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  • Twins Worst Free Agent Signing Ever?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have not had a good experience on the free-agent market during their tenure at the top of Minnesota’s front office. Many organizations find landmines, but did this season include the worst signing in franchise history?

    Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

    After Jorge Polanco limped through 2020 with an ankle injury that required a second surgery, it became more than apparent that Rocco Baldelli needed a different option at shortstop. Before Royce Lewis was shelved with a torn ACL, the big league club needed a stabilizing presence at the most critical position on the infield.

    Casting a wide net made the most sense for the Twins. Marcus Semien was arguably the best option, and despite finishing a close runner-up for his services, the former Athletics infielder has posted an otherworldly season for the Blue Jays. Many players would qualify as fringe options, having one or more holes in their games. Falvey opted for a pact with Gold Glove-winning fielder Andrelton Simmons. The former Angels shortstop always carried a light bat, but his defense got the job done.

    Welcome to 2021.

    It’s not as though Simmons’ defense has fallen off a cliff; he’s still been a valuable commodity in the field for Minnesota. His 11 defensive runs saved rank third in baseball at the position, and he’s behind only Nick Ahmed and Francisco Lindor when it comes to outs above average at shortstop. Simmons has induced many highlight-reel plays this season behind Twins pitching, but his blunders have always been highly noticeable.

    Simmons has been miscast for a guy who needs to make an impact defensively to hide his bat, given the results Minnesota has generated on the season as a whole. He carries value for a good team that can afford to have a complete non-factor in the lineup. Given the Twins inability to pitch and often hit, the marginal defensive upgrade he has been only amplified the awful season of production.

    At -0.4 fWAR, Simmons has been Minnesota’s third-worst position player behind Willians Astudillo and Gilberto Celestino. Without finding a trade partner for him at the deadline, the Twins have allowed Simmons to play in 116 games despite being a free agent at year’s end. He’s being paid $10.5 million in 2021 and has been worse than a non-factor offensively. His .561 OPS is dead last in baseball among 154 hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. He has a .286 OBP and has a whopping 14 extra-base hits.

    The most divisive contribution Simmons has made to the Twins clubhouse may have been a medical one. Just days after being outspoken regarding his stance on vaccines, the shortstop tested positive, and Minnesota soon experienced an outbreak. Without attributing fault to any one person, Simmons' brash nature and desire to publicly share his opinions on Twitter were undoubtedly met with backlash given how the season began to spiral.
    Over the years, plenty of front offices have missed when it comes to spending money on players leaving other organizations. Sometimes those players move on for the sake of a big contract. Other times it happens because the club is moving on before getting caught holding the bag. This may be more of the latter when considering the Angels situation, and Minnesota felt the wrath of a decision gone wrong.

    You could make a case for Tsuyoshi Nishioka or Ricky Nolasco when considering previous Twins missteps. Still, nothing about how Andrelton Simmons has fared in Minnesota is good, and it’s a shock he’ll survive the year without a DFA. Back to the drawing board at shortstop for 2022.

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    Most of you know that I was baffled by the Simmons signing, but I'm certain he is not the worst signing of all time, especially since he won't be around very long. 

    Simmons has a career to be proud of, but it doesn't take much analysis to see he has not been good since 2018.  For being a dice roll/leap of faith, the Twins sure are sticking to him.  Even if the Twins love what he is doing for them, which if true seems a bit out of touch with reality, he is not the future and the Twins should be giving his roster spot to somebody else.

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    19 minutes ago, Squirrel said:

    Seriously? You think Simmons is the worst signing ever, in all of Twins history? That's a pretty sensational proclamation, imo. I think there were worse signings this year alone than Simmons ... and the two other you mentioned I think were far worse.

    Yup. This is just recency bias and I get Simmons has been bad, but since he came out against vaccines and made comments against them, people have been a lot more negative towards him. I'm not defending him, he's been bad. I don't see how Simmons signing though could even be considered close to the Nishioka signing. Below are the stats for both. I don't know how you can make a case for SImmons over Nishioka. Nolasco is up there too because of the length of the deal. A 1 year deal can't be the worst ever for me as you can wash yur hands of the player after 1 year.

    Simmons                                                                     Nishioka

    1 year deal                                                                   3 year deal

    116 GP                                                                           71 GP

    .221/.286/.275 (.561)                                                    .215/.267/.236 (.503)

    OPS+ 58                                                                        OPS+ 41

    Nothing about the Simmons signing says it has been worse than Nishioka. Simmons has been very bad too. You could make a case for Nolasco as he was terrible for a team that desperately needed pitching.

