Suddenly, Atlanta is the home of contract extensions. After committing over $200M to four players, Atlanta has avoided the year-to-year arbitration process with some of the core of their team and if you are to believe the many articles released recently, the Braves are not done. After all, only two pitchers are signed past 2014. The left side of the infield is currently not signed after 2014, either. For some reason, the Braves have a panda that hasn’t been extended, too.
Now, the majority of those players are team-controlled for the next couple of seasons. In fact, only three players (Gavin Floyd, Ryan Doumit, and Gerald Laird) are entering their final year of their contract. The Braves don’t have to extend anyone else to retain them outside of those three.
That doesn’t mean the Braves will not extend another member (or two) of their young team before the 2014 season kicks off. One player in particular who seems likely to be targeted by the Braves is Andrelton Simmons. The Platinum Award-winning shortstop is a part of the long-term future for the Braves and every pitcher in baseball would love to have him at short. His 41 DRS last year is one of my favorite stats. DRS stands for Defensive Runs Saved, or essentially quantifies the phrase “he’s got RBI’s in his glove.” Not only was it the highest DRS in baseball, the guy who finished in second place among shortstops has 12. Perhaps I should emphasize that. Simmons had 41 DRS and the second best shortstop had 12. Since 2011, only Brendan Ryan has more than 41 DRS among shortstops and it took him three years. Simmons has 60 and he played all of 2011 in Lynchburg.
That’s just a way of saying that Simmons’ defense is pretty awesome.
The only problem, as far as a contract extension goes, is that defense rarely pays. Ryan, one of the better defenders at shortstop before the arrival of Simmons, made $6M in his three arbitration years. But Ryan is a notable awful offensive player with a career .237/.299/.320 slash.
Adam Everett was a tremendous defender, but never made more than $2.8M in a single season and OPS’d .640 over an 880-game career that ended in 2011.
Former Brave Jack Wilson was renowned for his defense, though he also occasionally flashed a bat, especially during a 2004 season where he slashed .308/.335/.459. He had another solid offensive season three years later when he OPS’d .791. Between those two big seasons, he even inked a $20M extension that covered three years. But outside of two seasons, he sucked with the bat.
Even late 90’s sensation Rey Ordonez is a tough comparison because while he was a great defender, he never could hit.
So, coming to an agreement between the Braves and Simmons is going to be very tough. Even though Simmons had a subpar offensive season last year, he still hit 17 homers. He’s young enough and was solid enough in the minors to believe he can perform at a much higher offensive level.
Simmons wants to be paid for one-of-a-kind defense, impressive power for a middle infielder, and the potential his bat will be even better. The Braves want to pay for great defense, good power, and a bat that needs work. It will be very difficult for a contract to come from that. Simmons is likely going to be Super 2 next year so he will hit arbitration a year early. I doubt that the Braves will get an extension for Simmons, but it could happen after the season when both sides have more results to base offers and counter-offers on.
Though…I didn’t think Craig Kimbrel would get an extension so tomorrow, we might know about an extension for Simmons.