Friday, May 5, 2017

Inside The War Rooms: How the Moya Trade Played Out From 4 GM's

Houston - the Seller
In total, 11 teams engaged in trade talks for Moya. A few more inquired about his price and were clearly just looking to see if I would dump him for nothing, but 11 in total made a real attempt at acquiring him. 

Of those 11, 3 teams worked hard enough for me to consider moving him - the Pirates, the Mets, and the Mariners. 

The Mariners were rightfully protective of a few of their top prospects, so we couldn't work out an imminent deal and agreed to look at things again once the dust settled after free agency.

The Mets initially wanted to offer a few pitching stopgaps that would not have helped my team for the first few seasons - decent players, but not in the same league as Moya.  After dealing Nestor Bautista and Davey Ontiveros (for Philly's CF Dean Whitfield), there wasn't much left in the cupboard that they could send over for Moya. Still, they offered a fair amount of talent that I may have considered had trade talks for Moya fallen off through the middle of the season. Assuming the Mariners found what they were looking for in FA, the Mets were the top contender 48 hours ago.

Dealing with the Pirates this offseason was a 3-act play. This first conversation we have about Moya includes concern about his ratings dropping sharply this season. A little background on Moya - he's 39 years old and has never been on the disabled list. He has incredibly high durability and makeup, and has dropped 1 overall point each of the past 2 seasons (90 to 89, 89 to 88). 

Anyways, concerns about his staying power stalled talks and we agreed to continue the trade discussion later. In between acts 1 and 2 I make about 6 or 7 trades and I'm feeling better about the upcoming season. Talks with the Mariners are ongoing and the Mets are still in the "lowballing" stage of the trade conversation. We pinged the Pirates again about LaTroy Owen and David Richmond, but can't agree on what the third piece of his side of the deal should be. Trade talks fall apart again and I keep on trading.

The Midre Espinosa sweepstakes turned out to be a big boon to Moya's value. In the matter of a few hours a few new parties become interested in Moya, but their offers are disappointing and ultimately discourage me from moving him at all in the off-season. I think, "What's wrong with just keeping him? He'll still have value mid-season if a deal comes along, and should have an ERA in the low 2s now that I've signed (defensive wiz catcher) Harry Ugueto." The Pirates jump back into the discussion as part of the heartbroken assortment of teams that missed out on Espinosa, offering the same deal I asked for during Act 2. I decline, saying that I'm probably just going to keep Moya, but thanks anyways. 

That's when cbriese (who I've obviously talked to the most during this whole process, but we haven't worked out a deal due to us wanting the exact same type of player) points out the Pirates' Eduardo Chavez (SS), saying that he'd be a great solution to my SS problems. I agreed, but it wasn't enough. Then I took a look at my other options - most other defensive shortstops were either expensive, completely devoid of hitting splits, or a combination of the two. I had already tried dealing for defensive shortstops that other people weren't selling to no avail. Chavez immediately becomes the most attractive option, and all of a sudden this trade solves 3 problems for my team. I offered it to blanch, he accepted, and I think we're both very happy now.

I've made 12 trades so far this offseason, and I'm (hopefully) not done yet. Here's the projected lineup for your season 38 Astros:

C: Harry Ugueto (FA)
1B: [looking to fill via trade]
2B: Ken Saunders (Trade)
3B: Tomas Seanez (Trade)
SS: Eduardo Chavez (Trade)
LF: Ubaldo Maduro (Waivers)
CF: Theodore Argyropoulos
RF: Alex Field

SP1: LaTroy Owen (Trade)
SP2: Delanor Morehead (FA)
SP3: Les Reed (Trade)
SP4: Matty Santana (Trade)
SP5: Patrick Pierce (Trade)

Editor's note:  that's an awesome writeup, love the perspective this offers.  As it happens, cbriese was also influential on the buy side of this deal, although unintentionally, as we'll see in my narrative.

Seattle Mariners - The Contender
At one point (early in the offseason) we were going to go for it, since we had no real solid offers for Little rolling in.  I inquired about Moya to help strengthen my rotation.

I sent Houston an initial offer and Houston countered with a deal involving Addison Unamuno (P) (Season 36 #9) and Stefan Mahaffey(CF) (Season 37 #58) along with another player who I cannot remember. 

Not wanting to give up Unamuno, I countered with Darron Robertson (C) (Season 36 #49) and Houston did not accept the deal. I honestly don't think we ever got real close to making a deal happen, and in retrospect he took a better offer than I had countered with so I am good with the outcome.

NY Mets - The Other Contender
Here is my perspective on talks from my side of things.

Moya was that one player that I saw when I joined Major Leagues that I wish I had on my team. With the change in ownership in Houston, I figured this was my chance to make that happen and add that one piece this team was missing for long term success.

