Play GM For A Day

by on September 27, 2010 · 2 comments

Okay, let’s play GM for a day.  Why not pretend to spend someone else’s money and run our favorite baseball team this off-season?  Since many of us question every move the team makes (or doesn’t make), let’s give it a shot.  This post contains some pertinent information which might be useful for making the tough business decisions the GM makes.   There is also some utter nonsense that you’ll have to separate from the useful stuff.  Sorry, but that’s just how I roll. 

Rules of the Game:  For the purpose of this game, some assumptions must be made regarding contracts that are expiring, contain options, or contain buyout clauses.  Extremely non-scientific “guesstimates” will be made for salaries involving players who are arbitration eligible or in their pre-arbitration years (For an explanation of these terms, please see the bottom of this post or use “the interwebs to reach the Google”.).  Anyhoo:

  1. No magical lopsided trades.  You cannot trade a “houseplant-to-be-named-later” and a bucket of baseballs for Robinson Cano.  That would be wonderful, but I doubt that the Ebil Empire would part with Cano for anything less than Pujols, the Gateway Arch, $20m in small unmarked bills, a mating pair of unicorns, and a case of icy cold Bud Light.
  2. You may not simply dump a “bad contract” just because you want to.  
  3. Contracts with buyout options that are obviously going to be bought out should be counted as “bought out” and count against the 2011 salary total.
  4. The team will start 2011 with 12-13 pitchers on its 25-man active roster. 
  5. Payroll is unlikely to suddenly expand to $125m, so be realistic.

Down to the business of baseball: (numbers in bold are “guesstimates”)


  • COMMITTED: 3 starters, 1 reliever => $36,875,000
  • Starter: Chris Carpenter -> $15,000,000
  • Starter: Adam Wainwright-> $6,500,000 (FYI – Adam redefined the concept of “discount”, so feel free to buy him dinner at Zaxby’s)
  • Starter: Kyle Lohse -> $11,875,000 (Don’t even get me started.)
  • Reliever: Ryan Franklin -> $3,500,000 (No, not on this one either.)
  • ARBITRATION/PRE-ARBITRATION: 1 starter, 5 relievers => $7,490,000
  • Starter: Jaime Garcia(arb-super2) -> $3,500,000
  • Reliever: Kyle McClellan (arb1) -> $2,250,000
  • Reliever: Jason Motte(pre-arb3) -> $430,000
  • Reliever: Mitchell Boggs(pre-arb2) -> $440,000
  • Reliever: Blake Hawksworth(pre-arb2) -> $440,000
  • Reliever: Fernando Salas(pre-arb3) -> $430,000
  • GAPS TO FILL:  1 starter, 2 relievers => $10,000,000
  • Starter: $7,000,000
  • LHP Reliever: $1,000,000
  • LHP Reliever: $2,000,000

TOTAL PITCHING SALARY: $54,365,000  (for 13 pitchers)




Of course, I’ve only presented this example as a template for you, the GM-at-home to use as the starting point for your game.  You’re the GM, so start thinking about some of the most commonly discussed scenarios.

  1. Mo plans to make Jake Westbrook an offer to stay in Stl, even though he’s certain to test free agency.  Keep in mind that he signed his 3 yr / $31m deal before his injury and subsequent surgery.  Still, the market could be strong for him, because he was a workhorse before the injury and has pitched pretty well with Stl.
  2. Brendan Ryan is arbitration eligible this off-season, so he’s due a significant raise from the $425,000 he’s making in 2010.  Given his offensive production (or lack thereof), is he worth the money, or is SS the position to upgrade offensively?  If you value his defense and believe in his ability to bounce back offensively, then you might be willing to give this fan favorite another chance.  I’m aware of a small Twitter movement known as #BrendanRyaninanapron which supports keeping Brendan, although I’m not really sure what the name has to do with baseball. 
  3. Is McClellan the 5th starter for 2011?  He’s relatively inexpensive, because he’s about to hit his first year of arbitration eligibility.  He pitched pretty well as a starter in spring training, and he battled Jaime for the final starter’s spot.  However, he’s very valuable in his current role.  Maybe that’s why Mozeliak has hedged as of late.  He can always go after a starter for 2011, knowing that he’s got McClellan as a backup option. 
  4. Who should be the backup catcher next year?  Mozeliak recently mentioned that he’d like to see more offensive production from that position.  Was that simply a ploy to motivate the trio of Bryan Anderson, Matt Pagnozzi, and Steven Hill?  Was he sending out a subtle signal to would-be free agents that he’s interested in an upgrade?  Was he simply listing another item on his GM checklist for Santa to fill over the winter?  Hard to tell. 

Now that you have all this information, how would you put together the 2011 Cardinals?  What would you pay each player and who would be on your roster?  Once you make all those decisions, would you be willing to answer dozens of questions from annoying people just like me who would second guess every decision you make?  Yeah, me too.  But that’s only because they’d be paying me the big bucks.

Oh hello terms and definitions!  Here is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo composed mostly of baseball terms that the MLBPA made up to confuse people like us:

A player is considered arbitration eligible if:

  1. He has <6 yrs of service time AND
  2. Is not under contract for the next season AND
  3. Knows the lyrics to “Safety Dance”(okay, I made that one up)
  4. Has been tendered a contract offer by his current team by the deadline AND
  5. Cannot agree with his current team on this offer AND
  6. Has memorized every line in the movie “Major League”(aaand, I made this one up too)
  7. Meets one of the following two criteria:
    1. Has been on a major league roster/disabled list for at least 3 yrs OR
    2. Has 2 or more yrs of major league service but less than 3 AND is among the top 17% for cumulative playing time in the majors leagues in this class of players AND was on an active roster for minimum of 86 calendar days in the previous season.  (This is considered the “Super Two” which unfortunately includes Jaime Garcia, I think)

pre-arb2, pre-arb3, or pre-arb = Player works for pretty much whatever the team decides it wants to pay.  It’s part of the cost-control structure of MLB.  How bad a deal is it for some players?  Albert Pujols made $200k, $600k, and $900k for his first 3 years, respectively. 

Want to know where I obtained the bulk of the useful information for this blog post?  Check out Cots and Baseball-Reference.  Have a comment?  Tweet at me here: gr33nazn or comment on this post.

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Josh September 27, 2010

Part of me hopes you left a hole for two LHP in the bullpen because the plan is to deal Miller. I am hoping for more of a total overhaul in the roster, and the bullpen is the place to start.

1. Move K-Mac to the rotation (PERMANENT)
2. Take a flyer on a veteran closer (Franklin to the 8th inning/Wagner 9th?)

I think that about does it for now 😉

Dennis September 27, 2010

Josh, that’s the fun part of this post. It’s actually YOUR roster, so it’s not a matter of me leaving holes to fill. You just have to figure who you would drop/trade/designate to make a space for a LHP in the bullpen. Then you determine who that might be and how much you might spend.

Same goes for the K-Mac move you propose. You determine the salary implications along with how much you think it would take to sign someone like Wagner. Baseball fans sit around having discussions like that all the time, but they don’t always have the actual numbers in front of them. Try doing it with some realistic figures, then it becomes a bit more interesting.

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