Hi guys. It’s that time of year where the good folks over at Royals Review put on the annual SB Nation GM Simulation where 30 wanna be General Managers spend three days chatting with each other on Slack to hypothetically play out the 2022-2023 MLB offseason. This year was my 7th year running the fake Brewers (but my first as fake Matt Arnold) and I feel like it was one of my better all-around roster builds. I was busier on the trade market than I have ever been, which was a symptom of having so many ARB eligible players.
As with every year, the money can get a little crazy by the big market teams with a bigger budget (for example, the Yankees dropped $920MM on Judge and Trea Turner alone) and the small market teams need to be a bit smarter with how they approach things. This year, I was given a $138MM budget and actually came in a bit shy of that.
If anyone wants to check out the official thread, you can find it here: LINK
And if you want to skip right to the final 26-man roster and skip all my reasoning for each move, scroll to the end.
And now… onto the fake transactions.
Free Agent Signings:
Brewers sign Christian Vazquez to a 2 year, $22 million deal with a $12 million club option and $2 million buyout
After striking out on deals for Danny Jensen and Sean Murphy and failing to meet the Reds asking price on Stephenson, I pivoted to the FA market and brought in Vazquez. He’s a solid defender and roughly a league average bat over the past four years (OPS+ of 95). He also has pretty neutral splits, so shouldn’t really need to be hidden against RHP/LHP like Narvaez was against lefties. Having Caratini (a switch hitter) means that there can be a pretty healthy catching rotation that’s not dependent on who the opposing SP is.
Brewers sign Matt Strahm to a 1-year, $2.5MM deal
Strahm was actually pretty good for BOS last year and I felt like he could be a decent long relief option in the mold of Suter, but with better SP potential if he had to spot start. He pitched to a tune of a 3.83 ERA with a 3.72 FIP last season in 44.2 innings (all in relief). For a $2.5MM price tag, I felt like he was worth a roster spot.
Brewers sign Jorge Lopez to a 2 year, $8 million deal
Late into the game, I was looking to pick up some RP help. The Twins non tendered Lopez and I decided to give the 2022 All Star a second chance in Milwaukee. In 2022, Lopez posted career highs in ERA, H/9 and K/9 and made the All Star team for Baltimore with a solid first half. He’s capable of pitching high leverage, but potentially won’t have to in this bullpen.
Brewers sign Taylor Rogers to a 3 year, $21 million deal
Rogers slipped through the cracks a bit and I decided I could live with paying him $7MM a year to come back to the Brewers. While he may never live up to the shadow of Josh Hader, Rogers is better than he showed last season in Milwaukee where his HR/9 rate spiked to previously unseen levels. MLBTR projects him to get a 3-year, $30MM deal, so this is a bit of a discount on that. He can close or be the "A" lefty in the 7/8/9 innings.
Brewers sign Jace Peterson for 1-year, $2.5MM deal
I felt like I really needed a LH bat for the IF with so many RH options penciled in as starters. So I circled back with Jace who I had a 2-year deal on the table with at the start. He hadn’t gotten any other offers at that point, so I scooped him up for a modest deal. For a player that posted a 2.3 bWAR last year at a thin position, he really flew under the radar.
Minor League Signings:
Brewers sign Didi Gregorius to a minor league deal
Brewers sign Adam Frazier to a minor league deal
I felt like the team was short on LH hitting infielders and thought both of these guys could give me some depth. Frazier was an all-star for Pittsburgh in 2021, so he could be a potential OD roster guy if we wanted to get Brice Turang more time in AAA.
Pirates trade Rodolfo Castro to the Brewers for Keston Hiura
As much as I love Keston Hiura’s potential, even I have to admit the fit on the 2023 roster is really tough to plot. He strikes out so much and runs so hot and cold, that it’s difficult to give him a roster spot when he doesn’t have MiB options available. Enter Castro, a switch-hitting IF who has much better defensive chops and can play 2B, 3B and SS but not all that particularly well. He does have some pop in his bat, but is mostly viewed as a bench piece for next season. He also has options available.
