Rebuild on the fly – Calzones’ style (07.2020 – 09.2023)

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Updated: July 6, 2016

Disclaimer: not every single trade or move was mentioned, only the ones author of this article (read: me) feels were important enough to mention.

 

A little bit of club’s history

San Antonio’s list of accomplishments is short: they were in playoffs twice (2007 and 2018), finished 2nd once and 3 times 3rd (if 3rd place can be called an accomplishment). That’s it.
Suffice to say, except for 2007 (8 GB) Calzones never finished closer than 13 games behind the winner and were as far behind as 65 (!!) in 2013. Also lost 100+ games 4 times.

Mid 2020 season when i took over was no different. Record around .430 and double digit number of games behind. At first i tought my team is underperforming and with time can play better. But when i spent some time in the league and looked around, confidence that i can accomplish something with these guys faded away. Teams like Aurora, SS or Florida had so much more talent than us. There was no way i could compete with them, even if all of my guys had a career year all at the same time.

Side note: Matt had a different opinion on this, he actually thought SA was close to competing. But im not a magician like him to make something out of nothing. We both make quite a lot of trades (about my trades will be later), but his approach and mine differ a lot. For example i didnt think what he did with RGV in such a short time is even possible, yet here we are, RGV on autopilot made playoffs and SA didnt.

I was new to the league, didnt want to rush things and make stupid trades right away, so i did let most of my players finish the season and decide what to do after that. …Except for 2 small trades 😉
1) Cipriano Pena to New Orleans for Danny Burgess (Burgess never proved useful, but at least i dumped 4.6M salary)
and 2) Roberto Rosado (30yo, 12.6M), Vincente Coronado (32yo, 6.8M) and Ed Stanley (30yo, 11.6M) to Maulers for Jimmy Hudson (24yo) and 4th round pick. Rosado and Coronado were decent starters and Stanley very good reliever, but i couldnt pass on the opportunity to lower salary by another ~32M.

Anyway we finished season at 5th place, 23 games behind with a .420 record. Obviously we were not happy with that, so…

 

Purge time

There were two main things i didnt like about my team except bad performance: age and salaries page. Paying 105M to players who win only 42% of their games felt way too much. When you look at it, it was pretty convenient the most expensive players were also the oldest. Meaning i could fix both problems at the same time 🙂
Obviously trading away old, overpaid vets isnt easy, especially if they arent performing. Some of those guys i was willing to move away for almost nothing, just to get rid of them.

The biggest trade of 2021 offseason was when DH Octavio Pexego (37yo, 16M), OF Pablo Cabrera (30yo, 10M), MR Xavier Gomes (28yo, 4M), SP Bob Harris (31yo, 4.2M) and SP Stephen Clark (he wasnt expensive nor old, but not extremely useful either) were all shipped away to RGV for 1B Hidemichi Okubo and 2B Jose Escobido and few late picks. I didnt need 1B too much, but Okubo’s bat looked good at the time and he was cheap. Escobido was 30yo, but i thought he was very good 2B (later he was traded for a closer Jo Kichida). Basically i lowered our payroll by another 30M in one go. 8) The most useful out of the players i lost was Pexego, but he was old and i wasnt going to compete anytime soon.

Fans didnt like moves i made at all. If i remember right, after this trade fan interest dropped under 50. I spent a lot of CP to make it higher.
But there was still one more expensive player i hated the most…

 

Glenn Dixon situation

This guy again. He was suppose to be part of our double-barreled shotgun: Pizza and Tugboat. Instead he was shooting blanks.
In 2020 he had 4.36 ERA and 5-15 record in 35 starts. I thought maybe he was just unlucky and will bounce back in 2021. Nope, first half of the year was even worse than previous one. In 13 starts he produced 3-7 record and 5.72 ERA. And on top of that his contract looked like this: 7.5, 7.5, 25.5, 25.5, 25.5. Virtually untradeable. But again Matt for the rescue!

I actually got three decent SP for him: Yoichibei Sakai, Rafael Rodriguez and Jose Avalos. Avalos didnt play well, but Rodriguez had 2 good years in San Antonio, and Sakai one, good enough.

Fans didnt share my point of view, another few points of fan interest were lost…

 

Tugboat sails away

But we really broke Calzones fans’ hearts one month later when decision was made to trade away Randy Smith. He was our only real superstar and the only reason we still had decent attendance every evening. After that nobody wanted to watch our games anymore, since we basically traded away every player fans could identify with. Any jerseys bought before the season were outdated by now. Also back then we still had outside chance to make playoffs, but this trade definitely closed the door.

We received two good young players for Randy: INF Jack Speed and SP Junior Cook, but overall i think everyone in the league was surprised by this trade, and i cant blame them. After 2023 and good performance from both these players, i think you can finally say trade maybe wasnt as bad, but more of the same from them is needed for fans to fully forgive us this move.

San Antonio finished 3rd with .463 record and 32(!) games behind Florida…

 

2021 offseason

I made one more trade before deadline: SP Tadamasa Hashimoto from Neo-Tokyo for 1B Okubo (and maybe some picks, i dont remember now).
Hashimoto had solid 11 games for us and was quickly flipped (along prospects SP John Gillard and LF trevor Tully) after the season for one of the league’s top prospects 3B Adrian Fuentes. I heard voices saying i slightly overpaid here, but i really liked Fuentes’ potential and was willing to pay to get him. Of course there was a chance he wont develop as planned, i also liked Gillard a lot as SP prospect, but without a risk there is no gain, right?

