A few seasons back, I nearly left the world over my frustration with what I viewed as inequities in the way teams are put together when new worlds begin. It seemed to me, and by the way I continue to hold to this belief, that some teams start with major advantages that take many seasons for competition to overcome. I don't remember who, but someone here called me out a bit and more or less dared me to stay. I stayed. I also said at the time it would take me at least 5 seasons to get to a reasonably even competitive standing with two franchises in my division - LA and SF. This season we are wrapping up is the third season since I started trying to rebuild my franchise. Not sure if anyone cares, but here's a progress report.
Here's where the team has been:
Season 1 - 89-73 .548 2nd place - WC
Season 2 - 79-83 .488 4th place
Season 3 - 77-85 .475 4th place
Season 4 - 73-89 .451 4th place
Season 4 - 73-89 .451 4th place
Season 5 - 95-67 .586 3rd place WC
Entering season 1, this team had the 31st pick in the player draft, meaning it was a team "coming off" a loss in the WS. It was a veteran team with several very good players. But - it was also an older team with quite a few big contracts. In other words, I started with a solid team, but one in decline. I played season 1 to win, and the team did well. I was quite pleased with the season, and earned a WC playoff birth. Should have been smarter, though, and slashed the team to shreds to start rebulding.
Season 2 saw both LA and SF in the NL West emerge as dominat teams. LA got there after a horrid first season, but made several trades and used the older telant to wheel and deal its way to a high level. SF, on the other hand, was gifted 4 HUGE top notch ace pitchers that have anchored the team since season 1. My season two team (Helena Handbasket - a truer name there never was), kept on the dowward trajectory from a "WS" which I never saw. The team got older, and I didn't have much of a farm system, either. So - the rebuilding started in earnest. But - first a confession. I made a HUGE budgeting mistake to start season 2, and that forced my hand on some deals.
Seasons 3 & 4 were essentially "holding" seasons while I continued to make deals, scout heavily and work on building up the farm system. The payoff was a loaded farm system, a AAA WS win, and a core of youth ready to roll going into season 5 and beyond.
In season 2, I made three trades, only one of which yielded a true keeper - Edgar Saez (c) and a real stud. He's hit 43 and 38 HR with 102 and 107 RBI's the past two seasons. So - that's one piece in place.
I made 8 trades in season 3. Going - Bottenfield & Tracey, ML level, Torres (1st round pick - LF), Torrealbla, Ozuna, Fetters, Hermanson (stud catcher), Grace, Knotts (retired), Fullmer, Kaufman, Riley, Stark (retired), Cooper, Gandarillas (current FA), & Padilla (stud starter). Coming: Sabathia, Perry, Alicea - all part of my current ML bullpen, Mark Calderon - CL (#2 NL Fireman of the Year), Seth Moses - current 2B, Roy Hughes (Season 4 NL ROY), Jackson AAA P, Jacque Thorton AA P w/ML starter potential, Derond Peterson AAA SS.
Coming in, but now gone - Don Key (traded Season 4), Dustin Riley (traded Season 3), Chritopher Harding (traded Season 4), Vitas Clark (FA departure) Craig Charles (retired), Thomas Lee (retired).
So I dealt away 6 current ML players - two of whom are legitimate stars - Hermanson and Padilla. I got my current 2B, 1B, CL and three important left-handed relievers, a potential ML starter and ML utility player.
In seasons 4 & 5 I made 9 total trades.
Going - Hammonds, Harding, Douglas, Brandon Woods, Nunnari, Hansel, Watson, Balfour (all season 4), Flores, Key, Sadler, Robinson, Mercedes, Fryman (season 5). Sam Hammonds remains a quality ML SS (New Orleans), Harding (CIN) and Douglas (LV) are workhorse relievers. Sadler (CLE) is a young CF, but there wasn't a lot of quality dealt away otherwise.
Coming: Flores (traded), Mule Brantley (14-10 ML Starter - future #1), Ferrer (NL All-Star SS this season), Pasqual Trinidad (ML reliever - 35 games 2.15 ERA), Mike Benjamin (ML LF), Bobby Joe Matthews (9-7 172 Innings, ML SP). Riggs, Rosario, Colbrunn, Cedeno, Cortes, & Pena - all minor league pitchers with solid upside potential. Bieser is a minor league 3B - AAA tops.
So I dealt a lot of quality, and I got fair value in return. I have two staring pitchers, my left fielder, a terrific SS and a high end reliever in hand. I also have 6 minor league pitchers who could all be good. So if only 2-3 hit, I had a nice set of trades. (Ralph Riggs might be the best of the bunch in a season or two.)
I am not big on free agents, BUT it can be a great way to get some immediate help. Brandon Woods was the most important FA signing this season. He won 16 games to anchor my rotation. I added a few role players here and there, but Woods was by far the most important signing.
I've drafted two players who are in the ML - Hermanson (CHI - traded) and my current ML back-up catcher - Walter Jordon.
There are two INT FA's on my ML team - Lonny Soto (SP) and Julio Hernandez. Soto had a fine season - 11-6, 184 innings, 3.95 ERA. He's improving, and should be a solid to good 3rd-4th starter. Hernandez, along with Saez, Hughes and Moses, will anchor this team for many season. As a rookie, 45 HR, 124 RBI'S, 24 SB, .296/.,372/.619. At $16 million, he looks like a steal.
SEASON 4 & 5 of Plan
The plan going forward is more of the same. I've got a nice system. Every team made the playoffs this season, AA in WS. There are lots of good pitchers coming, and I've got a couple more big bats coming to bolster an already good line-up. With some luck, the rotation will settle down. Brantley will get better, Woods is solid and so is Matthews. Soto, an INT FA
My starting position players acquired through trade - Saez, C, Hughes, 1B, Moses 2B, Ferrer SS, Benjamin (LF0, Delgado (CF). I added Hernandez as an INT FA. I have potential upgrades coming at LF and 3B. The rotation is solid, and I have several viable candidates to add. I don't have a monster stud, and that's what's missing to push me closer to LA and SF.
So - I'm on track, and as solid as it looks, I have a long way to go before I catch my division rivals.