Nationals trade Joey Meneses and Matt Cronin to Brewers for Tyler Black and Kent Hasler
This was a bit of an odd one, but Washington approached me looking at Tyler Black. And even though I like Black a lot, it makes me nervous that the Brewers are playing him so much in the OF where the team is already really deep. Meneses had a really nice rookie season for the Nats where he posted an OPS+ of 165, although I would be shocked if he replicates that due to him outperforming his xwOBA by 62 points. Still, he’s a club controlled RH bat with power who can play 1B, RF and LF and has had some decent years in the minor leagues. Cronin is a RP option I’m intrigued by as well. A lefty with a 96-97 fastball and big curve, he should be able to carve out a late inning bullpen role at some point. He was WAS’ #25 ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline and #30 by Fangraphs.
Astros trade Forrest Whitley and Shawn Dubin to Brewers for Hunter Renfroe and David Stearns (!)
A first for the GM Sim, I traded an executive! I wasn’t looking to move Renfroe in this sim, but I knew I was going to have to clear some payroll eventually. Given that I had just added Meneses and have a glut of OF prospects knocking at the door, I decided to move Renfroe and gain some additional payroll flexibility. It might be difficult to replace his power, but I brought in two arms who have some pretty big upside. It wasn’t that long ago Whitley was a top prospect in all of baseball. And Dubin is a 3-pitch RP who could end up starting in the right conditions.
Also, throwing in Stearns was HOU's idea. Which I found funny since I have predicted them as his most likely landing spot.
Padres trade Eguy Rosario to the Brewers for Tyrone Taylor
Taylor wasn’t going to play much with Mitchell and Sal Frelick ready for MLB at bats, so I moved him to SD for their #5 prospect (by Pipeline). Rosario isn’t the prototypical body at 3B at 5’9, 160lbs, but he has seen his power tick up in AA and AAA over the past two seasons. He’s also seen his K% rate drop to around 20% and made his MLB debut for the Padres this season. He’s the guy I would have preferred over Esteury Ruiz in the Hader trade this summer, so to get him for the cost of Taylor I felt pretty good about.
Angels trade Jared Walsh to Brewers for Brent Suter and Dylan O’Rae
If you feel like I’m just slingin’ pieces I wasn’t going to keep on the roster anyway – well, you’re right. Brent Suter was a joy to watch and a clubhouse gem, but he wasn’t worth $3MM and a high leverage inning role. Walsh is another former All Star in 2021 who had a bad year and ended up needing TOS due to his time spent pitching in the minor leagues coming up. He also has an option available, so he doesn’t necessarily have to be ready to go on Opening Day. But for the cost to acquire, he gives some coverage at 1B/DH if he can bounce back.
Marlins trade Max Meyer and Edward Cabrera to the Brewers for Devin Williams and Kolten Wong, Rockies trade Brendan Rodgers, Daniel Bard and $7M to Brewers for Edward Cabrera
Now we’re getting to the bigger trades that came later in the sim. This ended up being effectively a three-team trade with COL and MIA that netted me Max Meyer, Brendan Rodgers and Daniel Bard for Wong and Williams. Bard isn’t Williams, but he’s been pretty effective pitching in a tough environment and was worth a whopping 3.8 bWAR last season. Rodgers won the Gold Glove in the National League and posted 4.3 bWAR along with a .266/.325/.408 triple slash. But the real get for me in this trade was Meyer, who was a top-50 prospect for the Marlins before getting hurt and needing Tommy John surgery this August. If he can bounce back, he has the potential to slot into the future rotation with Freddy Peralta and Aaron Ashby when Burnes and Woodruff depart.
Mets trade Mark Vientos, David Peterson, and Bryce Montes de Oca to the Brewers for Brandon Woodruff
And on that note… Brandon Woodruff departs. After landing Meyer (and also Whitley) I felt like the SP depth in the upper minors was beefed up enough for me to try to find the 3B of the future in Vientos. I wanted Brett Baty, but he was off the table. David Peterson is also a decent get in the vein of Eric Lauer – former first round pick who advanced to the big leagues quickly – so he can actually move into the rotation right away. Montes de Oca is another high octane RP option with tremendous K% rates in the minor leagues. He should be a big part of the 2023 shuttle right out of the gates.
