Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Simmons Latest Brave to be Rewarded

Simmons was worth almost seven bWAR last year largely because of his defense

At the rate they're going, the Atlanta Braves will have their entire team signed through the end of the decade by Opening Day.

Andrelton Simmons is the latest Braves to be rewarded with a payday, following in the footsteps of Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, and Julio Teheran. Simmons received a seven-year, $58 million extension that covers all his arbitration seasons and first two free agent seasons. The deal runs through his age 30 season, which means the Braves won't have to pay for much, if any, of his decline phase.

Assuming Simmons stays healthy, Atlanta's going to get tons of value out of this deal. His masterful glovework at shortstop makes him the most valuable defender in the game, so much so that he had one of the best defensive seasons in recorded history last year. And he's no slouch with the bat either, having hit 17 home runs last year and posting an .807 OPS from July 14th onward. Just 24, he figures to get better with age as he enters his prime years.

I like this deal much better than the one Texas gave to Elvis Andrus last year at the same age. Andrus was more established with four full seasons and two All-Star appearances under his belt, but the difference between the two skills-wise isn't enough to justify Andrus getting an extra year and twice as much money.

In fact, I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that Simmons will have the better career. Just last year alone, Simmons hit almost as many home runs as Andrus has hit in his entire career. Simmons also did so while striking out nearly half as often as Andrus does and while working a similar number of walks. Andrus is a better baserunner and plays good defense, but Simmons is so good defensively that he makes up whatever advantages Andrus has and then some.

So while it's hard to imagine Simmons getting such a deal in less enlightened times (he did hit only .248/.296/.396 last year, after all), it stands to reason that Simmons could and should get better. He's going to earn every cent of that money.

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