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    I don't know Happ and Shoemaker might have been as bad or worse.  Being dead last in OPS is pretty damming evidence but as stated his defense has been essentially as advertised.  I get the disappointment but not sure he qualifies as worst given he at least has contributed to the success of the team on defense. 

    Nolasco was a painful signing and I thought it was a good decision at the time.  That was a signing that was hard to live through.  I don't know if I have ever seen a pitcher give up so many hard hit balls.  He was a disaster IMO.  I don't see how we got much of any value in that deal.

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    Yeah, I'm not sure Simmons makes the top five worst signings? He's been bad, but Nishioka was worse and was a multi-year deal.

    I tend to agree that 1 year deals limit how "bad" it ever is. You're much worse off when you sign a guy to a 3-5 year deal and he bombs than having a bridge signing (which Simmons clearly has been) to a 1 year deal. Nolasco's deal was ugly, though I'm sure I was hopeful at the time. But he was awful and we had to give up on a prospect that we still liked to get rid of his contract. (Meyer busted out too, but at the time it was hard to be happy about seeing him go...was even worse when Icky Nolasco was good for half a season for the Angels...)

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    Nishioka had a rude awakening just six games into his major league career, when a certain Yankees player essentially did a hit job on him.  One good thing that came out of that, eventually, was this play contributed to rule changes for sliding into second base.

    From that day on, I suspect Nishioka just wanted to go home.  The only person he had to talk to was his interpreter.  Eventually, he cut his contract short, leaving money on the table, and went home.

    In any case, it's not completely fair to pile it on Nishi.  He played extremely well in the minors before the injury, and he only played 5 games before his New York Welcome™ to the major leagues.  I don't think he was having fun or getting the support he needed after that.

    I would call Byungho Park a bigger failure free agent signing, if we are counting international players.  The Twins signed him because he was smacking impressive home runs off of 86-88 mph fastballs and he was known to be a poor defender.  There was no chance he was going to do well in the majors.

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    1 hour ago, redstorm said:

    Rondell White has to rank up there too

    In hindsight only.   I was pretty pumped at the time.    Lecroy, Tyner and Ford didn't appeal to me much at DH or the 2rd outfield spot.  White was a very good hitter in his career and coming off a .313 avg and .827 OPS year in 2005.  There is a difference between bad signings and good signings that didn't work out.  White was the latter.

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    Nishioka gets such a bad wrap for being such a cheap signing, but yeah, he was pretty awful. He wasn't expensive, though. For the 2 years he was under contract, the Twins paid $5MM in salary and a $7MM posting fee to negotiate. Nishioka forefitted the 3rd year and option year to return to Japan. It was pretty clear Nishioka's swing was not going to play at the MLB level, and it was also pretty clear he wasn't one of Gardy's Guys so he was also going to be thrown under the bus and backed over a couple times for good measure.

    Bleacher Report did an article on the worst FA signings for each team. Twins? Ricky Nolasco and I can't really argue with that.

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    I dislike Simmons both because of the selfish covid caper and because his affect on the field is highly unattractive. He never acts like he cares, never seems to smile, and just seems like he's counting the dollars per inning and waiting to get back to the hotel. 

    Maybe it's not fair to judge a guy based on his demeanor, but I suspect that this is one reason that he gets so much flack. He is an aging player who was a great fielder (and is still good) but was never a good hitter (and is now poor). In other words, about what we should have expected. Surely not even close to the worst ever signing.

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    Really? Zero in on Simmons, especially this year? Lets go back to pre-season when it looked like we had the makings of a very good lineup. A light hitting ss with an above avg. glove fits in nice. At the time of his signing I thought the price tag may be high but apparently thats what the market said. The bad signings were Happ and Shoemaker. At least the FO had enough common sense to stick to 1 year deals on all 3.

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    The dissing of Simmons is here, is based purely on bias -- I don;t like his style, therefore; he is bad -- grade school prejudice.

    He, in his career, had only one season with a goodly number of home runs and one year with a large number of RBIs, but his career batting average , even with this years slump is still .265, and he hit .281/78/92 in 2016/17/18 so stick your childish hatred for him in your back-pocket and stick to the facts.

    I personally like his  laissez faire attitude  even over Astudillo's who looks like he is annoyed with some thing, or Polanco who looks like a deer in the head-lights.

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    18 minutes ago, RpR said:

    The dissing of Simmons is here, is based purely on bias -- I don;t like his style, therefore; he is bad -- grade school prejudice.

