Hooooooo boy, this one’s going to take a while to digest. The Angels have reportedly acquired defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons from the Braves in exchange for Erick Aybar and top pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.
Acquiring five prime seasons of the hands-down best defensive infielder in baseball for ~$10M/year is a great get in a vacuum—i.e. if you ignore the cost. Because oh man was the cost steep. In order to bring in Simmons, the Angels surrendered a league-average-or-better shortstop (and the draft-pick compensation that’ll likely be attached to him after 2016) in Aybar, a consensus top-20 pitching prospect in Newcomb, and their second-best arm in Ellis. At that price, there’s really no loving this deal for the Halos—giving up a fan favorite and blowing the farm system back to the Stone Age is never going to be seen as a win.
So whether your immediate reaction was to be cautiously optimistic, ambivalent, or hate it with the fire of 1,000 suns probably hinges on a pair of factors: 1) How much you value defense over offense at an up-the-middle position, and 2) What you thought the ceilings were for Newcomb and Ellis. Simmons is a below-average hitter—career 85 OPS+—with an otherworldly glove. If you think that’s not worth much, you’re never going to like this deal. If you think SS defense is everything, you should LOVE this aspect of the deal. As for the Newcomb/Ellis part, it probably depends on how you feel about the organization’s ability to develop control in its young arms. Pitchers just don’t succeed as starters in the majors with walk rates over four per nine. If Newcomb (4.9 BB/9) and Ellis (4.1 BB/9) want to thrive at starters at the highest level, they still need to get over that hurdle, which is no small thing. Newcomb is obviously in a totally different realm from Ellis, who wouldn’t be a No. 2 prospect in like 27 of the 29 other systems, so there’s no denying the big hit there; Newcomb will probably be very valuable even if he never develops control. Thus, the spectrum on this part of the deal, from an Angels fan perspective, probably swings from light hate to outright fury—there’s no liking that cost.
The Halos are now effectively out of minor-league trade chips, meaning the rest of the offseason will be spent trying to build the remainder of the roster via free agency and trades of big-league players (e.g. Hector Santiago, C.J. Wilson). My first reaction is to be happy the Angels have a middle-infield solution for the rest of the decade, but also worried that they’ve expended three of their biggest trade chips to fill a position that didn’t really need filling. Simmons is great, but there’s still left field, third base, and second to worry about.
It’s certainly a start. I’ll give it that. A more thorough analysis to come later, once I stop hyperventilating.
UPDATE: The Angels also got Braves catching prospect Jose Briceno in the deal. I use “prospect” very loosely there. He will be 23 next season and batted just .183/.215/.267 in 88 games at High-A last season. Cross your fingers he was just nursing an injury or something.