SB Nation's MLB Winter Meetings simulation (Indians edition)

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Here are your 2014 Cleveland Indians, as put together in SB Nation's Winter Meetings simulation.

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.

Indians transactions:

On my own, I'd have non-tendered Marson and kept Herrmann, but those are minor quibbles. Perez was the one 'must,' and the only guy we kept after any real debate was Drew Stubbs, which, as you'll see in just a minute, ended up not really mattering.

  • Signed P Ricky Nolasco to a 3 year $33 million deal with a $12 million vesting option
I think this is less than it will take to sign Nolasco in real life. Nolasco is 30 years, so has a solid shot at holding up for another three years. The question is, how good a pitcher is he? If you buy into FIP, he's been consistently better than average, and worth $11M a year. On the other hand, his run prevention has never really matched his other peripherals, and he's thrown over 1,300 innings. ERA+ has him consistently below average (though not by much).

  • Signed SS Jhonny Peralta to a 3 year $28 million deal with a $10 million club option ($1M buyout)
This is not a signing I'd have made on my own. That money for Peralta isn't bad (I think he'll do better per-year in real life), but 3 years is a lot to commit to someone when your best prospect plays the same position AND you're already paying someone $10M next year for that spot. The plan was to trade Asdrubal Cabrera and/or Lonnie Chisenhall, but I didn't think there would be any market for either, which proved true.

  • Signed OF Franklin Gutierrez to a 2 year $4 million deal with a $3.5 million club option ($500K buyout)
If Gutierrez stays healthy, that's a great signing, and if he doesn't, it's too small to matter. The other guys working with me were pretty intent on dealing Michael Bourn, and at that salary, Gutierrez works as a 4th outfielder too.

  • 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
Downs is another nice lefty option, but I hate having Joba on the team. If I were owner, I'd just as soon light $1 million on fire as give it to that guy.

  • Signed IF Michael Young, DH Carlos Pena, DH Jason Giambi, P Tony Sipp, and P Kevin Gregg to minor league deals
No Grady! Sigh... Beyond that, a pretty good collection of lotto tickets.
Whoa!!! Stubbs and Aviles were largely salary filler. Stubbs is no longer needed after this deal, and Aviles was expandable due to Peralta being signed. Turner is the same age as Bauer, is under team control for only one year less, and has actually performed at the MLB level, so that part of the deal is an upgrade in my eyes. So, Gomes, Lindor, and Naquin for Stanton. Well, Giancarlo is the power hitter many Tribe fans have craved, and could certainly hit 40+ home runs next year, and he's under team control for another three years. On the other hand, he's missed 30+ games each of the last two years due to knee and hamstring problems. All-in-all, his health isn't a major concern to me, but that is a very valuable package given up to get him. If I were ranking the Tribe's trade chips, Lindor and Gomes would both be in the top 6 or 7. It's at least selling as high as possible on Gomes, and I did say the Indians were in 'win now' mode. Gosh, it's a BIG trade.

  • Traded OF Michael Bourn and $7 million to the Royals for DH Billy Butler
This trade is no small potatoes either. The money basically means the Indians are paying Butler what they would pay Bourn in 2014 (with Butler under a $12.5M team option for 2015). Butler is a very solid hitter (though 2013 was a down year for him) and is still only 27. He's been a DH in 90% of his games over the last three years, so there's that. Still, this trade gets the Tribe out from Bourn's contract, which many are concerned about.

I have no response to that.

Projected 2014 Payroll: $96 million

Here's how the 2014 lineup would look:

C) Carlos Santana

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:

1) Justin Masterson

2) Ricky Nolasco

3) Corey Kluber

4) Danny Salazar

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..."

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