Dealing two studs to JP was not Plan A for the off-season plan, but here we are. Scherzer and Freeman have been on the posted block for about a month without many inquiries. Given this league's disdain for veterans, Max wasn't a guy I was assuming would get a lot of attention. There are only a handful of teams that would want a 36-year-old even if he's arguably the best pitcher in the game. So, while I assumed the market would be light, I wasn't planning on moving him for just anything. JP and I had some casual conversation and he mentioned interest in Scherzer and Sale as well as some of my better bats. We began discussions with Max and Arenado, but without a replacement, he was tough to move. Freeman, on the other hand, has a built-in replacement of Carlos Santana. He's not nearly the same caliber player, but he's coming off a 4-win season and he's always been a master of getting on base and hitting 20-30 home runs. So, I felt a little easier about moving him. He's also been a train wreck for me. DMB has decided that he's a .240/.340/.430 hitter in Detroit and mostly unusable in the playoffs. So, while I know he's actually more of a .320/.420/.550 hitter, he's never come close to that production. He's also a first baseman, which are a little easier to find.
Coming back we started with capable replacements that shave years off what I was losing. On Scherzer's side is Trevor Bauer. Now, granted, he's batshit insane, a little stalkerish, a hothead and plays with drones, but he's also a good pitcher. He was a Cy Young candidate in 2018 and then fell off a cliff in 2019, but still managed a 3.3-win season. So, while he looked horrible he was no worse than Aaron Nola and Clayton Kershaw. I would hope ZiPS will give him some credit for his past and he can be a solid #2 starter in 2020. He'll star the year in Cincy, but he's a free agent in 2021. So, clearly that's a downgrade for 2020, but I also just shaved seven years off my rotation.
Player number two in the equation is Gallo. So, I'm not going to have a shortage of power generated from losing Freeman. In fact, I may gain a few home runs. What I will lose is probably 60 points in batting average and 40-50 points in on base percentage. But I'm hoping I gained a long-term center fielder. Gallo is an amazing athlete for a guy who's 6'5 and 235 pounds. The downside here is he missed half the year with a wrist injury, so I have to bank on him healing up and being ready for Spring Training. Given his 70 games produced 3 wins, I have to think ZiPS treats him pretty well in 2020. He's also four years younger than Freeman, so I've picked up a few years in the lineup as well.
But given that these are two 2020 downgrades, I needed a little more. I was hoping for some additional youth, but JP doesn't really shine in that area, so I went with non-ancient but now-talent in Sean Doolittle. He's 32, but was a stud for Washington all year as the Nationals' closer. While he hit the DL later in the year from some overuse, he was a stud in the playoffs. I've always been a fan, but because Jake Hamlin is ridiculously stingy (so is Jake Levine, must be in the name), I was never able to acquire him. So, I'll use him as a setup guy to Osuna, which should be pretty solid.
I added on Rafael Morel, who's a Cubs shortstop prospect. I'm not sure if he'll become anything, but he's following his older brother in the system. He's a Dominican shortstop who stands 5'11 and weighs 165. As a 17-year-old making his pro debut in the DSL, he put up a pretty solid season, slashing .283/.373/.448 with 4 home runs 32 RBI and 23 SB with 9.7 BB% and 14.2 K%. Some scouting reports see upside, so that's what I'm hoping for as well. All in all, there's age risk for JP, but he's improved himself with a great top of the rotation and great middle of the order. I'm getting younger, which is what I was hoping for, but I do get a worse in the near term.
Not a particularly huge deal, but after seeing Nick post his projected lineup I saw Givens in the "extras" section. I reached out because while he struggled in 2019 compared to previous seasons, I've always thought he had nice upside.
After a few years as a 1-2 win pitcher, he dropped to half a win last year after his HR rate spiked. His K/9 rate also improved, so I hope it was a 1-year blip. He had a 135 ERA+ projection last year, so I still think he's a late innings reliever.
Contreras was a possible draft drop as a 17- guy. He's a pitcher in a deep Padres system and his nickname is "The Embalmer," so there's that. Padron-Artilles was a pickup after a ridiculous start where he struck out 12 batters. He may be something or not. Who knows. Nick gets some farm depth gambles and I get a 29-year-old reliever I can use now.
It was fun to have the league wake up to this one. For the first time in quite a while, there were a decent number of people active and sending messages. After quite a lull, the league had some activity this morning, so that's fun.
So, after another disappointing finish to the season, I was ready to mix up the team. I posted after the World Series loss that everyone was available, but no one came knocking. I posted a more detailed block with just about all my stars posted and still I had few people show interest. I assume part of this may have been a result of people thinking I wouldn't really move these huge names. But, I was serious about it. I told Danny months ago that I wanted to talk with him about Buehler and Devers. I clearly understood this was going to cost a lot and I was prepared to get into the discussion. The reason I wanted them both was because I wanted to make a concerted effort this off-season to getting younger across the board. It started with Scherzer, an amazing pitcher and an amazing talent, but a guy who's decidedly unappealing in a league like this because of his age. That led to the deal with Pittsburgh. This trade with Cleveland was step two in the process.
The framework obviously started with Sale/Arenado and Buehler/Devers. From that perspective, I knew I was giving up the two more talented (currently) players. Sale has been one of the league's best players and is a top 3 projected pitcher annually. That said, in 2019, he had the worst ERA of any major or minor league season and he missed the end of the year with elbow trouble. He still managed 3.6 WAR because of a typically filthy 13 k/9 and 2 bb/9. Something wasn't right, but the good news has been surgery isn't on the table and he's trending toward recovery after rest. Still, moving Scherzer and worrying about Sale to stay healthy atop the rotation was nerving. I think Buehler is the best young starting pitcher in the league. At 25, he has been dominant the last two seasons, so I was thrilled to get him. He takes over the #1 spot in the rotation.
