The Cincinnati Reds still have not acquired a shortstop for the 2021 season. Spring training starts in just over a month. The Reds aren’t alone in having the slower winter in the history of Major League Baseball free agency, as the National League Central division has made four big league signings (five if we count the Reds re-signing to a split contract Kyle Farmer) with none of those signings being worth a total of $1,000,000. But Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported around lunch time on Thursday that Cincinnati was one of the teams interested in shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
When you look at the resume for Andrelton Simmons you start with the defense. He’s arguably the best or second best defensive shortstop any of us have seen play in our lives. He’s just a different level defender, and he’s that kind of guy at the second most important position on the field.
Offensively he’s had some ups-and-downs in his career. In 2017 and 2018 he posted a 102 and 108 OPS+, making him a better than league average hitter. But in 2019 he fell off of a cliff, at least with regards to OPS+, as he put up just a 78 OPS+. In 2020 he rebounded to post a 95 OPS+, but that also came in just 30 games played.
Andrelton Simmons doesn’t strike out much. He also doesn’t walk much. There’s not much power, either, but he’s not punchless. Back in 2017 he had 38 doubles, 2 triples, and 14 home runs for the Angels. Anaheim, and the American League West as a whole, is rather pitcher friendly. A move to Cincinnati and the much more hitter friendly National League Central could help out with regards to getting a little more pop to play. Just as a fun side note, Simmons has hit four home runs in nine career games at Great American Ballpark and a career 1.119 OPS in Cincinnati.
Among the free agent group at the top of the shortstop market, Simmons projects third, trailing Marcus Semien and Didi Gregorius in projected WAR for 2021 according to ZiPS projections. But he’s neck-and-neck with Gregorius as the two project for 2.5 and 2.6 WAR each. Semien leaves them both in the dust with his projected 4.2 WAR.
Andrelton Simmons is probably a little better offensively than he appears at first glance. The big ballpark in Anaheim, and the division at large, skews his numbers a little bit. Once park adjusted it paints a bit of a better picture. With that said, he’s still not as good at the plate as Didi Gregorius or Marcus Semien have been or project to be. Simmons brings a ton of value with his glove – he’s a special caliber defender. If the team is more concerned with improving the offense than simply altering the runs/runs allowed numbers, then Simmons would be the third option on the list. If you’re simply looking at the overall value of the three players, though, you could argue that he could be the second best option.
With the Reds starting pitchers being a ground ball pitching group, that defense could actually be a bit more valuable. Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo are among the top ground ball pitchers in all of baseball. Wade Miley is a ground ball pitcher. Michael Lorenzen may get a spot in the rotation, and for his career he’s been a ground ball pitcher. Tejay Antone could also be in contention for a spot in the rotation and for his career (minors and majors) he’s been a rather high ground ball rate pitcher. The only exception is Tyler Mahle. Don’t sleep on the defensive value of a shortstop on a ground ball pitching team, even if it’s not as easy to appreciate as a guy who can hit a little better.