If you are a key, young member of the Atlanta Braves, chances are you are getting a contract extension this winter. The latest to join that club is 24-year-old shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
The team's official Twitter account announced the news on Thursday:
The Braves have agreed to terms with SS Andrelton Simmons on a seven-year contract. The deal runs through 2020.— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) February 20, 2014
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has more on the reported terms of the deal:
Source: Simmons deal with #Braves is seven years, $58M.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 20, 2014
And Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has more details on the signing:
Simmons breakdown: $1M sign bonus, salaries of $1M, $3M, $6M, $8M, $11M, $13M, $15M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 20, 2014
General manager Frank Wren commented on the decision to extend Simmons, via Braves reporter Kevin McAlpin:
Wren (on Simmons): "for us, it was somewhat of a no-brainer that he would be part of that young core that we would tie up" #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) February 20, 2014
McAlpin also got a quote from Simmons himself, as did David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Simmons: "I was hoping something would get done. I couldn't be happier, signing long term with a team I always grew up watching" #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) February 20, 2014
#Braves' Simmons: "It still hasn't sunk in yet. I know I'm happy. I'm really happy. I can tell you that."— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) February 20, 2014
Carroll Rogers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution passed along further praise Wren has for the young player: “We feel that Andrelton is one of the premier shortstops in the game today and we are happy that we were able to agree on this multi-year contract.”
On Tuesday, Simmons was asked what he thought of potentially getting signed to an extension as so many of his teammates were being locked up. Unsurprisingly, he played things close to the vest, according to O'Brien:
“I’m just focused on playing,” he said. “If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know.”
The Braves gave a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million contract to Freddie Freeman; a four-year, $42 million deal to closer Craig Kimbrel; a six-year, $32.4 million contract to Julio Teheran, and a two-year, $13.3 million deal to Jason Heyward.
“I’m glad,” Simmons said, listing how glad he was for each of them, by name, then smiling before adding: “Now I can get spoiled. I don’t have to pay for anything.”
Turns out, not having to pay for anything amidst the company of his teammates lasted for all of two days.
You have to hand it to Atlanta. The organization has recognized it has the pillars of a strong, young core in place and didn't hesitate to ensure those players would remain with the team for years to come. And they did so without having a gigantic television contract in place, as Jonah Keri of Grantland alluded to:
Gotta give it to the Braves. Local TV deal pays 14 cents a year, and they've locked up everyone short of Biff Pocoroba. Thanks, Cobb County!— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) February 20, 2014
Yes, the Braves getting a new stadium in Cobb County in 2017 probably helped justify the major moves Atlanta has made this offseason. New stadiums generally equate to new revenue streams for teams.
As for Simmons, he should be one of the game's better shortstops in years to come. Just entering his prime, he hit .248 with 17 home runs, 59 RBI and 76 runs scored in 2013. More importantly, he won a Gold Glove at shortstop, committing just 14 errors on the year, good enough for a 98.1 fielding percentage.
While his pop should continue to develop, Simmons is such an attractive young player because he is already a defensive whiz. If he can improve his batting average and on-base percentage (.296 in 2013) while exceeding 20 home runs in years to come, he very well could be a regular All-Star fixture for the National League at shortstop for the next seven or eight years.
The Braves were wise to lock him up and continue to make noise in the offseason by molding both the short- and long-term roster. Expect big things from Simmons, even if he'll now have to pay for his fair share of meals when he goes out with his teammates.