And then there's Arenado and Devers. Arenado has been the best third baseman in the game for a while, showing consistent power and batting average plus elite defense. Plus defense, plus power, average -- he's the total package. Like Freeman, Arenado didn't produce for me. I felt like I needed a bat before last year's deadline, so I invested a lot to get him from Houston. Syndergaard, Sano, and a first round pick was a hefty price to pay and he hit .150 for me over 50 games. He was better in the playoffs, but I wasn't thrilled with the performance. Devers, at 23, is the equivalent of a recent college draftee and has played three MLB seasons. He's an amazing talent, comprising 5.9 WAR last year after a monster breakout season. As with Sale to Buehler, I'm saving at least 5 years in age at the position, which was a big motivation.
So, if the talent is close but the age is different, what is the cost difference? Rather than trying to cobble together prospects, Danny and I discussed Jose Altuve. This was difficult for me. I have had him on my roster since 2013 at a time when he was a short second baseman who nobody knew about but who showed an ability to hit, limit strikeouts and steal a ton of bases. But most people saw him as a gimmick. I saw him as a leadoff hitter and cornerstone player. I never imagined he would start hitting 30 home runs a year as well, which he did last year. Despite his great talent, I thought second base was a position where I could take the hit. This was the appeal for Danny, who in this scenario gets three monster players for two.
However, I didn't feel comfortable in that 3-2 scenario because that would be too much to give up for Buehler and Devers. So, I started digging for some additional talent. That came in the form of Diaz, Weathers, and a pick. Diaz is also only 25 and is a season removed from a 3.5 WAR season as a reliever. He was absolutely dominant. He #mets'd last year, but I'm hopeful he can regain his form and again be a lockdown closer. With Osuna, Doolittle, and Diaz I feel like I have a much better bullpen than I did after the season ended. It's gone from a weakness to a strength again. Weathers is a really nice 19-year-old prospect in the Padres' system. At 6-1, 230 pounds, he was the Padres' top draft pick in 2018 and in a deep system he's a top 10 prospect. He had a good 2019 in A ball, but has some work to do. That said, he's a very nice pitcher and a good prospect to have in the system. I ended up also getting a third round pick in the deal to provide some additional value back.
This is a gamble for Danny, in that he now has pushed up his timeline to compete. He has a little less time to wait and collect prospects and he now has a real shot at the playoffs. Sale's elbow is scary, but he's got some studs on his team now. It's a gamble for me in that I've given up three amazing players essentially for two with the hopes that the saved age is really worth it. It's made even more of a gamble that we are division rivals and will play 19 times a season. This was a fun one and I enjoyed working on it. My team is younger and strong. Whether I'm ultimately better in the long run won't be known for some time.
I specifically targeted Diaz from Cleveland because while he was a train wreck last year, I thought he would be a bounce-back candidate for 2020. I envisioned him as my main setup man along with Doolittle to Osuna, with any of the three closer-worthy. ZiPS agreed with my assessment, giving him a 2.98 ERA/135 ERA+ projection, which should be top 10-15 among relievers. He's only 25, so I think he's still got a very bright future ahead as a dominant closer. However, if he sucks again in 2020, I think he's in trouble from ZiPS for a little while. But the main reason I was willing to deal him is after acquiring Givens and with a likely (hopefully) solid projection from Knebel and a couple other arms like Jeffress, Bracho, and Rondon, I felt like I had the depth to move relief pitching.
When Nils asked about Diaz right after the trade, I wasn't really that excited about moving Diaz. But when he came around over the weekend offering a first round pick, I felt like that was a move to make. For one, relievers are largely replaceable. For another, I had pretty much no draft with my earliest pick being in the third round and the draft is fun. So, I wanted to get back into the first round. This was a place (#23) where I think there is some decent talent. I asked about Yenny Rodriguez after reading reports over the summer of his electric stuff and high upside. He was shut down in June with a sprained UCL, which is scary, but hopefully he is able to recover and move up a level or two in 2020. The Rangers seem pretty high on him, so I'm hopeful he may be sniffing the majors in 2-3 years. Bonaci is a Red Sox shortstop prospect with some upside but relatively little hype at this point. He's a little farther away. And now that Nils has him on his team, his future looks bleak.
Nils gets back the dominant closer he dealt me in Osuna and I get back into the draft and add a solid prospect. Not a bad swap.
This was a deal for homers. After Gio Gonzalez signed with the White Sox, I offered him up to Jim. I picked up Gonzalez last year to eat innings and he was likely going to be my #5 SP. But with Lauer, Banda, McHugh, Waguespack, and maybe Honeywell, I have some guys who can replace him. I think Gonzalez will end up with a high 3s/low 4s ERA and probably be useful for Jim. The main guy I was interested in trying to get back was Chavis. Since we're both fans of the opposite Sox, it made some sense for me to target him. I wasn't a big fan of Boston drafting him because he seemed to be a player without a position. He's still sort of that way, as he shifted between 1B, 2B and 3B last year. With a gap at 2B, that's his place for me and since I needed righty bats to balance the lineup, he'll fit nicely in the bottom third as a source of power. I imagine he'll get a slightly over 1 WAR projection with power, low average and below-desired OBP. But he's young and seems to have carved out a place in Boston's lineup. In order to bridge the gap in age, Jim asked for Houston's 3, which further harms my draft. But I figure that in the 70s range in this draft the odds of nailing a FV 45-50 player are pretty slim and that's what Chavis is. I got back Jim's 5th so at least I have five picks.