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.
Pretty straightforward deal here. JB dealt a reliever to Z for Almora and needed a reliever. Thankfully, I've got some reliever depth, so I felt good moving one. Typically finding anything of value JB is willing to deal is a challenge, but this was pretty easy considering the parties involved. Wilson is a 32-year-old lefty reliever for the Mets, which means he's likely to see decent projections unless he implodes. He did have some injuries issues early in 2019, but finished with a 2.54 ERA over 39 innings. Of course, that came with a 3.91 FIP and a high walk rate. He's got pretty even splits, so he should be a decent middle reliever.
Tejeda is a 21-year-old infielder in the Texas system who has loud tools and a lot of projection, but still seems to have a lot of maturing to do. I think Fangraphs put it well last year when they wrote, "Tejeda has cacophonous tools and absolutely no polish on either side of the ball." Fangraphs had him as a FV 45 and MLB a FV 50, so we'll see. Decent gamble, I think, and it continues my offseason goal of getting younger.
Fairly easy deal here. I asked Tullar about McKenzie because I've been a fan for a while. I actually traded him to Boston way back in 2016 with a second round pick for Matt Duffy, whom I presumed to be an asset. At this point, McKenzie has rocketed up and fallen back down the prospect scale after missing all of 2019 with a back injury and part of 2018 with a forearm soreness. Durability concerns continue with him, but I like the upside.
Givens is the kind of guy Tullar was seeking -- a young reliever with back end stuff. He's got a 116 ERA+ projection and likely will be a closer this year, which should help his value. Based on projection, he was probably my #3 or 4 reliever so I felt good moving him.
EDITED TO REFLECT FULL TRADE:
As the offseason of youth continues in Detroit, this is the next chapter. John and I began talking in the middle of the first round about a potential trade and both Mondesi and Wright were my targets. Wright is a guy I have liked for a while as a FV 50/mid-rotation starter. If the Braves can really harness his fastball and turn it into a true weapon (it hits 99, but isn't quite dominant), I think Wright could make a leap. As is, he's a back-end starter in zipsworld for 2020. Mondesi made a leap in 2019, stealing 43 bases, but with an ugly .263/.291/.424 slash line. The whole 30% k rate and 4% bb rate is an issue. But with a floor of elite defender/speedster at shortstop with an upside to add some offense, there's a lot to like there. He will provide some nice depth for Seager.
Originally, we discussed a different starting pitcher, but we settled on McHugh, who has a surprisingly very good projection this year. He is a nice weapon as a SP/RP with a 111 ERA+ and a 4.00 ERA. Bracho. who had TJ last spring, has a 112 ERA+ projection after a really good 2019 ZiPS projection (120 ERA+), so ZiPS is a fan and I think that will continue if he's able to show some progress in 2020. Perez, who has been a mainstay in Detroit since 2016, picked up a 2-win projection in his typical good defense/good power, nothing else way. Perez will pair nicely as a strong defensive catcher with some pop for the Mets. McHugh likely will slot in as a nice 3/4 and Bracho should eat 40-50 innings in middle relief.
John, who is creeping closer to IBC relevance, had an abundance of infielders (Hiura, Rodgers, Rosario) and wanted to improve for 2020. I want to continue getting younger with some upside and I think we both accomplished goals here.
3/16/20: The last part of the deal was a swap of first round picks, which actually was the beginning of the trade. John was convinced Allan would go earlier and with good reason -- he is a projectable starting pitcher with strong scouting reports. I had some players in mind for my first pick and a few of them went right after I selected Allan for John. But given the influx of young talent I was getting back (a young SP in Wright and a young infielder who could split with Chavis and Flores at 2B), I was happy to move back. Walston I love as an underage high school lefty who's already 6'4 with tons of projection. He can already get to 93 and has a 60+ curve ball. He will need time to develop, but I love the upside in the trade overall.
