Hey, do you want to play a game? One that involves assuming the role of Fake GM? And possibly ignoring or postponing whatever work you should be doing?
This particular game allows one to build a roster out of major leaguers, with one notable constraint: only players who were free agents as of February 5th are available (meaning newest Met Todd Frazier is included).
Constructing fake teams based upon available free agents is a familiar pastime. In this case, however, it’s also a particularly relevant exercise, as we are currently in the midst of the slowest offseason on record. We have proof of if you harbor any doubts. Some 120 free agents remained unsigned. While not all of them are bound for a major-league roster spot, many quality players remained unemployed, including nine of FanGraphs’ top-20 free agents and four of the top five.
Coehlo himself attempted to build teams using different budgets, one more like small-market club, the other like a large-market one while staying under the tax threshold. This author also decided to play along in a slightly different manner. I ignored the tax threshold.
In this case, I assumed the role of a tech titan in search of a new toy. I pushed for early expansion, claimed Montreal as a home city for the new franchise. I wanted to compete right away and spend irrationally, blowing past the luxury-tax threshold in the process. Could I compete with what is remaining in free agency? I was curious to answer that question. (We’ll save the expansion draft for another day and another post.)
Coehlo employed FanGraphs’ Depth Chart projected WAR values, and I filled the roster by generally using the highest projected WAR totals amongst the listed free agents. I was also curious to see how expensive such a team would be based upon Coehlo’s salary estimates, which included media reports of rumored contract demands and MLB Trade Rumors’ own projected contract value. The dollar values he employs are now probably on the high end due to the New Year’s Effect. (See Frazier’s projected vs. actual contract value to get a sense of what I mean.) Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable thought exercise.
Without further delay, I present to you my fake club of free-agent talent.
|Position||Name||2017 WAR||DC Proj. WAR||Proj. AAV||Years||Total Value|
|LF / CF / RF||Jon Jay||1.6||0.5||$7.0||2||$14.0|
|RP||Seung Hwan Oh||0.1||0.2||$5.0||1||$5.0|
So could this band of merry mercenary ballplayers compete in 2018?
I suspect so. FanGraphs projects this group to produce 37.1 WAR, which would place it — even before accounting for additional contributions from its fake 40-man roster — between the Giants and Blue Jays in terms of projected WAR. FanGraphs projects those two teams to win 84 games. This collection of ballplayers could be in the mix for a Wild Card spot.
Of course, it would be a pricey team, totaling $245 million alone for a 25-man roster — and $864.5 million in total guaranteed obligations. While that’s a nice stimulus for the MLBPA, it also demonstrates in part why the offseason has been so cold: free agency is just not that efficient from the club perspective. That’s hardly a secret. This club exceeded the luxury-tax threshold by $40 million with the 25-man roster alone and would hardly project as a postseason favorite.
I also toyed around on a spreadsheet with a team that would have a middle-of-the-road payroll, around $150 million, but it projected to produce just 24 WAR. Coehlo’s small- and large-market teams — which remained under the tax threshold — also did not appear to be competitive 2018 clubs. It’s difficult to spend your way into contention.
On the one hand, the wealth of talent available this winter continues be remarkable. On the other, the structure of free agency — which typically involves giving money to players entering the decline phase of their careers — is largely inefficient, which is why clubs argue somewhat correctly that they are acting rationally. For free agency to create more robust markets, baseball needs a younger class of free agents. A couple of expansion teams wouldn’t hurt either.