As soon as the season began I inquired to obtain Moya. I knew that I had pieces I could move to get more parts to the team. As much as I wanted Moya to help shore up my bullpen and rotation, I had other needs as well. And yes you heard correctly, my intention was for Moya to work mostly out of the bullpen and be the 4th starter when needed (the front 3 are all big STA/DUR pitchers:  Ruben Ozuna - 310 IP last year, Dante Day - 243 IP, and Daniel Stevenson - 245 IP)

So I basically had to decide where the players I was fine with moving, Ontiveros and Bautista, would go and what I needed to acquire the most with them. In the end getting a young CF (Whitfield) who I can use for the next 5 to 7 years instead of Moya for 2 or 3.

Even though I had traded those assets away, I was still hopeful that I could land Moya. While I didn't have much left to trade, I did still have 1 RP in the minors I could move that I hoped would do the trick. 

Long story short, I was willing to move ML pitchers Grant Young and Jose De Aza and pay for most of their salaries while also adding 3 or 4 other AAAA players to make a deal happen for Moya. I was hopeful when I was told that even though Houston wasn't excited with Young or De Aza, they were better deals than what was being discussed with other teams. I even went as far as adding ML reliever Robinzon Diaz to the mix to get a deal done. As our discussions progressed, it became increasingly clear that I would not be landing Moya. When I was told any deal would have to center around 24-yo ML starter Pasqual Martinez to keep up with the other deals being offered, I walked away. I couldn't justify sending someone I will get another 5 to 7 years out of for Moya.

I was clearly surprised when I saw the deal that was agreed upon came out as I thought I was offering far more value over the long term for a rebuilding Houston team. Even more surprised that he went to a division rival. 

Still wish I had more parts to land him, but in the end I didn't.

Editor's note:  excellent narrative, thanks for the perspective

The Buyer - Pittsburgh
Editor's note: I got wordy with this one - if you only want the Houston narrative, skip down to the "Houston Heats Up Section".  The stuff before is more about the trade of my Big 3 prospects.

I started the season with Moya on the radar of course, but he was certainly not a "must have".  I'm wary of the big ratings declines that come with late-30's pitchers, plus I needed more hitting than pitching help.

And even though I did want to max out my ML roster in an effort to win it all in my last season, I didn't want to hand over a big boat anchor to my successor (in the form of huge contracts for declining players).

OK, stage set, I was willing to trade my Big 3 prospects - Arismendy Johnson, Jimmie Velazquez, and Julio Pena - although promoting Johnson, and even Velazquez, was an option.  I advertised their availability on the WC Sunday at 9:59AM.

Trading The Big 3

The first 2 teams that came sniffing around were Houston and Atlanta.  Houston understandably wanted 1 of my Big 3 for Moya, but I wasn't going to do that and said so.  He tried for the downsell to Jim Colin, but that didn't fit for me.  I said I'd consider Moya for a lesser prospect, and that kind of ended Chapter 1, as mbriese calls it.  This was Monday morning.

Meanwhile, it was clear that I could get Atlanta's J.B.Hunter for 1 of my Big 3.  While I didn't think he was clearly a premium outfielder, he's still young, pretty cheap, and available.  And that's at least one that wouldn't be a boat anchor for my successor.  There were almost no top OF's available in FA - Orval Miller was about it, and I thought he'd get $10MM a year (which he did).  With OF and 1B being my biggest needs, I pulled the trigger on Johnson for Hunter.

The Nationals had also inquired about my prospects (Sunday afternoon), and we quickly targeted Petkovsek and Cervantes.  Those 2 met glaring needs (an on-base machine + a lockdown closer) and were indeed the kind of premium quality guys I was after; the downside was the short window for both - Petkovsek was signed for 3 more seasons but will probably start a pretty steep decline in that 3rd year, and Cervantes will probably head for FA after 2 more seasons.  D.C. wanted 2 of my Big 3 for those guys, which I rejected a couple of times, and he rejected my offers of 1 of them plus a ML player or 2.  

My last shot at that was an offer of Velazquez, who I considered my top prospect, and a couple of pretty good players from my ML roster (Leonardo Grimm and Alan Carpenter), and he accepted. This was also Monday.

Monday morning at 10, kennedrj tc'd saying the Angels were unable to sign their big FA's, so he was considering a rebuild.  By the time I seriously considered anything there I had done the D.C. trade.  I still needed a big righty bat, and was thinking of Milwaukee's Ricardo Pena...I believe I offered Julio Pena + something for him, but didn't hear anything.  I started considering Anaheim's Enerio Amaro despite the obvious huge liability of playing him in RF. Great hitter, reasonable price tag, not terribly old (won't be a drag on next year's owner).  I offered Pena for Amaro and LaTroy Owen (who I thought would be a decent trade chip or guy to stash in AAA as a reserve), and after some minor negotiating, the Angels accepted.  This was late Monday.