    He, in his career, had only one season with a goodly number of home runs and one year with a large number of RBIs, but his career batting average , even with this years slump is still .265, and he hit .281/78/92 in 2016/17/18 so stick your childish hatred for him in your back-pocket and stick to the facts.

    I personally like his  laissez faire attitude  even over Astudillo's who looks like he us annoyed with some thing, or Polanco who looks like a deer in the head-lights.

    To be fair, I don't think many people around these parts base a player's value on his batting average.  Most people around here use WAR, which has not looked good for him since 2018.  

    The Twins likely knew Simmons was not going to be a star for them.  Last year his OPS+ was 94, and I'm sure they understood given his OPS+ in 2019 being even lower that his likely ceiling in 2021 was in the 88-90 range.  That's not good, but it's acceptable for a good defender.  His current OPS+ of 58 is probably a mild surprise for them, but I'm betting they understood this was a possibility.  The Twins still seem to think this is good enough to have him starting, so I'm sure they're not shocked by his play.

    I imagine anyone who finds his personality revolting would dislike him even if he were playing well.  Visceral reactions to a person are difficult to control.  This is not "grade school" stuff, it's normal.  You could even say that wanting to stay away from people who make you feel uncomfortable is a survival skill.

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    3 hours ago, Dman said:

    Nolasco was a painful signing and I thought it was a good decision at the time.  That was a signing that was hard to live through.  I don't know if I have ever seen a pitcher give up so many hard hit balls.  He was a disaster IMO.  I don't see how we got much of any value in that deal.

    I think everyone liked the Nolasco signing.  He had a nice W-L record and a nice FIP.  At that time, it was strongly believed that FIP was an indicator of what was to come for a pitcher.  Now we have a better understanding that FIP and its variants are just one part of the story, and for some players the stat is simply junk.  This is normal, many players have some "advanced" stat that doesn't quite reflect reality.

    His ERA+ was never fantastic and was often not good at all.  ERA+ and OPS+ are my starting points when looking at a player, and I admit if I'm not impressed there I don't look any further.  Thus, I thought everyone was smoking large amounts of grass at the time.  🤣

    I used to joke that, because of the Twins luck, Nolasco was sure to have a no-hitter once he left the team....

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    With names like Phil Hughes, Matt Capp, Mike Pelfrey, Rondell White, Kendrys Morales, and I cannot even list all the FA BP pickups that we made this year.  I am not a fan of Simmons, but there is a lot to choose from.  

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    1 hour ago, PDX Twin said:

    I dislike Simmons both because of the selfish covid caper and because his affect on the field is highly unattractive. He never acts like he cares, never seems to smile, and just seems like he's counting the dollars per inning and waiting to get back to the hotel. 

    Maybe it's not fair to judge a guy based on his demeanor, but I suspect that this is one reason that he gets so much flack. He is an aging player who was a great fielder (and is still good) but was never a good hitter (and is now poor). In other words, about what we should have expected. Surely not even close to the worst ever signing.

    While I have lots of not-nice things to say about Simmons and his anti-vax stance, I can't agree with your take on his on-field demeanor. Simmons is constantly talking to his teammates, directing action on the field, and I think his smoothness looks like laziness just because he's that damned good (or was, as his athleticism is now on the decline).

    Look at the way the guy throws the ball. No effort, looking flat-footed quite often... and it drops right into the first baseman's mitt almost every time. He makes it all look so easy.

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    46 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    With names like Phil Hughes, Matt Capp, Mike Pelfrey, Rondell White, Kendrys Morales, and I cannot even list all the FA BP pickups that we made this year.  I am not a fan of Simmons, but there is a lot to choose from.  

    Don't forget Vance Worley, though it's painful to put him in this category because he had something going on mentally.

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    1 hour ago, RpR said:

    I personally like his  laissez faire attitude  even over Astudillo's who looks like he is annoyed with some thing, or Polanco who looks like a deer in the head-lights.

    These characterizations made reading this thread worth it to me.

    Thanks!

     

    I will have to get back to you on "worst signing ever." I feel it would take a handwriting specialist to make that claim...

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    Some of the players that have been listed were obtained by trade.    I think an international signing like Nishioka shouldn’t count either.  Ricky No-Fastball was given a four year contract and stunk for the two years he played with the Twins.  So - he is indeed the biggest loser of all. 

    Colome may have been overall a bad signing but his recent good performances will lead the Twins to pick up his option next year.   

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