We had an active off-season this year, kicked off by my approaching a number of people looking to trade my young talent. I ended up trading several players for additional keeper years or draft picks: Barry Zito for a high pick, since his plummeting strikeout rate concerned me; CC Sabathia for years, since he seemed like an injury risk due to his workload and young age; and Morgan Ensberg for a pick and a year, since he's older, struck me as somewhat overrated, and at risk of being badly misused in Houston. It was difficult to let Zito go, since I've had him on my team since he came up from the minors, but it seemed like time. The trades allowed me to keep Kip Wells and get a couple extra picks for my draft.
This year I took basically the same approach I did last year to my draft prep, drawing up a master list to work from. I also divided up my picks into three groups and targeted the picks for specific positions, mainly so I wouldn't get stiffed on pitching again. And I targeted some particular prospects for drafting.
I deviated from the strategy a little bit during the draft, mainly in that I picked a third baseman earlier than planned since they were going more quickly than expected, and I started picking prospects earlier than planned because everyone else was doing so.
When the dust settled, this is the team I ended up with:
This isn't exactly the team I envisioned. I like my pitching, for the most part, but my offense seems filled with guys with plenty of upside but many of the same guys (Crede, Pena, Matos, Gerut) are short on proven performance so far. If they all have put-it-together years then I should have a very good team. If not... then it could be a long season.
On the other hand, only one player over 30, and two more at exactly 30. That's in keeping with my general approach.
That said, I don't have many regrets in my draft. I could have taken Piazza or Ivan Rodriguez with my first pick and maybe still had Renteria to come back to for my second... but maybe not. I could have taken Varitek with my second pick, but I'm not convinced he's a good risk. I'd hoped Aramis Ramirez would fall to the fourth round, but Subrata took him with the pick after I took Penny. Tough call there, although you could argue that Crede is a similar player.
I got my top three prospect choices (DeJesus, Quiroz and McGowan), so I'm happy with that. My bullpen is a patchwork, but that's part of my overall strategy.
My off-season trades basically ended up being Zito, Ensberg and Sabathia for Eaton, Wells, Abreu, Wolf, and McGowan. Not a bad exchange, all told.
So, we'll see how it all comes together. In the end, if Giles and Renteria and Pujols and Abreu hit, then I should be okay. If not... I'm in trouble.
Results: Once again, I put together a monster offense and very weak pitching. Wolf got hurt, Wakefield was terrible, Wells and Eaton were both terminally mediocre (and then Wells got hurt), Penny was great and then hurt, Williams was mediocre and then hurt, Bonderman was bad (until August when he became great)... my pitching weighed in at 10th place out of 16.
The bright spot was that I picked up Ryan Madson who promptly became Philadelphia's ace reliever for much of the year. And late in the first half I managed to trade Jody Gerut for Pirates pitcher Oliver Perez. Perez suddenly went on a tear for the rest of the year, while Gerut faded and then got hurt. I had expected it would be a good trade for me, but not a great trade, especially as Perez looks poised for a fine career.
My offense, as I said, ended up being excellent. Pujols, Abreu and Cabrera anchored it. Charles Johnson had a good first half, then faded, but I replaced him with Royals rookie John Buck, who doesn't hit for average but clouts homers like nobody's business. Marcus Giles had another freak injury, but I picked up Detroit's Omar Infante, who finally put his skills together and had a good year. Joe Crede was terrible, but I could patch around him. David Dejesus had a bad cup of coffee in the early summer, and then came back in August and went crazy. Ultimately my great hitters far outweighed my bad hitters, and I finished 3rd in offense, not far behind first.
The season saw me way down around 10th place at the All-Star Break, and I considered trading my stars away and rebuilding, but the league was very close this year until late, and I felt my team was much better than it seemed, so I hung on to my players and started climbing the ladder. Other teams traded stars for draft picks, which greatly redistributed the talent, so some teams fell like stones, while others rose - but at a price. In the end, I finished the year in 4th place overall, with my offense good enough for a prize, and I didn't have to give up anything to get there.
The final standings:
TW Mgr Team Total Diff Win% W-L GB Nxt PB AVG
1 Subra The Curious Mixture 7176 1313 .612 99- 63 0 - 0 287
2 Steve 7047 1184 .601 97- 65 2 129 129 282
3 Phil 6349 486 .541 88- 74 11 698 827 254
4 MichR Penny Dreadfuls 6239 376 .532 86- 76 13 110 937 250
5 Tim Operation Enduring Medi 6150 287 .524 85- 77 14 89 1026 246
6 BennE Who's On First? 5977 114 .510 83- 79 16 173 1199 239
7 Tom Braintree Cerebellum 5895 32 .503 81- 81 18 82 1281 236
8 Chris Retirement Home 5882 19 .502 81- 81 18 13 1294 235
9 Keith Crouching Prior, Hidden 5870 7 .501 81- 81 18 12 1306 234
10 Syd San Leandro Athletics 5861 -2 .500 81- 81 18 9 1315 234
11 Eric Leopold Stotz' Awesome- 5800 -63 .495 80- 82 19 61 1376 232
12 Danil Red Quarks 5488 -375 .468 76- 86 23 312 1688 219
13 MichB Sinister Ministers 5385 -478 .459 74- 88 25 103 1791 215
14 John 5322 -541 .454 74- 88 25 63 1854 212
15 Sean The 90% Half Mentals 4809 -1054 .410 66- 96 33 513 2367 192
16 Scott 4562 -1301 .389 63- 99 36 247 2614 182
I'm well-positioned for 2005, with Pujols, Cabrera, Oliver Perez, Dejesus, Giles, Infante, Bonderman and Buck to build around - lots of decent-to-great and fairly cheap players. With a good draft - especially if I can finally put together a pitching staff - maybe this is the year I get over the hump.
hits since 11 April 2004.