I love Andrelton Simmons.
In truth, he is my favorite player on the Atlanta Braves roster as currently constructed, and outside of Freddie Freeman, Simmons is the closest remnant of a "sure thing" on a roster chalked full of unknowns. With that, my first reaction, and the first reaction of many Braves fans, to news of a possible deal involving Simmons was abject terror.
It is never fun to consider that a lynch pin of the organization could be moved, and the fan base experienced that a year ago with the trade of Jason Heyward. Heyward continues to be a point of conversation in this space and throughout "Braves Country", as he was always a divisive figure thanks to sky-high expectations and the unusual way, through base-running and elite defense in a corner outfield spot, that he provides value.
In comparison, everyone seems to agree on what Andrelton Simmons is at this point. He has never displayed the ability to become an elite or even above-average hitter, but given the position that he plays and the legendary nature of his defensive gifts, the backlash hasn’t occurred in the same way. The team’s own general manager has referenced Simmons as the best defensive player in baseball history, and while that might not be the case, it isn’t an absurd statement.
The thought of trading that player away at the age of 26 – in the midst of a full rebuild – is unsettling at best and nauseating at worst. Still, there is a flip side to this and, well, there is always a point of no return where the prospective haul outweighs the actual value of a player.
Much of the consternation surrounding the Heyward trade (from people like me) was the fact that the return seemed questionable. If, and it is still a big if, the Braves elect to pull the trigger on a trade for Andrelton Simmons, context will become wildly important. Fans and analysts alike were quick to overreact to the perceived lack of a return for Heyward, but while hindsight is always crystal clear, a few more seasons of high-end production from Shelby Miller would certainly provide cover for Atlanta’s decision to move the best defensive right fielder in baseball. The same curve could be followed with Simmons.
As of the time of this post, we have absolutely no idea what the Braves could extract in exchange for Simmons or even what the organization is targeting. What we do know is that Andrelton Simmons, at the age of 26, is the best in the world at one particular skill, and even when that skill is underrated on the whole across the baseball landscape, it can actually become overrated if Braves fans allow their vision to be clouded.
Because of his greatly limited bat, Andrelton Simmons is, essentially, a 3-win player. That is extremely valuable given his (very) modest contract, but in the same breath, it isn’t irreplaceable or even on par with what most consider to be "superstar" production. Yes, the defense would look vastly different without his fantastic glove up the middle, but the concept of trading the team’s defensive centerpiece can only be evaluated when considering the return.
I am speaking to myself as much as to fans of the Atlanta Braves when I say this, but taking a measured approach to the flood of rumors surrounding Simmons is the best move. There is always a scenario in which the team makes a bad deal, and if this front office cannot pull off a trade that brings enough in return, this space will be engulfed in flames letting everyone know that the return wasn’t sufficient.
Until then, though, an open mind is best, and there is certainly the possibility that trading Andrelton Simmons (for a monstrous return) is the best move for the organization.