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Could Andrelton Simmons Become Another Ozzie Smith?

I don’t agree with former MLB general manager and current ESPN commentator Jim Bowden on many topics. However, I was with him on most of the following tweet, shared Thursday night.

Andrelton Simmons best defensive player in Major Leagues, best defensive shortstop in game. 26yrs old with up-side, attitude and pop.”

Baseball’s silly season, also known as the off-season rumor mill, is clearly upon us. The first name player to actually change homes for 2016 is the Atlanta Braves’ former shortstop Simmons, who had been widely rumored to be on the block for only about 24 hours.

The 26-year-old went to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for three prospects, plus shortstop Erick Aybar and $2.5 million to cover part of Aybar’s salary. The prospects include the Halos’ top two minor league pitchers. In return, the Angels receive Simmons’ services for the next five seasons for an already-committed total of $53 million.

The primary reason I disagree with Bowden’s tweet is the final two words – “with pop”. While Simmons launched 17 long balls as a rookie in 2013, he has just 11 over the last two years combined. His slugging percentage in 2014 and 2015 was .331 and .338, respectively.

To help put that into context for Cardinals fans, Peter Bourjos slugged .333 this season with Tony Cruz coming in at .310.

In fact, rumors from Atlanta indicate a key reason that Simmons was being made available was that his offense was a growing concern – in that it would continue to head south while his annual salary was locked in to move north.

But Bowden’s other points about Simmons made me think about another two-time National League Gold Glover who was the best defender in the game at shortstop when dealt away by his original team. He was also the age of 26 after his fourth season, traded in a package that included another major leaguer at the same position.

Of course, I am talking about Ozzie Smith, part of a five-man trade between San Diego and St. Louis following the 1981 season that also included Garry Templeton. It was a deal that I readily admit angered me at the time.

Like Simmons, Smith’s already meager offense had been trending downward – to the point his final season’s line as a Padre was a paltry .222/.294/.256/.549 (OPS+ 62). That slugging mark of .256 remained Ozzie’s career low until his injury-wrecked age 40 season.

Granted it was the same game, but in another time, though it makes Simmons’ 2015 line of .265/.321/.338/.659 (OPS+ 86) look spectacular in comparison.

The key point, however, is that Smith was not done getting better offensively, after all. Over his first four full seasons, Smith had seemingly cemented his reputation as an all-glove, no-bat shortstop, but once he got to St. Louis and was encouraged to hit ground balls and use his natural quickness, his offense improved markedly.

In his 15 years as a Cardinal, Smith’s line was .272/.350/.344/.694 (OPS+ 93) – more than enough offense to complete his Hall of Fame resume.

It is far, far too early to say, but I can’t help but wonder if the Angels will one day feel as fortunate about acquiring Simmons as the Cards did to enjoy the services of “The Wizard” for so long.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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40 Responses to “Could Andrelton Simmons Become Another Ozzie Smith?”

  1. blingboy says:

    How about this for a disturbing eye opener: If Simmons had hit 7 more homers last year his slash line would have been virtually the same as Wong’s. Same BA, same OBP, and Simmons only strikes out half as much. Nearly the same age. Maybe we should be hoping Kolten can pull an Ozzie. At least we don’t owe him $50 Million.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It does not disturb me at all. Sounds like you might have given up on Wong. I’d think you’d at least give him one more year like the Braves gave Simmons. Look at Wong’s first half (.777) OPS vs. second (.614). Strongly suggests to me that he needed more rest and didn’t get it. Peralta had a similar drop.

      • blingboy says:

        He started 140 games, 61 of 73 after the break. How much rest does he need? He carried a full load but nothing excessive. I get that over worked regulars is the excuse du jour this winter but let’s not go overboard.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Wong played in 150 games after just 113 the year before. The most any NL 2B played was 152 games.

          Looking at the bottom line, even with the ugly 2H, Wong’s 2.3 WAR for the season was better than every other position player on the team not named Carpenter or Heyward. Though he certainly needs to be more consistent, I don’t see him as the problem with the offense.

          I think lack of rest was an issue as 2H fall off was a common thread across multiple players. Instead, you think it is an excuse and apparently that the players just sucked in the second half because they are not manly enough. You are entitled to your opinion, whatever it is based upon. At least I have numbers (and quotes from the manager and GM) to back my point of view.

