The Cubs and shortstop Andrelton Simmons have agreed to a one-year contract that will pay Simmons $4MM plus incentives, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) was the first to report that the two sides were closing in on a deal. Simmons is represented by ISE Baseball.
One of the best defensive players of all time, ankle injuries led to an uncharacteristically mediocre season of glovework for Simmons in 2020, but he looked much more like his old self this past season with the Twins. Simmons posted a +16 Outs Above Average and +15 Defensive Runs Saved over 1091 2/3 innings at shortstop last year, though the UZR/150 metric (-1.1) took a dimmer view of his performance.
While Simmons’ age (32) and recent history of ankle problems are undoubtedly a concern, it would certainly seem like he should still be a defensive plus in the middle of the Cubs infield. Such quality defense will be particularly important since it has been three years since Simmons has been even a league-average hitter, with only a .250/.302/.323 slash line to show for his last 1002 plate appearances since the start of the 2019 season.
Glovework has always been Simmons’ calling card, yet in the few seasons (2017 and 2018) where he has provided both a solid bat along with his excellent defense, Simmons looked like one of the game’s most valuable players. It remains to be seen if he can get back to that all-around form, yet the Cubs would be satisfied if he can merely provide his usual stellar work at shortstop.
Simmons will be filling the defensive void left behind by another Gold Glove-winning shortstop in Javier Baez, who was dealt to the Mets last summer as part of the Cubs’ trade deadline fire sale. As much as the Cubs tore things down pre-deadline, however, the team has been looking to build things back up to make at least some attempt at contending in 2022, adding Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley, and Yan Gomes prior to the lockout.
Of course, Chicago had been linked to another prominent shortstop in Carlos Correa, with the logic being that the Cubs could now afford Correa’s big asking price after clearing so much future salary off the books. The Simmons deal could quite possibly indicate that the Cubs have opted out of the Correa sweepstakes, and yet as journalist Sung Min Kim speculates, Simmons’ $4MM salary “is not necessarily starter money.” Theoretically, the Cubs could still sign Correa and then use the two players in a timeshare at shortstop, with the other perhaps moving to second base or third base.
This would allow the Cubs to juggle Nick Madrigal or Patrick Wisdom (the other incumbent infield starters) in and out of the lineup as the situation warrants, and the DH spot is also now available for Chicago to work with in 2022 and beyond. Madrigal’s health is also a bit of a question mark, as he underwent season-ending hamstring surgery last summer, though reports from January indicated that the young infielder was making good progress in his recovery. Nico Hoerner had been penciled into the starting shortstop job, but with Simmons now in the fold, the Cubs can continue experimenting with Hoerner as a multi-position player.