EDITED TO REFLECT FULL TRADE:
I'm kind of going in the opposite direction in my get younger scheme for the off-season, but I like the upside Upton brings to the table. He had a horrid 2019 wrecked by injuries to his toe and knee, but if he is healthy, he has a better shot to have an impact than Grichuk, I think. But both are pretty similar as big power/low average guys. Grichuk is younger and has a cannon of an arm, so I will lose a little on defense with this deal. But I think Upton could easily slot in as a #6/7 hitter and be a really nice addition to the offense. Grichuk may not be as favorably viewed by DMB. So, for the name recognition and past accomplishments, I added Eli Morgan to the mix. Morgan is a 23-year-old 2017 draftee who shot up from A to AAA last year in the Cleveland season. He's more a command/control guy with good offspeed stuff, but that translates to very good k/9 ratios at each level. He probably profiles as a #4/5 starting pitcher, but one who could make the majors in 2020.
What was added to the back of the trade was Anthony Banda and pick #67, which became Lee. Banda is a young lefty who came back from TJ and pitched a little last year and was average. He continues to have solid projections, so if he has a strong 2020, I think he will get elevated into sim relevance. Lee seems like a bargain at #67 considering he went #31 overall in the MLB draft. We'll see if his bat is enough to carry him forward.
As pick #91 was approaching, I asked Danny what he would want for the pick. This wasn't necessarily a situation where I needed to have Ramirez, but rather just wanted to make another pick for fun. The result was snagging a projectable teenage outfielder who looks to have a chance to stay in CF. He's got monster power projection and some questions on his hit tool. There were a couple others who went right after I was eyeing, but no one really knows how these guys will turn out. That said, it's always fun to draft.
In return, Danny had the pick of a couple prospects and went with Murray, who's a 23-year-old starting pitcher who consistently posts big strikeout numbers year after year., including 169 in 137 innings in 2019. A 2018 pick out of Kent State, Murray has a starting pitcher's build and looks like he could move quickly as a back-end starter type in Toronto. Neither may turn out, but I will likely have a little more time to wait on Ramirez than Danny has to wait to decide on Murray.
This was 100 percent a sleep-deprived-up-at-midnight-working-saw-Jake-Hamlin-on-g-chat-and-made-an-offer trade. I asked what flier he would want to take for Duffy, he listed three guys, one of whom I knew would be Arteaga, and the deal happened in 20 minutes. Arteaga was a guy I snagged with pick #142 in this year's draft, so a fifth round pick for a major league starter is a good deal. But, Arteaga has some upside that Duffy lacks and we'll see if Duffy's velocity decline and general uselessness makes him unusable. I've always been a fan of the lefty, who's still only 31. His projection sits at 1.6 wins, which is in the ballpark of the Luke Weaver, Michael Fulmer and Alex Woods of the world, so he fits into the back of a rotation. The ERA is a little high, but we'll see if he can beat it in the sim. Arteaga is an intriguing prospect who signed for more than $1 million by the Giants. When I drafted him, I knew it would be to deal him to Jake. He gets all the same adjectives of other teenage shortstops -- fluid, athletic, quick to the ball, great glove, can stick up the middle. But you never know and there's a lot of risk, so I was ok moving him. Hopefully Duffy still has a couple seasons in him.
Brett reached out to me about two weeks ago asking if I'd move a catcher. Having a pretty strong stable of guys -- Astudillo, Narvaez, Perez, Lucroy, Amaya and two prospects without projections -- I was open to the concept. I began by offering Narvaez, but after some discussion, it seemed Brett was looking more for a prospect of the future rather than a current solution. Lee was a first round pick in 2019 (#32) I was happy to get at #67, which I acquired in a deal with Seattle. I thought it was good value at that point, given that he's a FV 45 with a chance to be an everyday regular. He's got good to above average power, a 70 arm and decent speed for a catcher. Given that the Astros don't have a lot at catcher, he could be a regular within a few years. A regular catcher with some power would represent decent value, if Lee pans out. That was Brett's target in the discussions, so we started with him.
