Andrelton Simmons Rumors

East Notes: Henry, Pineda, Phils, Simmons, Harang

In an outstanding profile of Red Sox principal owner John Henry, Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek writes that Henry “captures baseball’s current era” with his financial savvy and mathematical orientation. The full piece comes highly recommended, but a few particularly salient points are worth mention here. According to Henry, Boston’s disastrous 2012 season taught the organization “a lesson in ever-growing, long-term contracts with free agents.” An important element of the team’s turnaround, says Green, was Henry’s “ability to ignore sentiment” in making personnel decisions. Though Henry says “it’s gotten harder to spend money intelligently,” Green paints a picture of a man determined to do just that, precisely because of the challenge. In the immediate term, of course, the question is at what price the Sox deem staff ace Jon Lester a worthwhile investment. (The team has reportedly offered four years and $70MM.)

  • Of course, the major topic of conversation last night (and this morning) was the ejection of Yankees starter Michael Pineda for taking the hill with a generous application of pine tar on his neck. Pineda will almost certainly earn a suspension and miss at least one start; last year, Rays reliever Joel Peralta lost 8 games after he was caught with the substance. Of course, virtually every player, manager, front office official, and journalist to have commented on the incident has noted that it is widely accepted that pitchers utilize various kinds of grip-enhancing agents. As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link), it is increasingly ridiculous to maintain a rule that is so rarely enforced and widely disregarded. His recommendation of a pre-approved substance (or, presumably, substances) that pitchers can utilize seems like a good starting point for considering a rule change; it makes little sense, in my view, to implicitly permit “cheating” so long as the pitcher is not “too obvious.”
  • The Phillies bullpen — particularly,  its grouping of right-handed set-up men — have been an unmitigated disaster thus far. Indeed, Philadelphia relievers currently sport a league-worst 5.64 ERA. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, the club has already demoted three of its righties — B.J. Rosenberg, Brad Lincoln, and Justin De Fratus — and will now rely on a series of questionable arms (for different reasons) in Mike Adams, Jeff Manship, and Shawn Camp. Last August, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that the pen would be an area of focus in the coming offseason, but the team did not spend there in free agency.
  • Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons has already established himself as a nearly incomparable defensive shortstop, writes Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth. Club manager Fredi Gonzalez said that it was premature to put his young, newly-extended whiz alongside The Wizard: the legendary Ozzie Smith maintained his defensive prowess for 19 seasons. But, as Megdal explains, Simmons’ early success puts him on that kind of trajectory, and better. With a seemingly greater offensive (and, possibly, defensive) ceiling than the Hall-of-Famer Smith, Simmons has both legitimate upside and a high floor.
  • While Atlanta obviously did well to identify starter Aaron Harang, who is off to an incredible start to the season for the Braves after being squeezed out of the Indians’ rotation mix, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus explains that there are no analytical or scouting reasons to believe that Harang has re-invented himself at this late stage of his career. Ultimately, Harang has benefited from a low BABIP, high strand rate, and unsustainable level of success with runners in scoring position. Though his contributions to date should not be underestimated, says Lindbergh, there remains a good chance that the Braves will end up replacing Harang in the rotation before the season is out.

Reactions To The Andrelton Simmons Extension

Back in September, MLBTR's Jeff Todd wondered whether or not the Braves would look to extend their young core, and the last three weeks have revealed the answer: a resounding yes. Earlier today, the Braves announced that they had agreed to a seven-year, $58MM contract extension with defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons. The extension marks the fourth extension of at least four years for the Braves in the past three weeks and the sixth multi-year deal they've signed. Counting the new contracts for Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran and Jason Heyward (two-year deal), the Braves have committed just over $280MM in salary to their young core. Here are some reactions to their latest long-term pact…

