Let me be clear, I am not down on most of Eppler’s moves this off-season. Trevor Cahill is cool, I guess. Harvey is fine or whatever. I have made it known that I like Bour. La Stella is pretty good at getting on base. It’s been a very bland and bleak winter overall, but the prerogative does not lie in the pieces we’ve attained.
The real problem is that the front office has fallen into a pattern of stopgapping. Everyone that gets signed has either one or two years left and is meant to “hold us over” until the prospects that Eppler has stockpiled can make it to the show. We continue to settle for the void just outside the playoffs in a perpetual bid for a Wild Card spot because the team has been trapped in that deadly pitfall between “payroll restrictions” and “too few good pitching prospects in the high minors.”
I get it. It’s important to maintain an atmosphere of effort in spite of a low budget and many holes or you lose a significant amount of the fan base and probably Mike Trout. On the other hand, it’s important to get an influx of talent from the farm to push us into the playoffs sooner rather than later or the same problem happens. So you’re half-assing both the rebuild and the competitive nature of the team.
But the thing is, the Angels still have a means to acquire the pieces they need to truly be a playoff team again. It’s time we talked about trading Andrelton Simmons.
Before the personal attacks and death threats come rolling in, remember that I am a humongous fan of Simba and hear me out.
On Kiley McDaniel’s Trade Value rankings that came out back in July, Simmons was ranked at #37, ahead of such players as James Paxton, Trevor Bauer, Max Scherzer, and Walker Buehler. Here is the synopsis.
Dave Cameron has mentioned in the past, and I’ve also found in my research, that clubs aren’t bullish on paying for defense. Defense peaks earlier than offense, as it’s tied more closely to athleticism than hitting, and there are more than a few clubs that seem to be hesitant to pay for things they can’t completely wrap their arms around. In a ranking of assets using just a cold, calculating algorithm that uses UZR-infused WAR, Simmons would be a little higher. That said, Simmons is on pace for his second consecutive career year in Los Angeles of Anaheim and he has an affordable 2.5 years left on his deal, making him one of the better short-term assets in the game.
Simba is owed 28M guaranteed through his age 29 season, making him both inexpensive and young. There’s no doubt he would fetch a pretty penny in terms of pitching talent. There are two burning questions though:
1. Can the Angels afford to make this move?
To answer this, we must first look at our infield. Let’s examine the depth.
3rd Base - La Stella, Fletcher, Cozart
Shortstop - Simmons, Cozart, Fletcher, Rengifo
2nd Base - Cozart, La Stella, Fletcher, Rengifo
1st Base - Pujols, Bour, Literally Anything Else
We have a logjam at 2B and SS. Putting Cozart at Shortstop and Fletcher and La Stella playing 2nd or 3rd with Rengifo waiting in the wings is perfectly acceptable. Simmons is completely expendable, especially as La Stella is expected to provide around the same level of offensive output.
2. Can the Angels afford to not make this move?
What are the consequences of the front office sitting on their hands and keeping Andrelton? Can we afford to re-sign him? If each and every one of us intends for Trout to re-up as an Angel, do you really think that Arte is going to keep Simba? Will Trout even re-sign if we don’t put the necessary pieces around him to make it to the World Series? We only have two years of Simmons left anyway and one of those has been proven to be filled with yet more stopgaps!
Here are some likely scenarios.
If Simmons is traded for good, young pitching help,
the Angels make it to the playoffs again due to the marginal upgrade he provides over Cozart at shortstop (another phenomenal defender) being outweighed by the huge upgrade the pitching provides over the current rotation. Retaining the inexpensive pitching help for multiple years presents an opportunity to make it back to the playoffs each year as many more contracts fall off the books and Barria, Canning, Suarez, and other young pitchers develop. This allows the team to re-sign Trout and go through the 2020’s with the greatest hitter of our era as true competitors. Also, the salary relief is helpful too for signing another piece like Grandal or another arm.
If Simmons is not traded this year,
he will either be traded next offseason, or at the 2020 deadline after another year of the Angels wallowing in mediocrity. This will completely eradicate all of the aforementioned value and we will have gotten considerably less out of a trade with no playoff appearances to show for it. Remember, we’ve already been shown that the Angels are going to half-ass 2019.
If he does not get traded at all,
he will not be re-signed, we will not have the pitching to convince Trout to re-sign or fans to keep watching, and we will continue to struggle until Trout leaves and the Angels enter a full rebuild finally in the mid 2020’s having effectively wasted the primes of Andrelton Simmons, Mike Trout, and Shohei Ohtani for absolutely nothing. And good luck with any of them going into the Hall as Angels.
If we entertain the idea of trading Simmons, the most likely trade partner would be a very thrilled Braves organization. They have the prospects to make it happen and the pitching to make us contenders while also improving over the relative disaster that Dansby Swanson has devolved into. They get a better version of Simmons for fewer years, we probably get something a lot like Sean Newcomb back in return, and both parties are happy with the way that we developed each other’s pieces. Yes, it’s funny, but it also makes sense for both sides.
I love Andrelton Simmons and he’s already probably my favorite Angels shortstop of all time, but it’s time we cash in on his 3 years of offensive success coupled with Ozzie Smith-like defense and get back into real contention. Otherwise we’ll all look back on this moment 2 or 3 years from now, eyes closed, nodding our heads in silent, knowing agreement that we should have traded Simba before we’d missed the boat—
And miss the boat we did.