How Will the Andrelton Simmons Trade Affect the Braves and Angels?
Well, baseball's Hot Stove has warmed up faster than anyone expected.
After a couple days of minor moves at the general managers meetings in Florida this week, the Angels and Braves pulled off the biggest move of the offseason so far. Atlanta is sending the best defensive shortstop in baseball, 26-year-old Andrelton Simmons to Anaheim in exchange for shortstop Erick Aybar and the Angels' two top prospects, starting pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.
It's a swap of shortstops that puts Simmons, a guy with an absolutely splendid glove and a suspect bat, in an Angels lineup that is in win-now mode, and puts 31-year-old Aybar in Atlanta's rebuilding project. He is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $8.5 million next season, whereas Simmons is signed through the year 2020, his age 30 season.
So, what does this deal do for both teams?
Why It Works for the Angels
As mentioned above, L.A. wants to win right now, and in Simmons, they get a guy who specializes in run prevention. The Angels just got done watching the Kansas City Royals win the World Series and second straight pennant thanks largely to having one of the very best defenses in baseball. Run prevention has become almost as important as run production, and Simmons is the best run preventer at the most important position on the diamond.
Over the last three years, Simmons has had a cumulative Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) of 94. Last year, his DRS was 25. The league average for defensive runs saved for shortstops was six. And Aybar had -3 DRS at shortstop each of the last two years.
Aybar was also pretty awful at the plate, with a .270/.301/.338 slash line in 2015, a .280 weighted on base average (wOBA) and weighted runs created (wRC+) of 80. He hit just 3 homers and had 30 doubles in 638 plate appearances and posted an fWAR of 1.0. And Aybar's nERD of -1.27 means a lineup full of Aybars would cost his team 1.27 runs per game over a league average hitter.
Not only that, Simmons is not expensive, owed just $43 million over the next five years and will cost the Angels a mere $6 million in 2016.
Why It Works for the Braves
Aybar doesn't really do much for Atlanta's win total in 2016. They're not concerned with winning games next year (as this move proves), and Aybar is someone who will either play the position for just one year or will be flipped this offseason to a shortstop-needy team, perhaps like the New York Mets.
What Atlanta really wanted was the headliner in the deal, 22-year-old minor leaguer Sean Newcomb, who blitzed through three levels in the minors this year, posting a 2.38 ERA in 27 starts between Low-A, High-A and Double-A ball. In 136 innings he struck out 168 batters, good for an 11.1 strikeouts per nine clip. Hitters also had a lot of problems squaring balls up on him, just 6.4 hits per nine. However, Newcomb has some trouble with the bases on balls, 76 in 136 innings, 5.0 per nine. He came into the season as the 70th best prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
They also get the Angels' number-two prospect, Chris Ellis. Now to be fair, the number-two prospect in the Angels system is akin to the fifth or sixth guy in another organization's system. So this is not a stud Atlanta is getting back -- at least not yet. The 22-year-old right-hander had a 3.90 ERA in 26 starts at High-A and Double-A this year, striking out 8.4 batters per nine and walking 4.0 per nine.
The deal works for Atlanta because they got two young arms and a shortstop who can at least play the position during the Braves' rebuilding 2016 campaign.
Why It Doesn't Work for the Angels
While Simmons is an outstanding defender, his bat has yet to come around.
Over his first three full Major League seasons, Simmons has put up a wRC+ of 91, 72 and 82. Remember, a league average run producer in baseball has a wRC+ of 100. He did manage a career-best .320 on-base percentage, and the hope is that, as he gets older, that will continue to improve. In his previous two seasons, it was .286 and .296, so it went in the right direction in 2015. And even though they'll be free of Aybar's -1.27 nERD, Simmons' was not a whole lot better, at -0.89.
But with just 4 homers, 23 doubles and 2 triples, Simmons is a one-dimensional player who will likely hit around eighth or ninth in the order.
Not only that, Anaheim's farm system was already ridiculously thin, and now with their two best prospects gone, it is undoubtedly the worst in Major League Baseball. And while the team is definitely trying to win it all right now, the future looks bleak once this team's aging stars finally hit the wall.
Why It Doesn't Work for the Braves
This has been a very weird rebuild for Atlanta. Why did they sign Nick Markakis to a four-year deal last year? Can anyone still explain the point of signing a mid-30s, declining outfielder to a team that is in rebuild mode? Why the rush to sign A.J. Pierzynski this offseason? And why would a team that is rebuilding not want to have a 25-year-old shortstop under team control for another five years?
Obviously, Atlanta wanted Newcomb. But according to some scouts, Newcomb is not exactly a stud pitcher in the making.
AL scout on Simmons for Aybar/Newcomb: "Newcomb will always be a high-pitch-count starter who will end up in the pen." No quality strikes.
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) November 13, 2015
Luckily, Atlanta has time for him to develop, and there are those who think he can be a second or third starter.
It's hard to find a real winner in this one.
Newcomb has a chance to be a good pitcher. Even though some scouts don't like him now, that high strikeout rate and his production in the minors is encouraging. And while Simmons' defense is incredible, there's a very good chance his bat is never going to come around.
Atlanta also appears to have a young shortstop in the pipeline ready to make the leap to the Majors within the next two or three years. Ozhain Albies is an 18-year-old who put up a .310/.368/.404 slash line in A-ball this season, and MLB.com ranked him as the team's top prospect. He's still a few years away, but the team could have their next Simmons ready to take over in 2017 or 2018.
As for the Angels, they're certainly not done making moves this fall and winter, and it will be interesting to see how new general manager Billy Eppler goes about filling some of the team's other holes. Certainly the team got more athletic in the field, and Simmons' addition should help a ground ball pitcher like Garrett Richards.
But as of right now, there's maybe a slight edge to the Braves. But the deal doesn't feel all that great for either side.