The Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves swapped shortstops on Thursday with Atlanta sending Wilson Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Gold Glove award winner Andrelton Simmons to the Angels in exchange for Erick Aybar, who becomes a free agent next season.
The Braves also received top pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Christopher Ellis. Newcomb, a 6-foot-5 lefty was ranked the Angels’ top prospect in 2015 pitching to a 2.75 ERA in Double-A. He constantly hit 97-98 MPH and struck out 168 batters in 136 innings in 2015.
Ellis is also a very capable prospect that gets ground balls and struck out a little less than a batter per inning, but has been seen to be very effective. The Braves will also receive $3 million in this lucrative deal.
The other player the Angels will be acquiring is minor league catcher Jose Briceno. Who could become a catcher at the High-A level for the Angels.
Simmons is arguably the best defensive shortstop in all of baseball. As a matter of fact, over the past four seasons Simmons has saved 113 runs defensively, 21 more than the player with the next-highest total: Jason Heyward with 92, as well as a staggering 71 more runs saved than the next shortstop: Brandon Crawford who has 42. Simmons is even more impressive in the Wins Above Replacement statistic. He currently has a dWAR of 15.2 for his career, that is 6.5 more than the player who is ranked second: Lorenzo Cain.
This will provide the Angels with a huge defensive upgrade at shortstop as over the past four seasons Aybar has had a value of -10 Defensive Runs Saved.
Most people would wonder why the Braves would ever move Simmons, but the reason is really clear. Atlanta was ranked the fourth worst team in runs allowed in the 2015 season with 740, and even with Simmons’ amazing defense they need better pitching. This deal while unfortunately causing them to give up Simmons provided them with some of the pitching that is necessary to make this change. The Braves also have possibly the worst offense in the league, and Simmons’ contributions with the bat have been minimal. Worse, he’s showing signs of regressing as a hitter.
With moving Simmons, the Braves get two top pitching prospects and a shortstop they can move in 2016 if they choose to. They also get the money, and will not have to pay a very expensive career for the .256 hitter in Simmons. Over the past two seasons, he has totaled 11 home runs and a .335 slugging percentage, which ranks 10th-worst in the majors. The Braves were afraid of the declining offense, as well as making a total of $53 million in the next five seasons including $28 million in his final two years.
For Atlanta, rebuilding is what they have been focused on. With Newcomb and Ellis the Braves could have a rotation ready to go in 2017, and could also look to trade an arm for a bat in the next offseason.
The Braves also have shortstop prospect Ozhaino Albies, the team’s number two prospect who hit .310/.368/.404 in the South Atlantic League in 2015. It is believed that he is two to three years away from major league play, but is a switch-hitter with speed that could provide the defensive as well as offense help that could be be exciting in years to come.
The Angels on the other hand get a defensive wizard that could take them to the next level. With Mike Trout, Simmons and 2015 Gold Glove award winner Kole Calhoun the Angels will have one of the best defensive teams in the league.