After this trade my future infield looked very promising: 1B Ruben Memde (already experienced at MLB level, but still very young), 2B Speed, 3B Fuentes. But i still needed shortstop (i had Thom Wright who was after career 4.5 WAR year, but i didnt think he will repeat that performance; next 2 years showed i was right), so i went out and looked for one.

I think i found 2 candidates i liked, and Roberto Diaz was actually worse ouf the two, but not as established, so potentially cheaper (i didnt even contact GM about the other player and now i dont remember who that was). I got him for a lefty reliever Jose Estrada, who was my best (and only) lefty in the pen, so loss was quite painful, but good SS was more important to me.
I didnt expect Diaz to be this good right away either. He didnt spend a single day in SA minors, he played very good from get go. He finished 2022 with 3.7 WAR and 2023 with 4.0. And i think there is still potential for him to play even better.

Now i finally got my dream infield ready to go (almost, some of them needed development) and was very happy about the future…

 

2022 season and offseason

Since not much happened in 2022 reagular season when it comes to trades, offseason will be in this paragraph too.

The only noticeable trade in 2022 was aquisition of lefty SP Kyoichi Yoshimura for two of my relievers: Edgardo Rodriguez and Jesus Morales.
I got pretty lucky here, because at the time i desperately needed lefties for my bullpen and Yoshimura came as one of them. I never imagined he will be a starting pitcher for us, and definitely not this good: 3.07 ERA in 2022 and 3.58 in 2023.

One other thing worth mentioning was signing a free agent SP Hoyt Gardner, who became one of the better players in 2022 if you take cost effectiveness into account: 14 wins, 3.25 ERA, 2.9 WAR for 1 million.

We finished year on 4th place with .494 record and 19 games behind Florida.
By the way we were very unlucky in pyt rec, i think it was -7 at the end of year. Otherwise we could easily be over .500 team already.

Offseason was a bit more eventful.

First we acquired SP Xavier Mota for 2B Juan Hernandez. I liked Hernandez as utility infielder, but since i established my future infield already, any good infielder was expendable. Mota had very good following 2023 season and despite having only 4 stamina he should be very good SP for us also in the years to come.

Second trade was a bit controversial to some people, probably even more so than Randy trade.
Our best batter LF Benton Hawkins and second best prospect 2B Errol Landry were traded for CF Yoshii Ohayashi and OF Alejandro Rivera. I wont write about this one too much, since you can find extended argument about it somewhere on the forums.

Just few facts after season ends:
Ohayashi had pretty good season, especially defensively with few good months in the batters box as well.
Rivera had great start as platoon OF vs lefties, then he got injured and didnt play as good after that, especially in september (like almost everyone else in SA).
Hawkins was the best (in my opinion) batter in SL last year.
Landry is still developing in Shin Seiki A team. My scout doesnt see much development from him, but numbers are good.

 

The future

We finished 2023 season 2 games behind wild card, with .512 record (13 games behind…Florida). Its best year since 2019, but we had real chances to get into playoffs for only 3rd time in club’s history. Looks like in september we ran out of gas. Schedule didnt help us as well, but its not like we had to play some .650 SL teams, .500 september was definitely within our reach.

What future holds for us then? Hopefully another season better than previous one, .550 record would be nice. But for that i need to make few moves. Big bat and a catcher are most needed additions, outfielder to replace Johnson would be useful as well. Maybe i can find someone in free agency, but money in San Antonio has always been a problem. We’re also longingly waiting for Bob Burns to join big leagues team permanently and consolidate pitching staff.

 

2020-2023 era in numbers

I did some research to check what players i had on the roster in 2020 (when i joined PEBA) are still here.

Who was in 25man (5):
C Joe Johnson (has been trying hard to find replacement for him though), 1B Ruben Memde, LF Robert Johnson (leaving after season), RF Charlie Tucker, 3B Juan Carlos Flores

Who was in the minors (3):
SP Jorge Cordova, MR Irwin Delaney, MR Steve Hall

Another case is SP Bob Harris. He was traded away to RGV after 2020 season, then released by them after 2021, and picked up again by SA as a free agent. He is leaving after the season because he wants too much for an extension.

So out of 25 players i had in ML when i took over, only 5(!) survived the purge and if you take whole organisation into equation its 8 (i count only players with a debut in ML). Pretty shocking, isnt it? After the season these numbers numbers will respectively be 4 and 7.

Now number of moves…
In 3.5 years i made 19 trades (24 players traded for and 27 traded away; these numbers include players both traded for and away later), claimed 8 players on waivers, signed 23 free agents (most of them showed up in ML later) and picked up 1 player in rule 5 draft. Thats total of 56 new players coming in, not all of them are still in the organisation obviously.

 
Is this number high or low? I’m not gonna check whats happening in other teams, but i think in 3 years its a lot of new players and most of them played in ML. Of course that not include 15 rounds of draft every year.
I didnt force myself to count how many players left organisation in those years, but i can imagine quite a lot (just check above how many survived).

Fun fact i already wrote about before here and here: in 2021 season total of 11 pitchers had at least 1 started game for us, out of that bunch only 4 were kept for next year and only 2 of them are still with us now.

Im proud of myself that in 2022 and furthermore in 2023 i finally managed to somewhat stabilize our rotation and overall pitching staff.

 
Maybe it wasnt the most entertaining article ever, but at least it was quite fun to write for me. Also its nice for me to look back and check what i was able to achieve in 2 real life(!) years.
Interview with SA General Manager to summarize 2023 season incoming later as well (i think).