- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
The Atlanta Braves recently locked up Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel with long-term deals, and by adding Andrelton Simmons to that group with a seven-year, $58 million extension, they have identified what they believe is their long-term core.
As for the Simmons deal itself, there is no other way to put this: It is a fantastic bargain for the club.
The reason why this is such good value for the Braves is that they are signing Simmons for his spectacular defense, which typically costs less than offense, but I think he is going to develop into a much better hitter in time.
Simmons, 24, hit .248/.296/.396 in 2013, which doesn't look all that impressive at first glance. However, he belted 17 homers, which ranked fifth among shortstops and is an indication of his impressive power, and I can see him developing his contact skills, becoming the kind of guy who can hit .280/.340/.430 with 20 homers to go with his incredible glove. That's a star player.
By giving him this deal now, the Braves are taking advantage of the fact that Simmons has yet to develop offensively, and they are signing him for what should be his prime years (ages 24 to 30) while buying out two of his free-agent years in the process. Even if his bat doesn't progress as I anticipate, he is still going to be worth the money because of his defense, which is the best in the game at shortstop. And if his bat does develop, general manager Frank Wren will be praised far and wide for his foresight.
My guess is that GMs across the league are also pleased with this deal, as it sets a precedent for the value of an elite, young shortstop. We have a great class of young shortstops about to emerge from the minors, including Carlos Correa (Astros), Addison Russell (A's), Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox) and Francisco Lindor (Indians), among others, and this contract will serve as a guideline for what they can expect if they have a full-season debut as good as the one Simmons just had.
The Braves have now locked up a quartet of young stars to long-term deals, and the rest of the National League East has to be nervous about that. And when all is said and done, this Simmons deal has a good chance to be the best contract of them all.