Houston Heats Up
I'd added 3 nice hitters plus a closer, plus a pretty fair young pitcher for my big prospects.  I felt like my lineup was pretty set - I was just going to round it out with promotions of 2 or maybe 3 defensive stoppers from AAA (of which I had 4 I thought could hold their own in the majors).

And I had cap room to add pitching in free agency.

Tuesday was arb day - nothing much happening, so at 2:20PM I tc'd mbriese:  "Been close on anything for Moya yet?"

He says back, "Yup. Talking with 3 different teams about him, it's kind of a matter of time now. Hoping I can move him today."

I ask if if he'll wait until Owen comes over to me from the Anaheim trade, and he would headline my offer. mbriese says he'll hold on.

Later Tuesday we exchanged a few specifics - I asked how an offer of Owen, Donaldo Sanchez and Cy James would compare with his other offers.  He says he's only interested in Owen but that offer would tie for his 2nd choice.

A little later he adds that if I'll make it Owen, David Richmond and Matt Bigbie, he'll do it now.

So I'm thinking I'm in the ballpark at least.  I didn't want to give Richmond, because he was by far the best bat of my 4 AAA defensive guys.  I also didn't want to give Bigbie, because in the back of my mind, I knew the Mets had become a very lefty lineup, and I wanted to add lefty pitchers, not give them up (yes, I admit it, the effin' Mets are in my head after knocking me out of the playoffs for 3 straight years).  But I'm in the ballpark.

So we tc'd some more Tuesday, and arrived at a potential deal for Owen, Donaldo Sanchez and Richmond.  I said I'd do that one if I could go out and find another defensive guy reasonably similar to Richmond and would get back to him shortly.

The Unintentional Twist
I wasn't going to do a general search for a Richmond replacement - I had only 1 team in mind.  cbriese in Arizona had earlier inquired about the availability of DH Philip Charles, and had a guy that was a decent Richmond facsimile - Bernie Gennett.  I had originally drafted Gennett and traded him to AZ last year.  I thought he might be available because he didn't see much action last year, and I certainly didn't have any use for Charles.

Anyway, I proposed Charles for Gennett, but cbriese quickly informed me he had found a DH in Carlos Gonzalez, so he was passing on that offer.

Having whiffed on my only viable alternative to Richmond, at 7:55 PM Tuesday I tc'd mbriese:  "I'm gonna pass. Can't see an avenue to get a decent alternative to Richmond, and he's critical to my late-inning defense plan"

And after a couple of more tc's, at 8:38PM he tc's back, "Sounds good. Let me know if you have a change of heart!"

And that closed the book on Chapter 2.

Chapter 3
Free agency started Wednesday, and I felt good about the chances of helping my staff.  There were pitchers available and I had $$ - up to about $20MM, although that would have certainly put a strain on the owner.

I targeted Midre Espinosa, although I was certainly aware he my draw more $$ than I was willing to part with.  Also put out a couple of exploratory offers on other pitchers, including Hector Cruz (keeping in mind I could use another lefty against the Mets).

Sometime Wednesday, maybe midday to early afternoon, Arizona proposed the Charles-for-Gennett trade, adding the note, "I changed my mind".  He later explained that he was going to do more pinch-hitting this year, and was swapping  one of his defensive specialists for a pinch-hitter.  Gennett for Charles.

I accepted, not thinking too much about it, having committed myself to free agency to round out the staff.  I had even waived Donaldo Sanchez - one of the trade chips mbriese and I had talked about - figuring someone would take him off my hands and up my cash available by $3MM (ultimately the Dodgers did).

By Thursday morning I had led for Espinosa for 1 cycle at about $13MM per, but lost the lead in the AM2 cycle.  

It occurred to me I had my Richmond replacement in hand, so I figured it couldn't hurt to ask about Moya again.

At 10:18AM I tc'd mbriese: "what's the latest on the Moya saga? I was thinking I could land Midre Espinosa (P) but underestimated the bidding on him"

At 11:00 AM he says, "I'm actually leaning towards keeping him for now.  That being said, if I get a can't-miss offer for him before the trade deadline this season I'll probably take it. But I just traded for another Richmond type, and I have concerns about Owen's ability to stay healthy long-term."

So I figured that was that, and tc'd back, "OK, thanks. That clears up my immediate direction" at 11:08AM

Finally at 11:34 he tc's me one more time:  "Last ditch offer to see if we can make it work before the season. I know adding Chavez is a big ask, but just wanted to see what you think. He'd start at SS for me this season" and sends an offer of Moya + $5MM for Owen, Richmond and Eduardo Chavez.  

The afterthought deal of Charles for Gennett allowed me to acquire Moya for no one who was going to ever see my ML roster.  Easy call to accept that one.

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