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What if the Cleveland Indians could "steal" five players from any team in baseball?

...with a few catches.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Our friends over at Beyond the Box Score recently ran a very interesting simulation that Let’s Go Tribe took part in. The gist of it was this: Each team can choose five players in baseball to "steal" for their own team. However, if more than one team chooses any player no team gets that player. It was a great idea, it gave me the chance to really improve the Indians, and I mostly blew it.

Since two teams choosing a player meant that no one received him, the first strategy that came to mind was to pick mid-level talent with four of the picks and gamble big on a superstar with the fifth and hope no one else picked him. It was a sound strategy but, unfortunately, it did not really work when everyone else was doing the same thing. As the results of the sim show, not a single team chose any Cy Young or MVP winner from 2016. We were all taking the cautious route and it backfired.

Another caveat of the sim was that your team should be able to afford the chosen player's contract, as they also come over with the player. Knowing that the small-budget Indians should be able to afford whoever I picked, I decided to go for younger players that filled Indians needs who have not landed huge contracts yet.

I chose three pre-arbitration stars: third baseman Matt Duffy, outfielder Mookie Betts, and outfielder Marcell Ozuna. I thought the Indians should have traded for Betts or Ozuna anyway, and Matt Duffy seemed like enough of a sleeper pick that no one else would take him. My big superstar gamble was on first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, thinking that he was far enough down the rung of big-name players that he would be overlooked. And finally, my fifth pick was relief pitcher (and former Indians farmhand) Hector Rondon, with the idea that the Indians could use another bullpen arm as it is, and I thought someone would steal Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw.

Every major Indians need was addressed, every player was affordable, and they should all have been far enough under the radar for me to land them, right? Nope.

In the end, I only came away with Ozuna and Rondon, my two least-desirable choices. The New York Mets and the Texas Rangers also chose Mookie Betts, the Cincinnati Reds picked Duffy, and the Detroit Tigers also went in on Paul Goldschmidt. The worst part is just how close I was on getting all these players. With the exception of Betts, only one other team chose the players I missed out on.

The flip side of this sim was that the Indians also lost some players. More than one team tried to steal Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, Cody Allen, and Yan Gomes; luckily that meant we were able to keep them. However, Michael Brantley wound up on the Chicago White Sox (I just threw up in my mouth a little), the New York Mets grabbed Bradley Zimmer, the Los Angeles Dodgers stole Corey Kluber and the Toronto Blue Jays stole Cody Anderson. The Blue Jays were gunning hard for Indians pitching, in general. They used three of their picks on Salazar, Carrasco, and Anderson.

With two of the Indians’ best players stolen and only my two low-tier picks panning out, we are pretty much screwed in this alternate-reality world. If you thought living two months without Brantley was going to be bad, now we will never see him play in an Indians uniform again and Bradley Zimmer will never come up to replace him. Without getting into more transactions, I imagine the roster would be something along the lines of this:

  • C: Yan Gomes
  • 1B: Mike Napoli
  • 2B: Jason Kipnis
  • SS: Francisco Lindor
  • 3B: Giovanny Urshela
  • LF: Abraham Almonte?/Collin Cowgill?/Rajai Davis?/Carlos Santana(lol no)
  • CF: Marcell Ozuna
  • RF: Lonnie Chisenhall
  • DH: Carlos Santana

  • BN: Roberto Perez
  • BN: Collin Cowgill
  • BN: Rajai Davis
  • BN: Jose Ramirez

  • SP: Carlos Carrasco
  • SP: Danny Salazar
  • SP: Trevor Bauer
  • SP: Josh Tomlin
  • SP: TJ House

  • RP: Cody Allen
  • RP: Hector Rondon
  • RP: Bryan Shaw
  • RP: Jeff Manship
  • RP: Zach McAllister
  • RP: Dan Otero
  • RP: Shawn Armstrong

I don’t like this world, I want to go home.

It says a great deal about pitching depth that the Indians only lost two pitchers and suddenly they have a pretty shaky rotation. But hey, they have a great bullpen and a real center fielder! Regardless, if Rob Manfred ever loses his mind and decides to make this idea a reality, the Indians probably should not choose me to run it.

Knowing the results gives you a bit of an unfair advantage, but if you can imagine going in blind, who do you think you would have chosen for the Indians to steal? Keep in mind that the Indians should be able to afford the player you take, and assume you do not know if any players would be stolen off the Indians.