Jonah Keri dropped the first bomb of the offseason on Wednesday night by tweeting about the Braves having trade talks with an NL West team revolving around Andrelton Simmons.
Naturally, Twitter blew up. The Giants have been ruled out, which makes sense. But, all four other teams in the division could be logical landing spots for the game’s best defensive shortstop. Yes, even the Dodgers.
Looking at this with a wider lens, anytime there’s a chance to acquire elite talent, it’s foolish to pass on the opportunity. This isn’t the same as missing out on David Price at the trade deadline last year.
Simmons, 26, is signed for five more seasons at an extremely team-friendly $53 million. He’s heading into his prime and could, conceivably, get better at the plate. While he won’t always be the best defensive shortstop (player?) in the game, he’s good for that for at least the life of the contract. Seeing as the Dodgers have Corey Seager slotted in at shortstop right now, getting that much of a defensive upgrade is probably worth a couple win or so by itself. While Seager could handle shortstop for a few years, he’s eventually going to move to third base. There’s no denying that.
Simmons has two elite tools — his glove and arm. Having players who do things better than other players is never a bad thing. And having a left side of Simmons and Seager is awfully attractive.
The Dodgers’ defense wasn’t bad in 2015, but it wasn’t great, either. Zack Greinke was great, but he’s just a pitcher. Justin Turner was solid at third base, which was pleasant after the trade of Juan Uribe. Joc Pederson started off strong in center field and was more middle-of-the-pack by season’s end (by, admittedly, not 100 percent reliable defensive metrics). Shortstop was fine, but upgrading at the most important defensive position cannot be overstated. Going from Hanley Ramirez to Jimmy Rollins was quite a leap. Going from Rollins (and Seager) to Simmons would be a similar leap.
The burning question, if Simmons were acquired, is: What about Turner? The easy answer is he’d be slotted in as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman. However, there are a few concerns with that.
Turner wasn’t a true everyday player during the season because of a balky knee. A knee he just had surgery on earlier this offseason. A knee that he also had a microfracture procedure on at the same time. There’s no doubt it takes less range to play third base than second base, and there’s no telling how his knee would respond to playing mostly second base. And over the course of his career, he has poor defensive numbers at the position.
- 952 1/3 innings
- -19 defensive runs saved
- -19.7 UZR/150
While having your worst defender on the field at second base isn’t that detrimental, it might stand out over the course of the season.
Odds are, if Simmons were, somehow, acquired, I think Turner could be traded (i.e. sold high) rather than moved to second base. The Dodgers could upgrade the left-side defense for cheaper than it’d cost to re-sign Howie Kendrick or signing a free agent like Daniel Murphy or Ben Zobrist while keeping Seager at shortstop and Turner at third. They could also improve by acquiring a piece/pieces for Turner (and maybe other pieces). His trade value will probably never be higher (even despite the surgery). He has proven the last two seasons that he can hit. He is a free agent after the season and would be qualifying-offer eligible if he is traded in the off season and not traded again during the season.
The question the front office would have to ask is: Would the defensive upgrade on the left side be worth losing Turner’s bat? That’s a huge question, as Turner was the Dodgers’ most consistent hitter in 2015.
With Enrique Hernandez and Jose Peraza and the possibility of Chase Utley coming back, it isn’t like the Dodgers don’t have internal options for a second baseman. I’m guessing the front office would prefer a more stable option, but it has also shown it likes platoons. Still, the offensive production of that trio would pale in comparison to what Turner has done in the last two seasons. But the defensive rigors of playing second base could also have a negative impact on his offense. There are, obviously, a ton of variables involved.
Turner was the Dodgers’ best contact hitter in 2015, and Simmons brings a contact-oriented approach with him. I wrote a bit about it last week. Simmons had an 89.3 percent contact rate in 2015 — eighth-best in baseball. He paired that with the ninth-lowest swinging strike rate at 4.9 percent. He doesn’t walk a ton (6.2 percent for his career), but he also doesn’t strike out (9.2 percent). Unfortunately, he doesn’t hit the ball very hard.
The difference between Simmons and guys like Jason Heyward, Murphy, Turner, Zobrist and other higher-contact hitters is those guys hit the ball considerably harder than Simmons does. There’s no telling if Simmons could get back to his 2013 level of hitting (17 home runs, .149 ISO, 91 wRC+), but perhaps with some tutelage and a change of scenery, he could get closer to that. If he does, he’ll be a 4-to-5-win player annually and well worth what it’d take to get him. That’s a big “if,” though.
Also, I’m not going to go into what it’d cost to get Simmons (it’s a lot). The Dodgers asked about Simmons when they were in the process of trading for Alex Wood in July, so there is obviously interest from the front office. I doubt Simmons comes to LA, but it’d be awfully fun to see him play shortstop in Chavez Ravine.