Angels in the mix for Andrelton Simmons …
Buster Olney of ESPN reported Thursday that the Angels are among the teams in pursuit of Simmons, a 26-year-old who is controllable for five more seasons and is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Erick Aybar, 32 in January, is heading into his final year before free agency and 21-year-old Roberto Baldoquin, given an $8 million signing bonus last December, is seemingly a long way from being Major League ready.
The question, as usual, is whether the Angels can come up with the prospect package to get it done.
Simmons is one of few remaining players that can bring the Braves a significant return for their farm system. First baseman Freddie Freeman and starting pitcher Julio Teheran are the others, but the Braves haven’t given any indication that they want to trade Freeman and would be selling low on Teheran.
The Braves desperately need bats, something the Angels sorely lack in their Minor League system. But general manager John Coppolella reiterated Thursday that he’s always seeking arms, and the Angels have compiled some intriguing pitching prospects over the last couple of years.
Their top prospect, by a wide margin, is burly left-hander Sean Newcomb, who ranks 19th overall, according to MLB.com’s rankings, and could start next season in Triple-A. The Angels have been unwilling to include Newcomb in prior deals, and it remains to be seen whether he’d be an option to acquire Simmons.
Chris Ellis (ranked second in the Angels’ system), Victor Alcantara (third), Joe Gatto (fourth) and Nate Smith (fifth) could possibly be made available in the deal. Perhaps so can young relievers like Trevor Gott, Mike Morin or Cam Bedrosian.
If the Braves seek volume, as opposed to star power, the Angels may have a shot.
Any deal for Simmons is expected to include Aybar, an important part of the Angels’ fabric for the better part of a decade. The Braves want to clear money for the 2017 season and Aybar, making $8.5 million next year, will be off the books by then. At that point, Braves top prospect Ohzaino Albies may be ready to take over at shortstop.
Simmons, who was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, has batted a subpar .252/.301/.357 since the start of the 2013 season. During that time, though, he also has a Major League-best 94 Defensive Runs Saved.
The Braves, coming off a 95-loss season, are open to anything.
“We need to be open to considering anything that makes us better,” Coppolella told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. “For us, we aren’t looking to trade any of our players. But I think when you look at some of the teams that were in the playoffs and World Series, you will see the benefits they gained from making tough trades a few years ago.”