Let's play another exciting round of You Be the General Manager. This time, we are going to take the money spent by the Cleveland Indians this offseason and you get to sign whoever you want with it. In total, the Tribe spent up to $25.5 million on five free major-league free agents this offseason, depending on how many incentives trigger. For such an "uneventful" offseason, that is actually quite a bit of dough spent.
Here is a quick breakdown of what the Indians spent and who they spent it on. This is only free agent money; not money spent to avoid arbitration or contracts taken on through trades. Also worth noting, these figures are the high-end of what the Indians would owe players if incentives kick in. Mike Napoli, for example, was signed to a one-year, $7 million deal, but he could make as much as the $10 million listed below if he reaches a few milestones. Similarly, Craig Stammen is technically on a minor-league deal right now but he will be on a deal worth as much as $2 million with incentives if he makes the roster out of Spring Training. If the Indians are willing to pay that much through incentives, you should be able to use it in your imaginary spending spree.
|Player||Position||Max 2016 cost|
|Rajai Davis||OF||$6.475 million|
|Tommy Hunter||P||$2 million|
|Craig Stammen||P||$2 million|
|Juan Uribe||3B||$5 million|
|Mike Napoli||1B||$10 million|
For the sake of argument, let's say that you can only sign other players to deals they signed this offseason. You cannot just sign David Price to a three-year, $20 million contract because you think he would take a huge discount to play in Cleveland. This is absolutely not how it works of course -- you cannot just lift one contract from a team and automatically say a player would make the same deal with another --but it's the information we have, so we are going to go with it. For an easy reference on what contracts have been signed this year, check out Spotrac.
You can also use the money for multi-year deals (even though the Indians didn't), but you cannot go over the $25.5 million line in any year for your deals.
If you want to go crazy with this, you could technically sign Jason Heyward. His eight-year, $184 million deal never goes over $24.5 million in any single year, and he is *only* owed $17.5 million in 2016. Meaning you could still add someone like Uribe to cover third base this season, like the Indians did, and still have a couple million to play around with. After that, you better hope Heyward does not decline at all into his 30s, or the Indians are in for a rough decade.
For me, I am taking the easier -- probably more boring -- route. I would still have signed Uribe at $5 million, but instead of Rajai Davis and Napoli, I would go with Dexter Fowler, who just signed a one-year deal to return to the Chicago Cubs. Fowler's deal is reported to be $13 million in 2016 with a mutual $9 million option for 2017. That leaves me with $7.5 million left to spend, which I would put all-in on Tony Sipp, who is owed $6 million for the next three seasons.
The Indians lose a first-round pick in my scenario because Fowler rejected an initial qualifying offer from the Cubs. However, they have a huge upgrade in center field, Uribe is still there to man third base, and the bullpen is just that much better with Tony Sipp back in an Indians uniform. The Indians lose out on the ability to have Mike Napoli's defense at first base instead of Carlos Santana, but I am banking on that center field upgrade to be even greater.
So, what would you do?