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MLB Roster Game Theory Simulation

You are the Cardinals. Every team can pick five players to steal from another team, but if a player is taken more than once, he stays on the original team. Who do you pick?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I participated in a mostly silly, somewhat interesting exercise last week with a bunch of other SBNation MLB writers. Every team was represented by one person and these were the rules.

The Rules

  • 1) Any player is fair game. Free agents, minor leaguers, and big leaguers. The pool of players is restricted to those that are, or have been in MLB organizations already. This means that recently defected players, or soon to be posted players are off limits.
  • 2) GM's are prevented from picking a player that's already in their organization. Teams like the Cubs and Mets would have had an enormous advantage over the other 28 teams, as they simply could have cast votes for their respective core five's and blocked anyone else from having a chance. While it's still difficult to secure a player like Kris Bryant, or Jacob deGrom, allowing a team to submit votes for their own players would have made it impossible.
  • 3) If a team successfully steals a player, his current contract comes with them. So if a team were to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, they would have to be able to afford his salary.
  • 4) The most important rule; no communication between GM's. While SB Nation's previous GM simulation was built upon a dialogue between different teams, allowing GM's to talk to each other about their picks would have completely defeated the point of the exercise.

I gave it a little bit of thought, and attempted to destroy the Cubs. I failed miserably, but I did get Jason Heyward back. The problem with the Cubs' roster apparently, is they have a lot of desirable players. Given the Cardinals current pitching depth, both in the majors and in the rotation, I went for hitting, particularly at positions the Cardinals were weak at, or potentially would be weak at in the future.

For me, Jason Heyward was an easy pick, given he had an excellent year for the Cardinals and on multiple occasions I suggested the Cardinals sign him to a larger contract than he received and then we signed with the Cubs, I thought the Cardinals should have done more. It is safe to assume that no other pretend GM felt the same attachment I did, as he was unnamed for the rest of the simulation.

I went for Addison Russell, given Jhonny Peralta is getting up in years, and I think Russell will improve quite a bit over the next few seasons. I was not alone in this thought as three other teams also attempted to claim him. Then I moved for Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber. I assumed one of them could take first base, and that my odds of getting both players was quite slim. The Reds ruined my plans by taking Schwarber and the Brewers ruined my plans by taking Rizzo.

With just one player left, I took Kris Bryant, hoping maybe other teams would assume that multiple teams would take him and that he would be left for me. The Brewers foiled me again.

So all in all not bad, right? Got Heyward back so that's good, but there were losses as well. Carlos Martinez got taken by the Rangers, Michael Wacha got taken by the Marlins and Alex Reyes was snagged by the Brewers. That pitching depth got disintegrated. All in all, not a bad time. My main regrets were not putting in a claim for Manny Machado, who nobody picked, and not lobbying for a rule against taking Carlos Martinez.