  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs compares Simmons' extension in comparison to the arbitration paydays of several defensive-oriented players such as Elvis Andrus, Brett Gardner and Michael Bourn. Cameron notes that Simmons received roughly double what can be expected for a glove-first player based on their salaries. However, he also looks at Simmons' chances of becoming a Super Two player and the potential for offensive growth, noting that he's one season of strong numbers at the dish away from rocketing himself into another stratosphere alongside the likes of Troy Tulowitzki and Buster Posey.
  • In a highly recommended subscription-only piece, Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus looks at the floor for Simmons over the life of his extension, noting that it's probably similar Adam Everett's late 20s, when he averaged better than two WAR per season. He also looks at Simmons' ceiling, noting that his BABIP indicates he was robbed of 19 hits last season. Simmons' walk rate and ISO compare favorably to a strong group of hitters, leading Miller to conclude that if Simmons hits, the extension is beyond a bargain for Atlanta.
  • General manager Frank Wren tells David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the extensions haven't altered 2014 payroll much, and the team still has flexibility to make in-season additions. He also notes that more young players will be extended, though not necessarily this year (Twitter links).
  • It's time to reassess the Braves' ownership, writes Dayn Perry of CBS Sports. Perry looks at the downward trend in payroll that took place after Liberty Media took control of the team in 2007, noting that since that time the team has had a below-average payroll. Perry points out the enormous benefit provided by the team's upcoming Cobb County stadium and adds: "The prevailing reality is that the Braves, coming off 96 wins and a division title, are well-poised for the future, and that's in part because the maligned Liberty Media is willing to underwrite all these high-ceiling young players and keep them in Atlanta."
  • ESPN's Jim Bowden calls the contract a "steal" for the Braves (ESPN Insider required), noting that they're paying Simmons for his excellent glovework before his bat has fully developed. Bowden feels that Simmons will blossom into a plus hitter as well, and that the offense will be pure surplus value, as his glove alone is worth the money.
  • Bowden's colleague Keith Law kicked off his weekly chat by praising the Simmons deal, noting that the price is justified even if Simmons never hits much. Law agrees that Simmons' low BABIP leaves room for some offensive improvement, though he's surprised that the Braves simply guaranteed Simmons' salary for his third pre-arb year as if he were a surefire Super Two player. (Other deals, such as Ryan Braun's, for example, have included escalator clauses that provide a larger salary if the player reaches Super Two status.)

Braves Extend Andrelton Simmons

The Braves have agreed to a seven-year extension with shortstop Andrelton Simmons, the club announced today via press release. The Relativity Sports client receives a $58MM guarantee.

Simmons

Simmons, 24, will now be under contract with Atlanta through the 2020 season. The deal covers all of his arb-eligible years and includes two seasons of free agent eligibility. With just 1.125 years of service heading into 2014, Simmons was a possible (but by no means certain) Super Two player for 2015.

Placing in the same service class as recent extension signees like Julio Teheran, Martin Perez, Jose Altuve, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt and Madison Bumgarner, Simmons' guaranteed money tops them all. Indeed, Simmons now sets the high mark for all extensions of players with between one and two years of service, topping Ryan Braun's eight-year, $45MM deal from back in 2008.

Last year, his first as a regular, Simmons sported a .248/.296/.396 line in 658 plate appearances, with 17 home runs and 6 stolen bases. While his hitting stats do not jump off the page, Simmons' defensive reputation is nearly unmatched. Baseball-Reference credited him with a remarkable 5.4 dWAR, resulting in an overall value of 6.8 wins above replacement. While Fangraphs weighs his overall contribution at 4.7 WAR for 2013, his UZR/150 (23.9) and Defensive Runs Saved (41) paint a picture of a high-floor player. Simmons would increase his value significantly moving forward, of course, if he can retain his power and get on base at a stronger clip.

Simmons gets a $1MM signing bonus. He will make the following annual salaries: $1MM (2014), $3MM (2015), $6MM (2016), $8MM (2017), $11MM (2018), $13MM (2019), and $15MM (2020).

It has surely been a stunning last few weeks for a Braves organization that entered the offseason with a host of talented young players and questions about whether they could all be retained. Added to the recent extensions for Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward (the latter of which did not extend control), Atlanta has now committed just over $280MM to its existing roster in just over two weeks' time.

Though Atlanta reportedly suffers from one of the game's least favorable TV deals, it has signed on for a new ballpark (and surrounding development) deal that promises new revenue. Indeed, GM Frank Wren said recently that expected income from that new endeavor was critical in funding the team's extensions.

Samuel Whitmore tweeted last night that the Braves were set to agree to a seven-year deal with Simmons. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first tweeted the contract value. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the annual breakdown via Twitter.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Extension Notes: Bailey, Masterson, Samardzija, Segura, Simmons, Sandoval, Belt

Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."

Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball …

  • Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
  • Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
  • The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
  • Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop — Elvis Andrus of the Rangers — was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
  • The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
  • A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
  • Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target — though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.

