It didn’t take long for the Los Angeles Angels’ new general manager, Billy Eppler, to make his first trade move — shipping out long-time shortstop, Erick Aybar, along with their top two minor-league pitching prospects, Sean Newcomb and Christopher Ellis, to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Los Angeles also paid Atlanta $2.5 million to balance Aybar and Simmons’s salaries and received minor-league catcher, Jose Briceno, in return in the trade. Make no mistake, it was a hefty price to get Simmons. Newcomb was viewed as the Angels’ top prospect after a solid 2015 season playing at three different minor-league levels, holding a combined 9-3 record with a 2.38 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 136 innings pitched. As for Ellis, he had an 11-9 record with a 3.90 ERA in 26 starts pitching for Double-AA Arkansas and Single-A Inland Empire.
It may be a blow to the team’s long-term future, but their current pitching rotation is full of young pitchers such as Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Skaggs — he returns after missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. This doesn’t suggest that the Angels are rock solid in regards to their pitching staff, but the loss of two pitching prospects isn’t a huge blow considering the group of young arms already in the majors.
The deal was, for the most part, a swap of Gold Glove shortstops. Aybar provided stability with his bat and glove for Los Angeles over his first nine seasons in the majors. The Angels may have willingly moved the former All-Star because he was in the last year of his contract and experienced a slight decline in his production with his lowest batting average (.270) and RBI total (44) since the 2010 season.
With that in mind, the Halos are getting a talented player in Simmons — definitely worth the big asking price. He is arguably the best defensive player at his position in the league; a two-time Gold Glove winner who was just named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year. He is only 26 years old and will be under contract through the 2020 season under a reasonable base salary, making $11 million in 2018, $13 million in 2019, and $15 million in 2020.
Although Simmons took a dip offensively, hitting just .265 with four home runs and 44 RBIs, there’s still plenty of time for him to grow into a more consistent hitter as he enters his prime. He has already shown to be a difficult out at the plate, striking out 60 times or less in each of his first three full seasons.
What this move does is erase any question about a long-term future at the position. Aybar — set to enter next offseason as a free agent — was expected to pursue a long-term deal, which would push his asking price out of the range that the Angels were willing to spend.
This follows Eppler’s plan to build around the core of the team for long-term success. He locked another piece of the puzzle under contract for the next five seasons, which will provide the team with stability and strong defensive play. Simmons has many productive seasons ahead of him, which might equate to several more Gold Gloves.
All in all, the Angels made a smart decision to acquire a promising shortstop in Simmons, who still has his best years ahead of him. Now the focus shifts to the team’s bigger issues in filling their holes at third base and left field.
All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.go.com.