Angels Acquire Andrelton Simmons

Editor’s note: Jeff wrote this as an InstaGraphs post when the trade was announced, but when I got around to looking at it, I noticed he wrote almost 900 words. That’s a normal-length FanGraphs post, so I’m moving it to the front page. I’m leaving the IG post up in its original place so that your comments will be retained, however.

UPDATE: Angels also getting catcher Jose Briceno. Briceno is 23, and he spent last year in high-A, but he also posted an OPS of .482, and, yes, that’s a 4, and no, that’s not a mistake. Of course, he’s hit better in the past. He’s been a decent prospect in the past. Right now, his career needs to be rescued.


The day began with thoughts on a potential Andrelton Simmons blockbuster. As the day ends, half of what was discussed has come true — Simmons has been traded, and even to the general Los Angeles area. He just hasn’t been traded to the Dodgers, or for Yasiel Puig.

Rather, Simmons’ new teammates will be the rest of the Angels. And, headed to the Braves in exchange: Erick Aybar, Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, and a bit of money.

The money is in there to cancel out the difference between Simmons and Aybar’s 2016 salaries. Beyond that, Aybar will be a free agent, whereas Simmons is under contract through 2020. His future salaries:

  • 2016: $6 million
  • 2017: $8 million
  • 2018: $11 million
  • 2019: $13 million
  • 2020: $15 million

For the Angels, this is about the shortstop position both short-term and long-term. In the short-term, while Simmons is younger than Aybar, they project to hit about the same. But the defensive difference is made evident by this table, comparing Inside Edge fielding results. What you see are rates of plays made on opportunities in different categories, separated by difficulty.

Inside Edge Defense, 2012 – 2015
Player Remote Unlikely Even Likely Routine
Simmons 9.3% 45.1% 73.8% 81.9% 99.0%
Aybar 0.6% 27.6% 42.9% 74.8% 96.5%

Simmons leads everywhere, which of course shouldn’t be a surprise, because Simmons is considered perhaps the best overall defensive player in the game, while Aybar is more of a bat-first shortstop who didn’t hit in the most recent season. So Simmons makes the Angels better now, and he gives them another long-term core piece who’s never going to be a true financial albatross. Simmons, to this point, hasn’t really hit. His career wRC+ is 84, and he peaked as a rookie. But as much as some people complain that defensive stats are unreliable, there’s no question about what Simmons can do, and about how much he can help. He’s not a player who looks good in the numbers, only. He’s a player who’s obviously good, and though his defense will decline with age, it’s not going to drop off a cliff in the next five years. At least, there’s no reason to expect that.

But you don’t need to be convinced that Simmons is an upgrade over Aybar. The Angels are paying a real cost here, in the form of their top two pitching prospects. Newcomb is a 22-year-old lefty who reached Double-A. Ellis is a 23-year-old righty who also reached Double-A. Newcomb was picked in the first round two years ago, while Ellis was picked in the third.

The Angels do have some decent rotation depth. Garrett Richards is controlled through 2018. Tyler Skaggs, 2019. Matt Shoemaker, 2020. Andrew Heaney and Nicholas Tropeano, 2021. To say nothing of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, veterans who’ll be free agents next fall. The cupboard isn’t bare. But this is still a major sacrifice, yet another injection of young pitching talent into the Braves’ developing system. The Braves, pretty clearly, believe strongly in their organizational ability to get the most out of talented pitchers. Newcomb and Ellis could be long-term assets. They just need to be polished.

Last year, throughout the minors, 578 pitchers threw at least 100 innings. Newcomb had the eighth-highest walk rate. Ellis was 47th, his rate spiking in Double-A. Right there, you get the message — pitchers good enough to be drafted high, but pitchers with real bouts of wildness. They obviously can’t be written off or anything, but it’s easy to understand the optimism and the skepticism. Some people prefer their pitchers to have a foundation of good raw stuff. Other people prefer a foundation of good command. Newcomb and Ellis are a bit riskier.

Newcomb is the better get, and the rest of the picture is that he also posted the sixth-highest strikeout rate. He had an ERA under 2.50, so the upside is evident, and he could be a quick mover. He could show up to help the Braves as soon as this season. But, you know how pitchers are. It’s another roll of the dice. There’s no knowing what Simmons will be in a few years, but he feels projectable. The pitchers could be almost anything. The Braves’ll hope they can be big-league pitchers by 2017 or so.

The Braves’ offensive plan appears to be: make sure to have Freddie Freeman, and the rest will work out somehow. The crop of pitchers is ahead of the crop of position players, and losing Simmons doesn’t help that, but if the Braves figure they’ve seen the best Simmons has to offer, then Newcomb is a high-upside asset to add to a huge collection of big arms. The Braves have made it no secret they’re building around pitching. It’s no secret that comes with its own challenges. I’m sure they’re excited to welcome the challenge of Sean Newcomb.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Anuj Agarwal
6 years ago

It is reasonable to assume that the Angels are trying to lay a defensive foundation akin to that of the Royals with strong defenders Trout and Calhoun already in the mix. Accordingly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they strongly go after Alex Gordon to plug LF and create handedness balance (does that work lol?) in the lineup. Wieters’ name is mentioned as a target, but I personally would be wary of his body type and injury history if I had to spend big money on him.

Bitter Cardinals Fan
6 years ago
Reply to  Anuj Agarwal

#CardsMagic #BetterThanYourOrg

6 years ago

Royals fans just can’t stop pretending that Cardinals fans think about them.

#FakeRivalry #RoyalsComplex

6 years ago
Reply to  bmarkham

How did you write a comment about Royals fans without thinking about them?

6 years ago
Reply to  bmarkham

…and this is why everyone thinks Cardinals fans are annoying as hell.

J.D. Martin
6 years ago
Reply to  Anuj Agarwal

Or Heyward, if they want to go all in on 26 year old defensive studs who’ve shown previous good power numbers for the Braves

Domingo Ayala
6 years ago
Reply to  Anuj Agarwal

I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re basing it off of the royals. Whether it’s offense or defense, an upgrade is an upgrade.

6 years ago
Reply to  Anuj Agarwal

you think they will trade trout then?