A couple weeks ago 30 SB Nation baseball writers got together and conducted the annual SBN GM Simulation. For three days we acted as the GM of a team - I represented the Red Sox once more - with one goal: prepare the 2023 roster. Each GM is given a roster of current players as of the end of the season, so any move the real teams made during the first few days of the off-season weren’t reflected. We made our own non-tender decisions etc.
I’m going to start with a disclaimer: my write-up is going to cheat. I’m a logical person. I work professionally in data. I enjoy rules systems existing. Some of the final numbers teams spent were way, way, outside the norm. Each team was given a recommended budget. While some teams were close and others under their recommendation a few went 20, 30, 40, and even 50 million dollars over their target. Each time a bidding war went crazy, dominoes fell onto the remaining players at that position. While most of us would enjoy a league where “all 30 teams could use him” was true and they were bidding we aren’t there yet. That said, it was still a fun, if frustrating experience.
With all respect to Chaim Bloom and his front office team...
On the Block: Trades
The Sox were quickly approached by representatives from the simulated Washington Nationals. The Nats were interested in upgrading their ‘pen with Matt Barnes and for help at first base from Bobby Dalbec. Which Matt Barnes was real? April and May or the guy who pitched in August-October? The Sox need every arm they can get and relievers can bounce back and forth so I kept him where he is.
Which lefty Bobby Dalbec. With Eric Hosmer’s no-trade clause and the arrival of Triston Casas - plus the possibility of José Abreu lucking out there - Dalbec seemed expendable. Baseball Prospectus predicted Bobby for a .233/.309/.469 line with 25 homers in 478 at bats. What he ended up with was a brutal .215/.283/.369 line over 317 ABs where he slugged 12 homers. Maybe a change of scenery will help the sim-Dalbec and the real life version. In exchange I got veteran reliever Carl Edwards Jr. He’s coming off a strong 2022 campaign and pitched pretty well from 2015-2018. He’s making $1.6 million for 2023 and would hit free agency. Snag a little depth, give a change of scenery. Off and running.
There were a few other trade discussions...
- Was Alex Verdugo available? (no)
- Triston Casas (definitely no)
- Prospects for Andrew Meadows
- Garrett Cooper, Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson were offered for presumably cheap but also didn’t have much of a path to improving the roster
- There was interest in Chris Sale but my price was high. With so much sunk into him either a team had to pay real value or I wasn’t going to make a move.
- One potential Sale deal involved a bad contract swap with the Mets for James McCann. If you haven’t been watching the Mets, he’s been brutal. Theoretically Chris Sale is healthy and recovering from non-pitching injuries. That’s not worthless. Even if his innings are limited because of the lack of pitching, a veteran like Sale should still be good for 100+ on his arm.
For the most part I share the philosophy of building a farm system. The Red Sox have benefited tremendously from players being drafted, developed, and succeding. Half the reason people are upset about Xander Bogaerts is because he’s one of these products and there just isn’t a successor on the horizon, although Marcelo Mayer might be that guy. While there is also merit in acquiring established but still young major leaguers, there wasn’t really a match with the prospects at my disposal.
Despite the last place finish, the Red Sox area waling into 2023 as a team with a lot of talent in place. And a number of exciting prospects to graduate to be traded. So I set out to sign players to fill the gaps for this season and the short window beyond while reinforcements are developed.
In the sim, James Paxton decided to re-up in Boston. And I decided to keep Tommy Pham around. That’s $6 million for Pham and $4 million for Paxton. Would I have necessarily brought back both? Maybe not. But I wanted Pham as depth while I could lock up a player without competition.
From here on it’s the rush of signings. The flurry of checks. Just sort of ignore the money.
Red Sox sign Joey Gallo for 2 years, $34 million
I know: Gallo was brutal in New York. But his .211/.336/.497 over 7 seasons in Texas is more in line with expectations for his performance. Would I have preferred a 1 year deal to bounce back? Definitely. Will he get multiple seasons in the real world? I don’t know...maybe? He didn’t make the FanGraphs Top 50 free agents so that’s a strike against him. But J.D. Martinez sure didn’t look like a guy to bet on after his 2022. And Gallo is still just 29.
Red Sox sign David Robertson for 1 year, $8.5 million
What can you say about David Robertson? He was dominant in the 2020(1) Olympics and then with the Rays and then with the Cubs. It looks like he’s back from Tommy John surgery and has a little more life in the 38-year-old arm. Althuogh unlike the real Red Sox I want to keep Garrett Whitlock in the ‘pen he still needs help back there.
Red Sox sign Chris Bassitt for 3 years, $60 million
OK. I tried really, really hard to keep Nathan Eovaldi in the sim. But 3/$55 million was more than I would go at the time. Bassitt is a very similar pitcher - both are projected for ~2.5 WAR on FanGraphs in 2023 - and can lend some consistency to a rotation that was really aching for it.
Red Sox sign Noah Syndergaard for 2 years, $28 million
This is my version of a reclamation project starter for 2023. In this case, I’ve let the Angels and Phillies do the first part of the work and get him pitching again. This isn’t Thor from the Mets but there’s #3 or maybe #2 starter upside here. He’s only 30 years old and, often, being further removed from injury is good for a player’s improvement. Granted there is a lot to come back from in 2020 and 2021. But stacking him with Sale, Bassitt, Pivetta, Paxton, Bello etc. there is the making of a solid rotation even in his 2022 form.
Red Sox sign Rich Hill for 1 year, $4 million
Not much to say here. Will James Paxton and/or Chris Sale be ready for Opening Day? For Spring Training? Well, Rich Hill probably will be. And he likes Boston so Sim Hill is back!
Red Sox sign Michael Wacha for 2 years, $16 million
This one actually came in under the FanGraphs estimates of 2/$20. Wacha bounced back with the Red Sox and was probably the staff ace in 2022. While his 4.14 FIP isn’t quite as impressive as a 3.32 ERA, there was still a lot to like. Much like Thor, Wacha isn’t his old self. He probably won’t be a 200-inning workhorse. Once again though, the choice had to be depth over flash here. The Sim Red Sox will have enough depth in the rotation.
Red Sox sign Will Smith for 1 year, $2.5 million
First things first: this is Will Smith the pitcher and not the catcher. The reliever had a tale of two seasons: bad in Atlanta and good in Houston. The Atlanta run was pretty much the low point of his career. Assuming he fixed what was wrong in Houston he’s set to be a strong weapon out of the ‘pen again.
This bring us to a payroll of $182 million. For the purposes of the sim, Trevor Story is the shortstop and Christian Arroyo takes over at second base. In a halfway version of the sim and a sane salary structure: Xander Bogaerts is the shortstop and the team has a payroll somewhere around $210 million.
The final roster:
Sim Red Sox
|Reese McGuire||Chris Sale|
|Connor Wong||James Paxton|
|Triston Casas||Nick Pivetta|
|Christian Arroyo||Noah Syndergaard|
|Trevor Story||Chris Bassitt|
|Rafael Devers||Rich Hill|
|Tommy Pham||Michael Wacha|
|Enrique Hernandez||Garret Whitlock|
|Alex Verdugo||David Robertson|
|Franchy Corderr||Tanner Houck|
|Rob Refsnyder||Carl Edwards|
|Eric Homer||Josh Taylor|
Is that a dream team, probably not. Is it a deeper team than we saw in 2022? I’ll say yes. With Xander Bogaerts (or even one of the other free agent shortstops) added to push Christian Arroyo back to the bench it would be even better. And even with the salary inflation of the sim, that’s a doable goal.
The Winter Meetings start tomorrow! Let’s see what Chaim Bloom and the non-sim Sox can do.