Ouch. The Braves dumped MLB’s second-best position player

Still a good glove. But now a good enough bat. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Wins/losses don’t offer the greatest reflection of how a pitcher actually pitches, but this is worth noting: Sean Newcomb won a game Sunday. It was his second big-league victory. It technically wasn’t a Quality Start — he lasted five innings, yielding five hits and five walks — but he wasn’t touched for a run and the Atlanta Braves prevailed 8-1.

After a promising June and a wretched July, Newcomb is doing in August what you hope every young pitcher does: After getting worse, he has gotten better. (Still walking too many, though.) His August ERA is 3.32 after a July in which it was 7.61. Nobody’s nominating him as The Next Kershaw just yet, but he’s holding his place in a major-league rotation, which is more than we could say for Aaron Blair.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, because the Braves need all the starting pitchers they can find. (Julio Teheran’s ERA has again ticked over 5.00, and he hasn’t won a game at SunTrust Park since April 26.) Second, because the man the Braves surrendered to land Newcomb has been …

The second-best position player in baseball this season.

Here’s the complete list of MLB position players who have a better Baseball-Reference WAR than Andrelton Simmons’s 6.2: Jose Altuve at 6.9. And that’s it.

There’s Altuve, who should be the American League MVP, and then Simba, whom the Braves decided — not without some evidence, we should note — wouldn’t hit enough to justify his peerless glove.

Yeah, there are mitigating factors. Had Mike Trout and Freddie Freeman not missed much of the summer, they’d be way higher in WAR than they are. (With nearly 200 fewer at-bats than Altuve, Trout still has a 5.4 WAR. Trout is amazing.) But Joey Votto, to pick a name seen recently in Cobb County, is a great player having a great season who has stayed healthy, and his B-WAR is 5.9.

Oh, and there’s this: The Angels, who employ both Simmons and Trout, are essentially tied for the AL’s second wild card. (Tied with the Twins, if you can believe that, who Sunday saw Bartolo Colon win his third game for them, if you can believe that.)

The intent isn’t to keep hammering the Braves for a trade always seen as audacious. (Many Braves fans found other adjectives.) Over his final two seasons here, Simmons had become one of the worst hitters in the majors. The catch was that he didn’t strike out much. There’s always a chance that a guy who puts the ball in play might figure something out. (There’s also the chance he might just be overmatched.)

Simmons’ 2017 numbers — .292/.345/.451 — all represent career bests, meaning it’s possible this is a one-off. His wRC+ (weighted runs created with park values factored in) is 116, which is above league-average (meaning 100) but nothing spectacular.

Still, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .302, which isn’t terribly elevated. (Altuve’s is .367.) That suggests the great defender could just have learned how to hit, and there’s precedent. Check Ozzie Smith’s career batting numbers. They went from substandard to pretty much OK, especially when you considered what the best-ever shortstop did when he wasn’t batting.

Yes, the greater part of Simmons’ value lies in his work afield. He leads the majors in defensive WAR at 3.1; nobody else is above 2.5. The Braves never believed he’d be anything less than an exceptional defender, but they were in the second offseason of their rebuild around pitching and they took a chance that his overall value wouldn’t rise above the great-glove/no-hit level. It has, and here’s the real kick in the pants:

Simmons is making $8 million this season, $4.5 million less than the Braves paid the jettisoned Colon. Meanwhile, the Braves’ shortstop of the future, acquired in a trade 3 1/2 weeks after Simmons was shipped west, lost his job to Johan Camargo and was demoted to Gwinnett. After Camargo hurt himself on the foul line, Dansby Swanson was recalled from Triple-A and has lifted his batting average to .222. His WAR value is minus-0.1.

Reader Comments 0

37 comments
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lowlow
lowlow

I shared season tickets for over 30 years with a group of guys.  There were many reasons I dropped out of the group but the trading of Simmons was about the last straw of many reasons.  Dumb, dumb and dumber to trade him away.  You knew he would learn to hit better, had a good contract, was young and oh yeah he could field a little.

Bob_the_Blogger
Bob_the_Blogger

I found it odd that the Braves traded Simmons, since they were rebuilding around pitching, and Simmons single handedly made all of their pitchers better.

NorwegianB
NorwegianB

My favorite Braves memories of the past 20 years:

1. Greg Maddux on the mound.

2. Chipper at the plate.

3. Simmons in the field.

lowlow
lowlow

@NorwegianBlue Good post.  Maddox was a genius. Chipper knew the strike zone like no other Brave in history.  He just didn't swing at pitches out of the strike zone.  Although Freddie is very good too but he's not Chipper.  And Simmons fielding was fun to watch.    

#41
#41

Tomorrow Mark (Mr. Joy) will probably write - go on and on into every detail - about the ditching of Kimbrel and I will then have to seek professional help.

#41
#41

Geeezzz Mark. You had to remind me of the awful decision to trade Andrelton. You just had to do it. 


I am so depressed. 

