I had a very intentional strategy in free agency – go big on Darvish and find a closer. Otherwise, I was going to focus money on Tommy John guys, overseas guys, and/or conversion guys for money saving purposes.
On Darvish, much like Ohtani, shenanigans ensued. The initial offer that I made to Darvish had a base of 4 years and $115 million with a very attainable 5th year vesting option at $27 million that turned into a $25 million team option if the vesting number wasn’t reached with a fairly expensive buyout, so it was unlikely (unless something drastic happened to Darvish) that he wouldn’t get the 5th year. There was also a 6th year mutual option at $22.5 million.
I had incentives built in for All-Star appearances and Cy Young Awards as well, and there was an opt-out after year 2. The deal was structured to escalate to $30M for the Twins in 2020 and 2021, the first years of most of their core in arbitration and the first year that they’ve got all of their major current contracts off the books.
The Mariners came out with a deal that was competitive, so I did up my offer to what would have been a base of 4 years for $120 million. The same 5th year option was in place, additional incentives were added, and the first two seasons had added money.
I received no notice that another bid had come in that was better or even what would be most important to Darvish. In fact, the odd response I received was that incentives were not going to sway, which is nearly exact opposite of how any major league contract works (and how any major league player works, for sure). Instead, I returned from a meeting Tuesday morning to find that Darvish had been assigned to another team for significantly less annual value (5 years, $133 million). Sure, an extra year could have value, but to give up $3.5 million per season?!
The big reason I was told that Darvish was swayed, beyond the 5th year, was an opportunity for annual opt outs and a full no trade clause. That’s when the simulation completely lost touch with any reality. No major league team is going to offer an opt out every single season, starting year one. It has been ages since a full no trade clause has been negotiated into a deal. That was my final straw.
My closer focus signed for the money I was shooting for as I got a local guy in Iowa native Tony Watson at 2 years, $18 million guaranteed ($7.5 million in 2018, $8.5 million in 2019, and $9 million option in 2020 with $2 million buyout).
I was able to get both Tommy John guys for exactly what I was hoping as I locked up Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Pineda for identical 2 year, $10 million guarantees, though each of them have very different contracts on top of that. Rosenthal’s was structured as $2 million in 2018, $6 million in 2019, and a $10 million option in 2020 with a $2 million buyout. Pineda had a $2.5 million 2018 contract, $7.5 million in 2019, with a $11 million option for 2020 with a $4 million buyout, and a $14 million 2021 with a $5 million buyout (stacking buyouts, so technically the 2020 buyout is $5 million, but the $1 million remains if the 2020 option is picked up).
My top conversion candidate was signed after some coercion on money as I signed Wily Peralta to convert to the bullpen with his upper-90s fastball and wicked slider to a 1 year, $2.5 million guarantee along with 2 options of $5 million and $8 million with stacking $1 million buyouts, so Peralta had a $4.5 million guarantee. There were also incentives based on games finished and saves for Peralta.
As I thought would happen, the reliever market got a bit overwhelmed, and guys fell through the cracks. I could have had some guys for a touch more, but I ended up getting Seung-hwan Oh for a 1 year, $3 million deal, which is a huge benefit to the 2018 pen.
One of the names that many fans may not know is righty Miles Mikolas, who is a starting pitcher, coming over from Japan. He will have a 2 year, %8 million guarantee that has a number of incentives based on innings along with a $7 million vesting option in 2020 and $8 million vesting option in 2021.
My final major league signing was picking up stellar defender Danny Espinosa as a backup infielder for 1 year and $1 million with bonuses based on games started. Espinosa’s presence allows me to non-tender Adrianza.
I also targeted a number of minor league deals and got three of them – Jordan Lyles, Jacob Turner, and Neftali Feliz, all of whom I signed to minor league deals with a $1 million major league contract and an opportunity to earn a major league spot out of spring training or go to Rochester right out of spring to do so with a May 1st opt out where they can choose to become free agents if they believe they could get a major league job.
So after these deals, what did the Twins roster look like when I chose to leave the simulation?