Chicago Cubs Reportedly Signing Defensive Stud Shortstop Andrelton Simmons

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Chicago Cubs Reportedly Signing Defensive Stud Shortstop Andrelton Simmons

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are landing their first signing of the post-lockout period, and it’s one that’ll require a fair bit of breaking down.

Here’s the scoop from Ken Rosenthal, and Jon Heyman with the terms:

Simmons, 32, is the kind of glove first-first-first shortstop we’d been thinking the Cubs could be looking to target, either as the starter at short, or as a guy in a rotation. With a starting rotation that figures to pitch to contact – much of it on the ground – and with an infield that would otherwise look a little questionable defensively, we knew the Cubs were going to want to add an impact glove, and shortstop is obviously the ideal place to do it. No one should be wholly caught off-guard by this move, since we’ve been talking about it for months!

The bat has trended to about as rough as it can get (one of the worst in baseball last year by almost every metric, .250/.302/.323 (70 wRC+) combined over the last three seasons). He’s not being signed for his bat, but it’s nevertheless worth noting that he likely isn’t going to give you much on that front.

At $4 million, Simmons doesn’t really impact the budget too much, though it’s more than you’d give a guy if you were only thinking of him as a “let’s give him a shot in Spring Training” type.

Should I talk about the elephant in the room up front? Signing Simmons to a big league deal (it’s not HUGE money, but it’s real money) is about as strong as a suggestion can get that the Cubs don’t believe they have a real shot at Carlos Correa. I’ve been asked a million time since November about the Cubs and Correa, and my response hasn’t changed: I think the Cubs are sincerely interested, and absolutely would sign him to a deal with a huge AAV. But I don’t think they’re willing to go 10+ years in tandem with $300+ million guaranteed. And I also think Correa *CAN* get offers like that (or even much better). So I’ve always had trouble squaring how it would be possible that the Cubs could actually land Correa.

Yeah, you could try to make the case that this Simmons signing is a just-in-case move that gives the Cubs leverage! But this feels like an Occam’s Razor situation to me: the simpler and more obvious explanation is likely the correct one. The Cubs are in a situation where they will have a rotation that needs elite infield defense, and Simmons has been that guy in the recent past.

I’ll keep an open mind, but I just want to make sure folks have their expectations appropriately calibrated. This might be “the” shortstop move, and the Cubs will look to add a bat elsewhere.

Ope, as I’m typing:

OK, now maybe you DO start to wonder if this is the “we have to sign SOMEONE just in case we don’t get Correa” move. I guess we’ll keep wondering … (UPDATE within my internal update: Jon Morosi, who’d reported earlier that the Cubs were one of the favorites for Correa, said on Marquee that he didn’t really see the Simmons signing impacting the Correa pursuit much one way or the other because they are in such different tiers of contract expectation. Agreed, though wouldn’t the response be that it’s not that the Cubs chose Simmons INSTEAD of Correa, it’s that they chose Simmons once they already got a sense that they weren’t getting Correa?)

Back to Simmons.

As for the glove, Simmons’ advanced metrics were mixed last year, though two of the three big ones (DRS and OAA) still had Simmons as elite, and we know that advanced defensive metrics have so much noise that they’re best used as a multi-year tool. Using that view, Simmons is probably still among the best defensive shortstops in baseball, albeit with some age-related decline.

About that: Simmons has dealt with ankle issues the last two years, which could explain some of the unevenness in the defensive metrics, but is also a concern. If he’s fully healthy again, good great fine, he’ll probably be a stud defensively. But if the ankle issues have become a limiting factor, then I suppose we’ll see.

Adding Simmons would allow the Cubs to move Nico Hoerner around more frequently, and maybe even help keep him healthy. He could see more time at second base, where he’s been exceptional defensively, and then Nick Madrigal could get some starts at DH. In other words, I don’t see signing Simmons as a negative comment on Hoerner. The Cubs love Hoerner, but they don’t necessarily see his long-term role as everyday shortstop.

Oh, also, a general comment, because I remember what it was like in the pre-lockout wave of signings: just because the Cubs haven’t landed a bigger name yet doesn’t mean this is all they’re doing. They literally signed one of the stop starting pitchers on the market just before the lockout began. I’m all good with as much conversation as folks want to have about this move, but I also think it’s worth understanding that a LOT is going to happen between now and Sunday/Monday. For now, I’m gonna say I like that the Cubs added an elite defensive shortstop – it was a need – and I’ll evaluate the whole of what they do in a few days, rather than making grand pronouncements just yet.

Also: Folks have to remember that the Cubs were never going to turn this roster into a sure-fire playoff contender in the offseason. Only a roster that can give them a shot in the first half. Simmons could really help the pitching on that front.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.