JeffCriswell
JeffCriswell

We have a very good SS prospect in Dansby Swanson.  Swanson has natural leadership that a lot of other folks don't. Agreed that Newcombe has to pan out, though, or the Simmons trade goes down as another (et al, Alex Wood) huge bust. Newcombe has not looked awful and seems to show some upside. Let's give him a chance. If he becomes even a middle of rotation starter then we have much to be happy for. 

Jayce Brittain Dickens
Jayce Brittain Dickens

3 players have come from the island of Curacao to make it to the majors....Andruw Jones, Simba, and Albies...i think the braves own that market...lol

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Trading Simmons was a huge mistake. Said it then, saying it now. Huge mistake. They delivered a message and I got it loud and clear - haven't paid my way to a game since.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

So the Braves dumped the #2 position player in MLB Andrelton Simmons , they also dumped his salary which begins to escalate upward from $8 Million in 2017 to $11 Million in 2018 to $13 million in 2019 and $15 Million in 2020. The Braves are currently paying their Starting SS the MLB minimum $540,000 ,and the price or performance may not increase until 2019 or later. A savings of about $ 40 million (2017-2019). 

Zapp
Zapp

Are you saying the management couldn't pick Mickey Mantle if he was available.  That's true before and after Schuerholz, and it seems only he knew talent in the entire Braves Atlanta experience.

Soybean Bob
Soybean Bob

Generally speaking, folks regard me as a knowledgeable sports fan.  That said, all of the baseball metric-speak really doesn't mean anything to 95% of your audience.  Baseball is a great sport, but metric-speak is not part of its greatness.

bowman
bowman

@Soybean Bob You're hammering Mark Bradley in his sweet spot. He builds numerous columns entirely on metrics, thus avoiding the cumbersome task of interacting with human beings and being forced to interview and take notes. If my eyes don't glaze offer, I usually get to his less than insightful finish.

Mike755
Mike755

Don't forget before Simmons, the Braves traded another young shortstop to the Texas Rangers, Elvis Andrus.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Bradley works less than Congress

TideDawg
TideDawg

Young talented infielders make great plays that few players make. As Infielders get older they still make great plays on balls that were routine plays....... when they were younger and faster. It's true they gain experience, but age is the grim reaper of speed and quickness.

patriotdog
patriotdog

@TideDawg Outfielder are victim of it, as well.  And in Andruw's case, sometimes they become a victim not of age but of weight which also makes the great play necessary where it was a routine play in the faster, lighter days.  

TideDawg
TideDawg

I didn't like the Braves playing Matt Kemp. I gained a lot of respect for Matt when he came back this year and gave it everything he had in the first half. Now he's out of gas and should be platooned with Adams. He can't play every day and contribute. He's leading the team in hitting into double plays. His bat is a lot heavier now and he's slower, he's become more of a liability. The fact that no team wanted him or any of the retreads makes some of the decisions the Braves made very questionable, However, Garcia & Colon have survived, not thriving, but not bad either, are exceptions.  The Braves had a good first half, my opinion is that a lot of the veterans played hard hoping to be traded to winners. That didn't happen! After the trade deadline there has been a big drop off in production and the appearance of going through the motion just enough to get through the season.




jmccoy1252
jmccoy1252

I didn't like this trade then and I still don't. However, if we had kept Andrelton the trade with the D-Backs may never had taken place and we would not have received Inciarte and we may have held onto Shelby Miller. So who knows how the dominoes would have fallen?

brushback69
brushback69

I don't like being reminded we gave up and gave away Simmons...

TideDawg
TideDawg

@brushback69  What would Simmons be contributing that is not being contributed at SS now for the Braves. Simmons always seemed to have the "don't give a damn" attitude. Maybe not, it just looked that way at times. Kimbrel may have saved the 8 games that Johnson blew......where would that put the Braves now.....8 more wins and still out of the playoff picture?

slydawg
slydawg

Add about 8 more games for all the errors Simmons would not have made and now where ya at? What about a trade for Chris Sale when you had the best opportunity and now where would this team be? It's all guesswork at the end of the day....

DAWGnGA
DAWGnGA

I said it then, I will say it now, bat or no bat, Simmons was the most valuable player on the field. 


If you have a young pitching staff, what you need is a strong team up the middle.  Once that can turn base hits into outs.  Players that can get a pitcher out of an inning with their glove.   A strong middle comes you in the game.  If they dont score or score 3  runs or less you are never out of the game. 


With Simba hitting 8th batting 240, I was ok with that.  Someone is going to hit 8th, he might has well be the best fielder you have on the team.  He has alway been considered one of the best in the game with the glove.


