At Royals Review, they host an annual offseason simulation, in which representatives from each of SB Nation's 30 MLB team sites act as the general manager for their team. One of their writers serves as commissioner and as the agent for every available player. Approximate budgets are set for each team, qualifying offers are made, free agents are signed, blockbuster trades are agreed to, and everyone (hopefully) has a lot of fun.
I knew I would be away for most of last week, and thus unable to run the show for the Indians entirely on my own, so I recruited a small group of LGT readers to assist me (they can drop into the comments for credit/blame if they'd like). I made a few decisions on my own, acting as more of an owner than GM. I set a 2014 budget of $95 million, I determined that only Ubaldo Jimenez would be given a qualifying offer, and that Chris Perez would be non-tendered. I said that a starting pitcher and an outfield bat should be the top targets, and that not much should be spent on relief pitching (though one or two arms should be brought in). I said the team should offer Grady Sizemore a minor league deal. I also said that Francisco Lindor and Clint Frazier should be considered all but off-limits, but that otherwise the team is in "win now" mode.
- Signed P Ricky Nolasco to a 3 year $33 million deal with a $12 million vesting option
- Signed SS Jhonny Peralta to a 3 year $28 million deal with a $10 million club option ($1M buyout)
- Signed OF Franklin Gutierrez to a 2 year $4 million deal with a $3.5 million club option ($500K buyout)
- Signed P Scott Downs to a 1 year $1.25 million deal with a $1.5 million club option
- Signed P Joba Chamberlain to a 1 year $1 million deal with a $1.2 million club option
- Signed IF Michael Young, DH Carlos Pena, DH Jason Giambi, P Tony Sipp, and P Kevin Gregg to minor league deals
- Traded SS Francisco Lindor, OF Tyler Naquin, P Trevor Bauer, C Yan Gomes, OF Drew Stubbs and IF Mike Aviles to the Marlins for OF Giancarlo Stanton and P Jacob Turner
- Traded OF Michael Bourn and $7 million to the Royals for DH Billy Butler
- Traded IF Cord Phelps for 1B Justin Smoak and $1 million
Projected 2014 Payroll: $96 million
Here's how the 2014 lineup would look:
1B) Nick Swisher
2B) Jason Kipnis
3B) Asdrubal Cabrera
SS) Jhonny Peralta
LF) Michael Brantley
CF) Franklin Gutierrez
RF) Giancarlo Stanton
DH) Billy Butler
...and the starting rotation:
2) Ricky Nolasco
3) Corey Kluber
5) Zach McAllister / Jacob Turner
You can see the full results of the simulation here at Royals Review. At the bottom, there's a survey on which team did the best. Perhaps due to the bias of their core readership, Kansas City has the most votes, but as of this writing, the Indians have the 3rd-most. I suspect that's in part due to non-Tribe fans underrating Gomes.
I do think that roster would be better in 2014 than the one the Indians will actually have, I think they'd win more games. The rotation is probably about the same (the Indians are likely to sign someone who provides something close to what Nolasco does), while the lineup has noticeably more pop in it (though that lineup is also going to be worse on defense). The catch is, the roster you see above is not nearly as well positioned for the future. Even with Bourn's contract gone, the money won't keep everyone else together beyond 2014, much less add anyone.
By some back of the envelope math, if the Indians kept the lineup you see above (with arbitration raises for Stanton, Kipnis, Brantley, and Chisenhall, and accepting the option on Butler), put their bullpen and bench together on the cheap, and let Masterson walk (replacing him in the rotation with Bauer), their 2015 payroll would be ~$103M. Even the $95M budget I set for this simulation is probably a bit too high, I really don't think they'll cross $100M next year.
I said "win now," and this team might, but they'd better get while the getting is good, because they're going to have one of the highest payroll's in franchise history come 2015, with aging hitters at 1B and SS who'll still be on the books for 2016 too.
As Jake Taylor said, "I guess there's only one thing left to do..."