Jan 31: The Twins have officially announced the signing. The Twins now have two open spots on their 40-man roster.
Jan 26: The Twins have reached an agreement with free agent shortstop Andrelton Simmons on a one-year, $10.5MM contract, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). Per the Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman (via Twitter), the deal is done, pending a physical. The ISE Baseball client is the third shortstop and fourth infielder to come off the board in the past few hours.
The Twins step in from somewhat out-of-the-blue to sign Simmons – but not entirely. Twins GM Thad Levine flagged the potential for a move like this recently in saying that the defensive versatility of their current roster gave them options in free agency. Jorge Polanco will slide over to second base, while Luis Arraez will move around the diamond as needed, notes Passan.
Levine recently spoke of being impressed by the Dodgers’ malleability in the World Series, noting that his own roster could flex similarly, especially with manager Rocco Baldelli as a capable tactician at the wheel. If nothing else, with Simmons at short, Josh Donaldson at third, and Byron Buxton in center, the Twins boast a defense with upside enough to make a difference. Moving Polanco off short and installing Simmons in his place – on its own – has the makings of an impactful upgrade.
The four-time Gold Glove Award winner has long been considered the tastemaker with the glove at short, though ankle injuries have limited his contributions the past two seasons. His glovework was worth -1 outs above average over a 30-game sample in 2020 before he opted out, but in just 103 games the year prior, he was second among all shortstops with 12 OAA. It’s not at all a reach to suggest that Simmons is a generational talent on the defensive end.
There are more questions on the offensive side of the game. For his career, Simmons owns a slash line of .269/.317/.379 with a career 90 wRC+. The 31-year-old won’t be asked to carry the weight of the offense on a Twins’ club that has been known for its power output in recent years. Of course, two major contributors to the Bomba Squad – Eddie Rosario and Nelson Cruz – are currently free agents.*
Last season, Simmons slashed .297/.346/.356 across 127 plate appearances with a 12.6 percent strikeout rate and 6.3 percent walk rate. Simmons is one of the toughest players in the game to strikeout, though that’s in part because he’s a free swinger who doesn’t take many walks. His batter ball numbers weren’t good in 2020 – for example, zero barrels – but in such a small sample it’s tough to glean much substance.
The question Twins fans will ask is whether this signing precludes Minnesota from a reunion with designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Signing Simmons at this price point for one year could certainly be seen as a way to save money. In terms of maximizing flexibility, replacing Cruz with Simmons certainly accomplishes the task. That said, there’s an argument to be made that adding Simmons to the defense make Cruz an even better fit on the offensive end. Last we heard, however, there hasn’t been much movement on talks between the Twins and Cruz – though with this box checked, talks could just as well open up again. That figures to change, or way or another, with Simmons now in the fold. The Twins might not be done, however. Per the Athletic’s Dan Hayes (via Twitter), someone with the clubs says they have “two more moves ahead before the offseason is out.”
In terms of his value relative to the market, Minnesota nets Simmons for slightly less than we projected for him at the outset of free agency – MLBTR forecast $12MM. He lands pretty firmly between the one-year deals signed by his peers today. Marcus Semien signed for $18MM, while Freddy Galvis signed for $1.5MM. All three will now re-enter free agency next season when Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Javier Baez are also set to hit the open market.
*Rosario has since signed with the Indians.