On a busy Tuesday evening full of infield signings and Hall of Fame drama, the Minnesota Twins made a splash.
The reigning American League Central champions shored up the middle of their own infield by signing defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons to a one-year, $10.5 million deal, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons and the Minnesota Twins are in agreement on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 27, 2021
Simmons, 31, is a former second-round pick of the Atlanta Braves. He found his way to the Los Angeles Angels by way of a five-player trade in 2015 and has played for the Halos in all five seasons since the swap.
The Western Oklahoma State College product is part of an elite class of defensive infielders. His 160.1 defensive fWAR since 2012 ranks first among all non-catchers, putting him a whopping 64.4 wins ahead of the next-best player (Brandon Crawford, 95.7). He added 50.7 defensive fWAR between 2017 and 2018 alone.
Outside of two games at designated hitter, Simmons has only played shortstop, and he will surely keep the same position as he heads to Minnesota. Simmons joins outfielder and fellow defensive star Byron Buxton in the center of the Twins’ defensive alignment, providing pitchers with plenty of comfort up the middle.
While Simmons carries elite skill in the field, his presence at the plate is very pleasing. While some defensive players use their glove to make up for a lack of ability at the plate, this is not true with Simmons. The Curacao native owns a career .269/.317/.379 slash line with 406 runs on 1,064 hits, including 67 home runs. Furthermore, 2020 was a career year offensively for Simmons as he finished the campaign with career-highs in batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.346).
Simmons’s vision at the plate also makes him a major asset. He has struck out in just nine percent of at-bats since his MLB debut in 2012, which is the third-lowest rate in baseball during that time (minimum 1,000 plate appearances). Even with his single-season strikeout rate of 12 percent in 2020, he still finished in the top-five percentile among all qualified players. He also finished in the top seven percent in whiff rate. His 6.2 percent walk rate is subpar, but it’s a very fair trade-off when considering how infrequently he strikes out.
All in all, it’s safe to regard Simmons as one of the most underrated players in baseball. He is evidently a Tier 1 fielder and has proven that he can exceed expectations at the plate, too. He should slot in nicely with the Twins ahead of another postseason pursuit.