It was quite the night for free agent signings in the shortstop department. Shortly after the Blue Jays signed Marcus Semien for a whopping 1-year/$18 million contract on Tuesday, the Twins opted for veteran Andrelton Simmons.
The 31-year-old Simmons spent the last five seasons as a member of the Angels, where recently he dealt with some ankle issues and opted out of the last few games of the shortened 2020 season. While his 2019 campaign showed some decline in most offensive categories, there was promise during the 30 games Simmons played last year.
This leads to the perfect one-year deal for both Simmons and the Twins’ ballclub. Simmons gets to play for a contender, and the Twins get an obvious upgrade at the shortstop position to see if Simmons can be the stud he has been in the past.
Minnesota only paid $10 million in the Simmons deal, which puts his annual earnings right between the likes of Javier Baez and Carlos Correa. The Twins can give Simmons the full-time position at shortstop, move Jorge Polanco to second base where he’s less prone to errors, and Luis Arraez can fit the new utilty role after the departures of Ehire Adrianza and Marwin Gonzalez. For what it’s worth, Gonzalez made about the same amount of money last year as Simmons will this year.
Arraez and Polanco could even split time and get fully healthy, as both dealt with injuries last season. If Simmons struggles, the Twins have a failsafe where they could call up prospect Royce Lewis, either during the 2021 season or after Simmons’ contract expires.
The best case scenario, though, is Simmons plays on a trajectory level to what he has in the past, which is a shortstop with Hall of Fame level defense. Simmons currently ranks as the 14th-best defensive player of all-time, based on defensive WAR. The only other active players in the top 100 of that category are Yadier Molina and Kevin Kiermaier. Couple Simmons with the likes of Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton, and the Twins will be a fearsome defensive team this upcoming season.
Simmons won’t have the ability to hit bombas like the rest of the Minnesota squad, but much like Arraez, Simmons doesn’t strike out much and works the count. Both players have a career strikeout rate around 9-10%, and forcing the opposing team to throw more pitches may lead to more success with the power hitters later in the batting order.
All in all, this is a great “show-me” signing by Minnesota, and with the cash they effectively saved by not going for Semien or Gonzalez, they may still yet have some noise to make in free agency.
Photo credit: Paul Rodriguez, San Bernadino Sun