I really hated breaking up the alliteration in my title by including Andrelton Simmons’ surname, but it had to be done. About 16 or 17 seconds after we first learned the Braves were listening to offers on their defensively gifted shortstop, a quick trip to MLB Trade Rumors revealed that the Angels had indeed made an offer not only worth listening to, but worth accepting. In exchange for giving up its young vacuum and a struggling minor league catcher named Jose Briceno, the Braves received veteran shortstop Erick Aybar and pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Christopher Ellis. Everyone’s favorite Georgian team also netted $2.5 million in the deal, a fairly insignificant amount of money in MLB terms that would change my life forever should someone simply trade it to me.
This trade confirms what we already know in terms of what direction each of these franchises seems to be headed. The Angels held the best record in the American League in 2014 before narrowly missing out on a wild card spot in 2015, while the Braves smell like oil-coated garbage and are looking to rebuild. Simmons is only 26, but the Braves saw an opportunity to build future rotation depth while adding the perfectly adequate Aybar to make sure shortstop is still a place on the diamond worth checking out here and there.
It’s difficult to see this deal as anything but even. Simmons gives the Angels a rare player who is actually a defensive weapon. Scouts and metrics alike agree that he is the very best defensive option at arguably the most important position on the diamond. To illustrate this point, I’d like to mention that Simmons has been good for a paltry 85 OPS+ over the course of his still-fresh career. That’s not any good, but it hasn’t stopped him from racking up 11.8 fWAR in just over three major league seasons. The guy catches everything hit in his general direction. You could have three of those football players from Super Mario World chuck their little baseballs at him simultaneously and they would all end up in his ridiculous glove.
The acquisition of Simmons signifies the Angels are ready to make shit happen this off-season, and we should expect the big budget team to add multiple impact names over the winter. Considering Mike Trout–also known in some circles as The Highlander or No-Neck Jesus–was worth more in terms of WAR than the next seven position players still on the Angel roster from 2015, this is a team that needs help. Simmons will go a long way toward that, but adding a bat or two wouldn’t hurt either.
The Atlanta end of this thing is just fine too, as this trade seems well-designed for both organizations. Aybar will hold down the fort in the middle infield, while Newcomb is actually a top-25 prospect according to ESPN prospect guru and personal favorite Keith Law. I’m sort of surprised there wasn’t a more dramatic offer thrown down for Simmons given how much more we understand about defensive value these days, but then I remember his struggles at the plate and the unlikelihood that things will get much better. Simmons is quite impatient at the dish, and his accidental 17-homer barrage in 2013 featured fly ball tendencies and luck on those very fly balls that will not be duplicated.
As melancholy as the end of each baseball season leaves me, the first big move always rockets my sporting mood back into the stratosphere. From here, we’ll only get more bold deals, free agent signing rumors, potential international acquisitions, and talk of Ruben Amaro’s next career path as a chimney sweep. Baseball games may not be played for another four-plus months, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any baseball.