I told Brett I was mostly interested in his pitching prospects and we landed on discussing Liberatore, the third of his top three guys. On the high end, BA has him at #42 and on the low end, FG has him at #90. Most reputable lists have him somewhere between #50-75 as a solid FV 50. Being a lefty and having been on both the Rays and the Cardinals, I feel like his upside is probably that of a solid #3 and he could realize that in a few years. He's a 6'5 lefty with four pitches, but still will need time to develop in order to meet any kind of projection.
In order to include a top 100 prospect like Liberatore, I needed to add several pieces. Lauer is a 24-year-old lefty SP who had a really nice sophomore season last year, totaling 2.3 wins. He improved on his K and BB rates and reversed his ERA/FIP. The offseason move from San Diego to Milwaukee likely won't help him, but there's nothing to suggest he can't continue to be a valuable rotation piece, particularly since Brett just dealt Fulmer. Flores, 28, had a shortened 2019 after fouling a ball off his foot, but he still hit .317/.361/.487 in 89 games. No one is excited about his defense, but he likely qualifies at 4 infield positions and is slated to hit .277/.322/.434, which is better than Mazara, the last piece in the deal. Flores provides Brett a better bat than Mazara and since he's still young, a potential trade piece if he can have a bounce back 2020 season(if there is a 2020 season).
Mazara was a guy I really thought would be awesome when he was coming up in Texas. Sadly, he has never turned the corner thought possible in Texas. Now in Chicago, maybe he can gain some energy from Robert and Jimenez and improve his career performance. For this year in the sim, he's a below replacement level corner outfielder with poor defensive metrics. He will be a potential bench bat until he can prove to be more useful. Like Lauer, he still has time to make a leap.
Pretty straight-forward deal here. Jake asked if I had a RP and I offered a couple guys. We discussed a slightly larger version and then settled on this. Feliz was going to be my #9 RP out of the bullpen, so he wasn't too difficult to pry. He's always been a big power arm righty with control issues. He turned in a decent enough 2019, finishing with a 3.99 ERA over 58 innings with 73 K. He's solid depth, but wasn't a guy I had to keep. In exchange, I asked for Hall, an Orioles SS prospect. He's got plus speed and most scouting reports suggest he's the kind of scrappy, smart player who lacks outstanding tools, but has the makeup to be a future MLB rostered player. I could see him turning into some kind of middle infield/outfield utility type with speed and good average.He hit a very good .298/.385/.395 in A ball last year between ages 19 and 20 with 5 HR and 33 SB with 78 runs scored. I think he'll be a nice player to watch as he develops.
I targeted Mazara from the Braves because he's always been a guy I thought had major potential and I don't think that has changed. When he hits balls, he crushes them. That said, he crushes them about 20 times a year and the rest of the time hits a lot of ground balls, continues to strike out more and walk less. He's only 25 and I think a change of scenery will be good for him. He seems like a guy who has never hit his potential, but I think he still has time. If he does, Nils got a great deal here. Same goes for McKenzie. He's a personal favorite of mine, as I've had him before. He's lanky and has spent the last two years injured, which is a concern with his durability. But, he was the Indians' top prospect pre-injury. If he can stay healthy and figure out how to add some more weight, he could be a stud. There's some risk/reward here for Nils, but that's not a bad thing.
On my end, I come away with the best prospect in the deal in Valera. Scouts think he's one of the best pure hitters in the minors and he spent half a year last year in the Low A New York/Penn League as an 18-year-old and held his own. He hit 8 home runs and walked 29 times in 46 games playing against guys two to three years older than he. He uses all fields and has a clean stroke that most project will lead him to the majors as a regular with the ability to hit for a high average and 25-30 home runs. Walden wasn't anything other than a toss-in, but ZiPS gave him an average starter durability with a 4.33 ERA, so he provides some useful depth after I just dealt Feliz. With a 64 percent GB rate, he could be a nice bullpen piece, if needed.
Overall, I think Nils gets more talent here. The kicker is whether the talent is realized. I think Mazara could be a really nice player and McKenzie could sit in a rotation in a few years. If Valera reaches his potential, I might have an All-Star outfielder. A lot of questions ahead, but a fun deal for us to pull off.