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  • What Should the Twins Do With Andrelton Simmons?

    Lucas Seehafer PT

    When the Minnesota Twins signed veteran shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a one-year, $10.5 million contract this past January they did so with the intention of him not only serving as a stopgap before top prospect Royce Lewis made his much anticipated jump to the Majors but also to shore up a Twins’ defense that desperately needed an upgrade over what Jorge Polanco was providing.

    Image courtesy of Scott Taetsch, USA TODAY

    The deal at the time was widely respected, neither panned nor necessarily praised, as it was widely understood that the team’s primary target to replace Polanco, Marcus Semien, who ultimately signed with the Toronto Bluejays, simply did not want to come to Minnesota. Additionally, Simmons had been the definition of a generational talent defensively since his debut in 2012, so there was quite literally no better option on the market if improving the team’s defense was a top priority.

    Simmons has largely lived up to his defensive reputation on his way to compiling 10 outs above average, according to Baseball Savant, placing him third in all of MLB. However, he’s committed six errors this season, three each throwing and fielding, and his fielding percentage of .968 would be the second-lowest of his career if the season ended today. (He registered a .960 fielding percentage during the COVID shortened 2020 season.) Even still, it would be difficult to argue that a better defensive shortstop exists in the Majors as of this moment, which alone justifies his hefty eight-figure salary. 

    But while Simmons’ glove hasn’t taken much of a dip, his bat has more or less fallen off of a cliff and it’s not as if his offensive “prowess” was akin to the peak of Mt. Everest. 

    The 10-year veteran is currently averaging career-worsts in the following key offensive categories:

    • Exit Velocity: 83.5 mph (peaked at 88.2 mph in 2018)
    • Launch Angle: -3.1 degrees (peaked at +9.5 in 2019)
    • Hard Hit%: 25.6% (peaked at 36.1% in 2018)
    • Whiff%: 20.1% (low: 11.8% in 2015)
    • K%: 17.8% (low: 7.3% in 2018)

    Simmons owns a .311 batting average on balls in play and has barreled only one(!) of his last 223 batted balls over the last two seasons. If anything, some good luck is preventing his numbers from looking worse. Simply put, Andrelton Simmons, who was never exactly known for his intimidating presence at the plate, is a complete non-factor offensively, even more so than usual.

    To recap: Simmons has been solid defensively, but is showing some signs of decline, he’s having by far his worst season at the plate, and he isn’t signed beyond this season.

    So, the question then becomes: What should the Twins do with Andrelton Simmons as the summer progresses? The answer is fairly straightforward, but trading Simmons may be more difficult than it sounds in theory.

    For starters, most teams in playoff contention, the kind of team that would be the most likely to swing a trade for Simmons due to his age and defensive capabilities, are already pretty set at shortstop, something touched on by Matthew Taylor here. A quick glance over most MLB rosters that are hovering towards the top of the division and wild card standings doesn’t reveal much in the way of obvious fits for Simmons. 

    One potential fit could be the Chicago Cubs, but only if they decide to move on from Javier Báez during the season. Báez isn’t likely to return to Windy City next summer, so shipping him out for prospects may make sense, even as the Cubs stand in second place in the NL Central with a 34-27 record, 0.5 games out from the first-place Milwaukee Brewers.

    Similarly, the St. Louis Cardinals make some sense as current starter Paul DeJong is currently on rehab assignment and was batting .177/.277/.371 before going on the injured list. But DeJong is only 27-years-old and is under team control for a few more years.

    However, if Simmons is traded, to a contender or otherwise, expect the return the Twins get in exchange to be rather unimpressive. The most they could likely expect in return is a low-mid-level prospect, perhaps someone akin to infielder Seth Gray or pitcher Chris Vallimont in the Twins’ system (i.e. a prospect with potential, but glaring flaws).

    Andrelton Simmons is not in the Twins’ long-term plans and was only ever brought on to fill a one year gap before Royce Lewis’s arrival. While Lewis may not appear until late in 2022 after tearing his ACL earlier this year, Simmons’ overall disappointing season makes it wise for the team to move on from him by before the arrival of August. Just don’t expect much in return.

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    3 hours ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

    Trading Simmons shouldn't be about what you can get for him, it should be about where you have someone younger with a possible future that you want to put into that position or, potentially, if moving someone you have opens up a spot for that younger player with a future. We are going nowhere this year so keeping around a one year rental player isn't a smart move unless we plan on also having him next year to keep the spot warm until someone else like Lewis is ready. That's the question. If we got somebody else who could benefit from the reps, trade Simmons for whatever you can get. If not, we have to seriously look at trying to keep him beyond this year because we have no one else.

    I would like to see Polanco and Gordon man the SS spot in the 2nd half of the season and trade Simmons for what we can get, even if its just a couple of A ball guys.  I know Polanco is stretched at SS, but we did win 2 division championships with him playing that position every day. I've heard that Gordon is also stretched at SS, but I'd like to see him get the opportunity to see if he can be the bridge to someone in 2-3 years. This year is about retooling for next year so unless were planning on having Simmons as our SS for next year I think we should move him and try what we have.  

    I agree wholeheartedly on Polanco and Gordon for balance of 2021. I’d play Polanco at SS and Gordon at 2b.

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    3 hours ago, Mark G said:

    I don't know, I have a feeling I am going to be a majority of one here, but I would sign him to an extension.  Seriously.  31 isn't THAT old, and I have seen enough injuries taking a player out for an entire season to know a percentage don't come back all the way.  Add to that the fact that the minor league season was wiped out last year, and Lewis won't have played any length of time in 2 years.  He may need a lot more seasoning if he comes back at full strength at all.  And he is young enough to give him time to take that seasoning (as well as the team keeping control of him longer).  We didn't sign Simmons for his bat, and his glove will be good for at least a couple of more years.  A 2 year extension at a fair price (if he will even sign it), and see how the heir comes along.  

    You're now part of a minority of two.

    I only have opportunity to listen, so I haven't seen his defense. The OAA stat seems to suggest he's doing well. I don't get the comments about his hitting being significantly down. By OPS+, he's right at his career mark. His career average makes him a slightly below average hitter, but still solid enough for the No. 9 spot. His bWAR is on target for close to 3.0.

    But I was going to make the same suggestion on an extension, though I'd try to just extend one year for now. With the strong free agent class, Simmons could be attracted to not having to go against all the others, particularly given the way he had to wait people out last year.

    By signing him now to a reasonable additional year, you increase his value if the right deal comes along. And if the right deal doesn't come along, you've addressed a need that's going to be here in the offseason.

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    Simmons has an OPS+ of 93 which is better than his previous two seasons. He is among the best players in outs above average. He is the player they should have expected. They need to find a team looking for a starting shortstop but they won’t have to give him away.

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