As I noted at the top, I felt like this was one of my better years in building an all-around roster. Losing Woodruff is the one guy that stings, but I felt like it was a logical time to move him and had built the rest of the roster up to the point it made sense. Had I known the Mets would make that deal, I may have just kept Edward Cabrera and went in a different direction at 2B/RP – but that’s the way it works when you don’t have a crystal ball.
Three things I think I nailed:
- Trading surplus pieces for MiLB talent. Moving Suter, Wong, Hiura and Taylor who were expensive ARB players without MiLB options remaining to get some nice pieces back for both the MLB roster and the farm system ended up being my best moves. The upside on guys like Whitley, Rosario and Meyer could end up being franchise altering trades and players like Jared Walsh or Rodolfo Castro could really be key contributors in platoon roles.
- Fixing the long-term 3B situation. Between Luis Urias, Mark Vientos and Eguy Rosario, somebody should end up being a long-term answer at 3B. Vientos is probably the best bet of the three, but Urias has shown flashes at the plate the past two years and Rosario’s AA/AAA production since 2021 can’t be ignored.
- Bullpen Spaghetti. Sure, I traded Devin Williams and retained Matt Bush, Taylor Rodgers and Brad Boxberger. The back end of the bullpen that pretty much destroyed the Brewers playoff chances in 2022. But I also added a ton of high end RP talent in the form of Matt Cronin, Shawn Dubin, Montes de Aca and potentially Forrest Whitley. Jorge Lopez, Matt Strahm and Daniel Bard are also good bets to give me solid innings and gone are the likes of Trevor Gott, Jandel Gustave, Luis Perdomo and Jason Alexander (who I waived). I probably won’t have the end-game pitchers like we had with Hader/Williams. But having 3-4 competent back end guys feels likely. Toss in hold over shuttle arms like Jake Cousins, Justin Topa and newcomer Abner Uribe and I think there is a good bullpen in there somewhere.
Three things I probably failed:
- Trading Edward Cabrera. Had I known I would get a great offer on Woodruff, I probably wouldn’t have traded Cabrera who could have stepped right into the rotation and given me another young, controllable SP. He has some injury questions surrounding him, but the talent is there and while I felt like Meyer was the key piece of that trade, Cabrera probably would have made losing Woodruff less impactful. The BW trade also brought me back Vientos, making Brendan Rodgers less necessary because I could have slid Luis Urias over to 2B. Oh well.
- Power outage. In trading Hunter Renfroe, Keston Hiura, Tyrone Taylor and Kolten Wong; I removed 75 HRs from the 2022 team’s total mark of 219. Toss in another 17 if you count letting Andrew McCutchen walk. That’s a lot of HR production to replace. An while I should see guys like Walsh, Castro and Meneses pop some homers, there is a fear that this offense doesn’t produce enough XBH in a park like AM-FAM to drive a successful offense.
- Maximize the payroll. I’m sure I will advocate numerous times this winter for Mark and Matt to spend up to their limit on the 2023 payroll with the competitive window they have closing. But here in this sim, I came up about $18MM shy of my target budget. Should I have been more aggressive in FA trying to land an impact bat? Probably. But I did still get Vazquez, some RP help and some nice young players via trade. The free agent fit wasn’t all that conducive to my teams needs at C and 3B, but I probably could have signed Contreras - who I didn't even bid on - instead of Vazquez and still kept it "realistic".
Final 26-Man Roster:
C – Vazquez
1B – Tellez
2B – Rodgers
SS – Adames
3B – Urias
LF – Yelich
CF – Mitchell
RF – Meneses
Bench: Caratini, Castro, Walsh, Peterson, Wiemer/Frelick
SP – Burnes, Peralta, Peterson, Ashby, Lauer
RP – Houser, Lopez, Rogers, Milner, Bush, Boxberger, Strahm, Bard
Other notable additions: 3B Mark Vientos, 3B/SS Eguy Rosario, SP Max Meyer, SP Forrest Whitley, RP Shawn Dubin, RP Matt Cronin, RP Bryce Montes de Oca
Anxious to hear everyone’s thoughts on how I did. This is a fun exercise that in no way mimics what will actually happen in real life, but it is interesting to see what fans of other teams think of our players and what they may be worth in trade.