. At the worst we get Peavy on two years, albeit at an exorbitant effective price of $20 million per season, thus equalizing the money he would make in three elsewhere.
At the best we one-up the other team and offer Peavy three years at $45 million. The difference being that, because that last year is a team option, Peavy essentially would come back on a $9 million AAV contract. The hit to our CBT figure in 2015 would be much reduced, Peavy would get his money, all would be well.
Unfortunately, Peavy opted for the National League and the $40.5 million over three years from Atlanta, leaving us high and dry. In the end, Blanton came in at two years, $18 million and Myers at one year, $5 million. I would have liked to have gotten Miguel Gonzalez had I realized he was on the market. I'm still not entirely sure how he got there, but whatever.
On the other side of things we did somewhat better. Even if the big names still went for a ton of money, we found some pretty reasonably priced mid-level position players available. A lot of our moves actually followed the real life team. David Ross and Mike Napoli both came in on nearly the same deals (2/$8 for Ross, 3/$39 for Napoli) and while we didn't end up going with Jonny Gomes, we did bring Cody Ross and his bat flips back for 3/$21.
Before you go and accuse me of being a copycat, I totally had the ideas first!
Really, that was the plan I tried to follow. David Ortiz came back for 2/$26, and I got my man in Stephen Drew at two years and $16 million, though I had hoped to bring him in for one year and $10 million with a team option for the same. While the Twins ended up deciding to keep Justin Morneau and Eric Chavez signed just before I was going to make an offer, I managed to lure Lance Berkman back to the game on a one-year, $5 million deal to hopefully provide some thunder against the league's right-handed pitching.
Shane Victorino was the one real departure since Melky Cabrera managed to pull in $60 million on a five-year deal from Toronto. He was mostly a matter of who was left after the sim had gobbled up the big names at big dollars (Hamilton pulled $152 million, Nick Swisher a cool $70), and unlike his real-world counterpart came onboard for only $24 million over three years rather than $39. I'll count that as a victory.
We also managed to add Rafael Soriano on a 2/$12 contract late in the running. It's not the ideal place to drop cash, but it was becoming clear by the end that there was nowhere else to spend it, and we had a good deal left to spend. If worst comes to worst and the starting pitching doesn't end up bouncing back, relievers are always valuable at the trade deadline.
In the end, it was an imperfect offseason. We came up notably short in terms of the rotation, where the market went absolutely bonkers. While we tried to focus instead on position players, but ended up spending just $78 million ($28 million committed as late as 2015, none past it) In the end, we'll enter the season with a CBT figure about $25 million shy of the threshold (which we set as our limit, given that that's been the soft cap for the Red Sox for the past few years). We did try and swing some deals which would have us taking on big contracts--in particular, Vernon Wells, who would have simply been designated for assignment--in exchange for good, cheap players or prospects. But the sides never came together, and we weren't touching Ryan Howard with a 20-foot pole. Seriously, have you seen how long that deal goes on for?
Hopefully come the end of the offseason, Ben Cherington will have managed to find a slightly more impressive answer to our pitching woes.