I've usually been an avid DD player, and whenever I've done Franchise I've picked a team, traded the whole farm to win in Year 1 then got bored, or turned money off and just bought the best players. As a Red Sox fan I thought I'd actually do it properly, and see what our GM is working with... an over-priced payroll of aging veterans, with a handful of good prospects but not much else to shout about.
I've thoroughly enjoyed playing around with front/back loading contracts to give myself some financial wiggle room, and getting guys like Eovaldi, JD Martinez and Pedroia off the roster has helped me actually go after some decent players too. Lots and lots of trading (made AJ Preller look pedestrian) has also helped, always trying to max out the 'value' I get from a trade even with mid level B or C rated players knowing I can spin them on for someone I actually want afterwards.
Now in the 2022 offseason having won the World Series in 2020 and 2022, and losing in the ALDS in 2021. Now with a 90+ potential prospect in every position behind an 85+ starter, I couldn't be happier with how the roster is shaping up. Managed to get Bellinger off the trading block (!!) from the Dodgers, albeit had to cough up Max Muncy (who I'd traded for the year before), Benintendi and a top infield prospect to do it, Eloy Jimenez in exchange for Teoscar Hernandez (90 rated at the time) and two years of Chris Sale, and then got Yelich in free agency to create a star studded team.
Have been lucky with a couple of trades I've been offered, I think. Orioles sent me Adley Rutschman for a 22 year old relief prospect, which I doubt would happen in real life given he was the first overall pick, but enjoying properly scouting players and actually trying to make sensible short and long term decisions, rather than just buying the best team and force trading Mike Trout for Jackie Bradley Jr. like I have in the past!
I've played as the Sox every year in the show. Typically I wait for riding rosters first release. Then I play along with the season. Making similar roster moves and trades to see how the results fair. Sometimes I make additional trades if they make sense. I also manually compensate for real life injuries and do forth. Then in the first off season is when I let my creative freedom take over.
This year with no baseball right away I started a franchise with my crative freedom fly from the start. It lead to me constantly restarting the franchise and second guessing myself. Then when the season started I started my final franchise of the year. Injuries were a tricky guess trying to compensate for limited 60 game season when I play a 162. But I managed to get through it. Mirrored the real life trades and so forth. Finished my season right around 500.
The off season I began my hopeful rebuild. I flipped Peraza for a prospect and signed Hernandez to play second base until Downs is ready. I attempted to trade for Renfroe since the Sox signed him in real life but the asking price was too high. So I eventually flipped Wilson Harold Ramirez from the Marlins. I also signed both Kella and Sugano (both players i hope the Sox sign in real life but im.not holding my breathe) I shopped Martinez and Eovaldi but I couldn't find a deal I liked so I will gamble to see what I get from them to start 21 but won't be surprised if I flip them by the deadline
You need to make some house rules and follow em. All those trades seem totally unrealistic and would never happen in real life. All you're doing is taking advantage of the games weak transactions AI.
I love playing franchise too, but I try to keep it somewhat competitive and realistic.
For instance: The only trades I make are ones offered up to me by the CPU.
I place whomever I want to get rid of or use as trade bait on the trading block and list my positional needs - keeping my fingers crossed some decent offers come in. And... I allow myself only 3 trades during the season and 5 in the off-season.
Free Agency is a whole other matter and if I had more time I could give some excellent suggestions with that as well.
At the end of the day thou, its all about having fun. Good Luck in 2023!