Don’t Judge Simmons Trade… Yet

It’s natural. We want instant results. We don’t want to wait for anything when we feel we should have it now. It’s an appropriate human response, but it’s not one that a baseball general manager should have. When the Braves traded Andrelton Simmons in November, Braves fans were upset and disappointed. At least they got a major league shortstop back in Erick Aybar and Ozhaino Albies was in the minor leagues waiting. Now that Aybar has struggled offensively and defensively, fans are already calling for the trade that shipped Simmons to Los Angeles. Is it fair to judge the trade yet? Let’s answer that with a quick “no” and then tell you why:

Aybar Wasn’t the Prize

Sure, Aybar is the Braves starting shortstop, but he wasn’t the prize of the trade. That is something that Jeff Schultz, a writer for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, doesn’t really understand.

Well Jeff, that’s not really correct. The thing to understand about Schultz is that he’s always been a knee-jerk reaction columnist and you don’t have to look far to see proof. Schultz openly bashed the Atlanta Hawks for acquiring Tim Hardaway Jr. for their first round pick last year before half of the NBA season had been played. Jeff, quite simply, would not make a good baseball general manager.

The real prize was Sean Newcomb. A young, left-handed pitcher who possesses the tools to be a future top of the rotation starter at the major league level. Newcomb comes with his short comings, which is notably his poor control. If the Braves are able to get him on track, then they traded an all glove, no bat shortstop (a position of strength in their system, mind you) for a pitcher that can lead the charge for years to come. If you really want to examine the Simmons trade, you need to look at how Newcomb develops. He was the prize.

Chris Ellis was the other prospect acquired in the trade and there’s not much information about him. He was the Angels No. 2 prospect, but he falls outside of the Braves Top 10. Both pitchers are in Double-A Mississippi, so if you want to examine the Simmons trade, you should be watching the team further west than Atlanta.

Simmons’ Value Was at Highest

I loved watching Simmons play shortstop. He was smart and he was talented. But let’s not kid ourselves, his value was at an all-time high. He had an awful plate approach and (here’s the real kicker for all of those clamoring for his defense) his range was declining! Simmons was able to hide his poor range due to his ridiculously strong arm. If Simmons’ range continues to decrease, he will no longer be playing shortstop at an elite level. He’ll have to move to third base, which can be a tricky transition for shortstops, or second base. His defensive value will not be nearly the point in three years that it is now.

Let’s not even mention his offense. Actually, let’s do exactly that to help us justify this trade. What has Simmons done offensively for the Braves? His highest OPS+ ever in a Braves uniform was 101 (100 is the major league average) and that was in 182 plate appearances. After that, his OPS+ was 90, 75 and 86. Ouch. So the Braves traded a shortstop who will not be an elite defender in the coming years and with minimal offensive production and people are mad about it? When Simmons starts to lose a step defensively, that’s when he’ll be making and average salary of $13M. Yes, he’s under contract, but with no offense and diminishing range, do you really want to pay someone that much money? And, yes, I understand that sabermetrics do not tell the entire story with defense, but the Braves are a sabermetric ball club and they rely heavily on those stats. That’s another reason why they made the trade.

It’s Five Games

Through five games, Trevor Story has seven home runs (on pace for 189), 12 players are hitting .400 or better, Baltimore is undefeated and the Braves are winless. I’m willing to bet that none of these things are being talked about in July. None. Why? Because it’s five games. 97 percent of the baseball season remains. Yes, Aybar has two errors and has struggled defensively. I remember Simmons made several errors over the course of a week two years ago. Everyone can go through a slump. It’s not unheard. Aybar might get into a groove and hit .280/.320/.380 and be a fine stop gap for Albies or Dansby Swanson. Then again, he might not. It’s early. No one knows what to expect. What we can do is keep our heads on our bodies and not judge anything based on five games. That’s it for this section, as it’s common knowledge not to judge something based on immediate results (John Smoltz anybody?).

There you have it. It’s really not hard.

Did I like the trade? Meh. I thought the Braves could have gotten more for Simmons, but what if they couldn’t? What if that was their best offer? It’s something to think about, Braves fans. Look at what they got for Miller, Heyward, Upton and more. They didn’t trade him just to trade him. There were reasons. Maybe the reason they got Newcomb and Ellis was because that was the best offer. If so, the rest of baseball agrees with this article, while Schultz and biased fans are left behind.

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