Look when Cox was building the team of the 90's, he went out and got strong defense for his young pitchers.  His shortstop hit 1 hr in 10 years, he hit around 230, but was solid up the middle.  Defense builds confidence in pitchers.  Confidence by a pitcher wins games.  All 8 position players are not going to hit 280.   If the top of your line up is doing their job, you dont need the 8th hitter to be a run producing bats.  Simmons still drove in 45 runs a year.  Nothing against our line-up now, but how many RBI's do you see from Freeman?  Who I believe to be our best all around player. I know he was out a while, and the year isnt up, but he is be lucky to have 80, maybe 70.  You need those guys to drive in runs.  Your 3, 4 and 5 guys should have rbi's and your lead off #2 and 6 guys should score runs.  They tried to hit Simba at the 2 spot because he didnt K a lot, but he is a pull hitter and doesnt go to right field unless he is in a groove.


BTW that shortstop Cox went out and got, Belliard.  He couldnt hit a lick, but Cox said you start with Defense to support your pitchers, to cover up the their mistakes, not offense to over come their mistakes! 


I will take Simba over Swanson all day long and twice on Sunday.  

Jayce Brittain Dickens
Jayce Brittain Dickens

Would you take simba over swanson and inciarte? Simba is gonna hit better in the american league. All players do. Swanson will be a 280-300 hitter thatll give you 12-15 homers a year and play plus defense when its all said and done and he's younger and looks to be able to adjust and develope. Swanson's offense will develope above simba's and his defense while not as great as simmons will be really good so complaining about simba while he's having a career best year is silly. He's great defensively but is bound to slow over the next couple of years while his hitting digresses for 10 12 and 15 mil a year. I like the chances with swanson.

slydawg
slydawg

Smart man. Even without the history lesson, this is what everyone was saying when the team decided to go with young arms. His defense would have saved at least eight games this season alone, especially when using aged innings eaters until the young pups are ready.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Sometimes when a player gets traded or demoted he realizes that he needs to produce, and he does. He should also realize that he's just one more trade away from being tagged a utility player and being bounced from team to team. Not always but more likely than not.

TMCB
TMCB

The current Braves management, including Teflon John Schuerholz, love to crow how Frank Wren ruined the Braves with his moves... (argument for another day on who signed off on those decisions) But what can not be argued are the bad decisions that have been made since Wren left. Trading away proven MLB talent for potential minor league prospects is not a difficult thing to do. Anyone can trade Simmons or Kimbrel for prospects. The difficult part is getting the right prospects and signing the right free agents and bringing quality personnel into and through your minors to reach the major league club. 
I don't think the current decision makers are doing a good job at all. True rebuilds take 8-10 years minimum no matter what the brass is saying. This one is no different. And with this rebuild, they are relying on pitching from every aspect (trades, signs, drafts) to be the catalyst for making it happen. The problem with that philosophy is if you don't get right pitching prospects, the rebuild could last for 12-15 years or more because your offensive positions rebuild suffers. THIS is exactly what is happening now with the Braves.
I've said it for years and it bears repeating, the Braves two biggest problems are 1. They value minor league prospects over proven MLB talent. 2. MONEY is the deciding factor in every single decision they make. 
Both of these feed each other and do not help sustain a winning product on the baseball field.


TideDawg
TideDawg

@TMCB  Every team the Braves have played the last month had a strong hitting lineup, and the Braves  struggle to score. Seems like other teams have captured all of the hitting talent while the Braves are still trying to duplicate the fantastic trio of Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux. Great offense and mediocre pitching wins,....great pitching and mediocre offense, wins. Well, the Braves are where they are because.....you guessed it, they're mediocre at both ends. Better days are ahead.....I hope!

WonderingAboutAmerica
WonderingAboutAmerica

Amen! Over the past three seasons the Braves' management has been the worst in MLB, bar none. Failing to keep Kimbrel and shipping off Simmons for next to nothing has to be the twin killing of boneheaded moves in this century. Broglio for Brock is the only one I can remember that would match it.

JamesMccall
JamesMccall

@WonderingAboutAmerica Please! We weren't using Kimbrel because we sucked worse then, than what we do now. We had to get rid of Upton and we did, not to mention his over priced salary!

davidg32
davidg32

The Braves also got rid of the best relief pitcher in the majors right about the same time.  I guess they knew that they would not pay the going rate for Simmons and Kimbrel, and just figured they'd get what they could for them. 
I sure do miss those days when Ted Turner and John Schuerholz were running the team.

reggie1960
reggie1960

@davidg32 I miss the days of Ted Turner. Schuerholz messed up the Kansas City Royals. He traded away David Cone. He made a few good trades but  Bobby Cox laid the foundation for the 90's Braves with trades he made as General Manager. Liberty Media is the main culprit here. Liberty Media looks at the Braves as an investment which is not a way to run a sports team. If you do not have deep pockets to own a MLB team, that team cannot compete, Arthur Blank should have been awarded the Braves not Liberty Media. I think Commissioner Bud Selig wanted Liberty Media over Arthur Blank because Milwaukee is still miffed losing the Braves back in 1966 to Atlanta. The ''95'' Braves would have never happened with Liberty media.

kcsonshine100
kcsonshine100

Personally, I'm not very impressed with a lot of the decisions that have been made by the Braves Front office over the last 3 years. They definitely made the Halos better at the Brave's expense. They probably did Simba a huge favor.