NL East: Kimbrel, Burnett, Simmons, Dice-K

It has been a newsworthy Sunday in the NL East with the Braves extending closer Craig Kimbrel and the Phillies announcing the signing of A.J. Burnett. Here's the latest on those two deals and the rest of the division:

  • Kimbrel's agent David Meter called Braves GM Frank Wren one week ago and the extension was finalized Friday night, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney tweets the Kimbrel extension is a win-win for both sides.
  • The Kimbrel extension sets a good precedent for baseball because it will tamp down arbitration salaries for closers and it signals no closer will ever receive more than a four-year contract, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Insider subscription required).
  • Burnett told reporters, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel, he chose Philadelphia because of its proximity (a 90-minute drive) to his home in Monkton, MD. "This is the first time in my career that I made a decision that wasn't about A.J. Burnett. It was about my wife. It was about my kids. It was about playing somewhere where I'm at home and I can still do what I love. And that feels good. It was a no-brainer to me."
  • Burnett says he didn't receive much interest from the Nationals and Orioles, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today
  • Phillies Assistant GM Scott Proefrock, who lives a mile away from Burnett, told FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal the behind-the-scenes story of how the signing came about. 
  • Shortstop Andrelton Simmons could be next in line to receive an extension from the Braves, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets the two sides have a difference of opinion on the 24-year-old's future offensive value.
  • O'Brien tweets it's safe to say the Braves will extend Simmons either this year or next.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka has a May 30 opt-out in his minor league deal with the Mets, tweets Sherman.

Braves Interested In Extensions For Simmons, Teheran

The Braves haven't been known as a team that's big on working out long-term extensions for arbitration eligible and pre-arb players, but that reputation may be changing. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (via Twitter) that after this week's colossal eight-year, $135MM Freddie Freeman extension and a two-year, $13.3MM deal for Jason Heyward, the Braves are interested in working out extensions for shortstop Andrelton Simmons and right-hander Julio Teheran.

Simmons currently has one year, 125 days of Major League service time under his belt. Extensions for shortstops with between one and two years of service time are a rarity, though Troy Tulowitzki inked a six-year, $31MM contract with one year, 33 days of service. Simmons is cut from a different cloth than Tulowitzki, but that contract is also six years old. Recent extensions for defensive-minded shortstops who signed with two to three years of service time include Alcides Escobar (four years, $10.5MM) and Elvis Andrus (three years, $14.4MM). Simmons is regarded as a superior defender to both and has more power than either of his slick fielding peers, and neither was a Super Two player. As such, his remaining years of team control figure to come at a higher price than either Andrus or Escobar, especially considering that each of those contracts is two years old.

While the potential for Super Two status throws a wrinkle into talks, both Evan Longoria and Ryan Braun had clauses built into their contracts boosting future guarantees should the reach arbitration eligibility early. Simmons could end up in the $20-25MM range for his remaining five years of team control, depending on Super Two status. For the purposes of this projection, I'll split the middle and project $22.5MM for his five years of team control. Tacking on a free agent year at a discounted rate of $10MM would put him into the six-year, $32.5MM range. In reality, nothing in the mid-$30MM range would surprise me, as the final number would be dependent on his Super Two status and the contract language negotiated by the Braves and his agents at Relativity Baseball. Free agent seasons beyond that would figure to escalate, perhaps bringing his price range into the upper-$40MMs on a seven-year deal.

Shifting to Teheran, the right-hander currently has one year, 62 days of service time. There's a much larger sample of historical context when looking at his case, as starters Martin Perez, Wade Davis, Brett Anderson, James Shields and Cory Luebke have all signed four-year deals in the $12MM range with multiple club options at similar junctures of their careers. Madison Bumgarner and Ricky Romero each netted more than $30MM over a five-year span, but they projected as potential Super Two players and each had experienced more success by that point in their careers.

It's also important to remember that most of those four-year, $12MM deals are several years old (with the exception of Perez). Each contained relatively tame arbitration salaries, but the days for those types of deals could be coming to an end due to inflation and increasing TV revenues (Freeman's deal, in particular, demonstrates the rising price of extending young talent). Teheran could sign away his two remaining pre-arb years and his first two arbitration eligible seasons for something in the $14MM range, plus a pair of options that would cover his third arb season and first free agent year. The option values on previous contracts of this ilk ranges from $15-20MM. Placing Teheran slightly north of that scale, a potential extension could reach $35MM or so over a six-year span, assuming both options on the deal are exercised.

One thing working in the Braves' favor when it comes to this potential rash of extensions is the new Cobb County stadium on the horizon, which figures to boost revenue (as pointed out by David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Twitter). The increased revenue from the stadium should help to offset, to an extent, the fact that the Braves' television contract as believed to provide them with less than $20MM annually (O'Brien reporting).

That's clearly not the case for all teams, as new television deals have infused the game with more money than ever. That influx of cash could render historical context on contract extensions — even from two years ago — largely irrelevant. Players such as Simmons, Teheran, Jason Kipnis and Wil Myers (just to name a few examples) could redefine the market for pre-arb extensions in the next 12 to 14 months.


NL Notes: Mets, Cardinals, Braves

The Mets made one of the best under-the-radar improvements this offseason by upgrading their outfield defense, ESPN's Mike Petriello writes (Insider-only). With Juan Lagares starting in center field for the entire season, and Curtis Granderson and Chris Young on either side of him, the Mets should be much better off defensively than they were with Lucas Duda and others last season. Petriello also lists the Cardinals' defense, in both the infield and the outfield, as one that should be dramatically improved as a result of this offseason's moves. The Cardinals acquired Peter Bourjos for David Freese, improving their outfield while allowing Matt Carpenter to shift back to third. Another new addition, Mark Ellis, figures to help at second base. Here are more notes from the National League.


NL East Notes: Wheeler, D’Arnaud, Simmons, Nolasco

The day after he was rocked for six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, the Phillies placed lefty John Lannan on the DL with a strained quadriceps in his left knee.  There's no word yet on who will replace him in the rotation, but he could be out six-to-eight weeks.  Tonight, the fourth-place Phillies and Cole Hamels host Adam Wainwright and the first-place Cardinals.  Elsewhere in the NL East:

  • "Let's just say if this continues, certainly we've gotta start visiting that here pretty soon," Mets manager Terry Collins told Mike Francesa of WFAN in regard to a question about quality reinforcements including top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.  The Mets' rotation has struggled beyond Matt Harvey and Jon Niese.  GM Sandy Alderson was noncommittal, telling Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News"It was always a case that it would be Zack’s sufficiency and the major-league team’s need.  If those two things merge, the need and the performance converge, then it is a possibility.  That could happen sooner or it could happen later."  Ackert hears that people within the organization privately do not feel Wheeler is ready, plus the Mets would like to avoid the pitcher achieving Super Two status after the 2015 season (necessitating a promotion in mid-June or later).
  • Meanwhile, another top Mets prospect won't be seeing Citi Field anytime soon.  Catcher Travis D'Arnaud, acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade, fractured a bone in his left foot yesterday in a Triple-A game.
  • The Nationals' depth is on display, explains James Wagner of the Washington Post, with Kurt Suzuki seamlessly taking over as the starting catcher after Wilson Ramos suffered a hamstring injury.     
  • Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is now represented by SFX, MLBTR has learned.  He'd previously been with The Sparta Group, up until the August switch.  A few new additions to our agency database include Jonathan Gray (advised by Jay Franklin of BBI Sports Group), Oswaldo Arcia (Martin Arburua), and Tony Cingrani (Curtis Dishman).
  • "He's decent for a club that needs a starter. There are worse No. 5 starters in the big leagues right now, but he's not the pitcher he used to be," a scout told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in reference to the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco.  Nolasco, Miami's highest-paid player by a long-shot at $11.5MM, is a strong candidate to be traded this summer.

Justin Upton Rumors: Tuesday

In yesterday's round of Justin Upton rumors, we heard that the Rangers were still in touch with the Diamondbacks, who also met with the Mariners in the evening. As we wait to see if Tuesday brings further developments on the Upton front, we'll track the latest updates right here:

  • The Braves, Mariners, and Indians were all collecting background information and character assessments on Upton to ensure he'd be a good fit, one source told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic today.    

Earlier updates:

  • Upton has drawn "active interest" from the Mariners, Rangers, and Indians today, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • The D'Backs are looking at three-or-more team deals, tweets MLB.com's Steve Gilbert, as the Rangers are not willing to trade Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus and the Mariners are not a match.
  • The Braves and Diamondbacks have concluded there's not going to be a fit for an Upton trade, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.  The Braves do not intend to trade shortstop Andrelton Simmons
  • Although the D-Backs have been aggressive in shopping Upton in Nashville, no team has stepped up to offer a frontline shortstop, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today
  • MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince notes that Upton trade rumors are becoming an annual tradition, and wonders if this could be the year he's finally moved. "It sounds like they kind of want to," said a rival NL scout. "But it's hard to pull the trigger."

NL East Notes: Sean Burnett, Reed Johnson, Nolasco

The Mets are talking R.A. Dickey trades, the Marlins' highest-paid player wants out and the team is shopping its second-highest, and the Phillies have moved on to other outfielders with Angel Pagan off the board.  More from around the NL East…