          • blingboy says:

            Well, I hope he does whatever he needs to do to be able to go 600 PAs without exhausting himself. The ‘need more rest’ thing has merit when you are talking about the old guys, but struggles for credibility when applied to a 24 year old.

            With a young guy like Wong, if he does get sat down more next year we will spend the whole season listening to the apologists saying he needs to play every day to get in a groove, or get his timing or whatever. If he gets less that 140 starts and 600 PAs I guarantee we will here that, as we should, since it is in no way excessive for a regular starter in his early prime years.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Wong was in uncharted territory. Forget starts. He had never appeared in 140 games in any season at any levels until 2015. There is more attention paid to young pitchers increasing workloads with relation to injury, but position players can have nagging ailments that can affect their performance, too.

              I do not know for sure that is the reason for Wong’s 2H falloff, but I have seen no “credible” theory from you as to what happened to the team. Last I saw, your pet explanations were “they didn’t want it bad enough” and “they were satisfied just making the playoffs and let up”. Textbook talking through your hat.

        • crdswmn says:

          Peralta, Carpenter and Wong were in the top ten of games played in 2015 in all of baseball at their position.

          Siegrist and Maness were in the top ten of appearances for relievers in all of baseball. Siegrist was #1.

          There is a common denominator here and his initials are Mike Matheny. If he doesn’t stop this practice, the Cardinals are going to be in the same shape every damn year.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Also, until he was hurt in September, Molina was on track for his career high in games played. Same age as Peralta, 33.

            • crdswmn says:

              Yes, and even he was in the top ten of games played for catchers, despite the injury. I didn’t include him because I didn’t think to look his numbers up because of the injury. It is well known that he is one of the most overworked catchers in baseball, if not the most overworked.

              TLR overworked him too, however, so I think Molina has had some blame to share in his issues.

              I blame Matheny for the others. Peralta’s last two seasons are the highest in games played per season in his career/ The next closest was 2008 when he was 26 years old and in the 4th full season in his career.

              • blingboy says:

                So, should we be blaming Matheny, or should we blaming Mo for not providing playable reserves? I mean, how many times is Matheny supposed to start Cruz and Kozma?

                • crdswmn says:

                  And how do you know that Matheny didn’t have a say on Cruz and Kozma being on the roster in the first place? It’s quite possible they are and were both on the roster because Matheny wanted them there.

                  From what stories I have heard, Matheny has more influence on who is on the roster than people think.

                  • Brian Walton says:

                    I think both are accountable, but I couldn’t accurately assess percentages.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Neither could I but it is wrong to say it is all on Mozeliak.

                      Just an anecdote, but I read a post on VEB in which a poster recounted that he/she had been present at a Mozeliak Q&A later in the season and someone asked Mo about Kozma being on the roster. The poster said Mozeliak’s reply was something along the lines of
                      “I have learned not to argue about the 25th man on the roster”.

                    • blingboy says:

                      Based upon the number of players supposedly not getting enough rest, I don’t think the 25th man on the roster is to blame. I hope he does not have the same policy on everything after 18 or 19.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Save your strawmen. I never said any such thing.

                      The 25th man quote was in response to you post that Mozeliak was to blame for Matheny overworking Peralta because Kozma was on the roster. It is entirely possible that Matneny is to blame for Kozma being on the roster.

                      Matheny overworks players because that’s what he does. Who is on the roster is irrelevant.

                  • Brian Walton says:

                    crdswmn, on your last point, I hope you are wrong for 2016. My hope is that a stronger bench will lead to more players available that the manager will want to play.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      I hope I am wrong also. Perhaps a stronger bench will help.

                      The problem is there seems to be no rhyme or reason for Matheny’s playing time decisions. He seems to make snap decisions on very little evidence (for example, refusing to play Pham after one high strikeout game). I can’t say that I trust him not to make arbitrary and capricious decisions no matter what the bench looks like.

          • Bw52 says:

            It wasn`t too hard to figure the main culprit ( MM) in this team problem.MM wrote the horses too hard too long.The next problem to figure out is why? Was it because MM felt comfortable with using his lash on the horses for the entire race or was it because of his inability to trust his backups or was it the fact that he felt the other horses where right behind him and he could not afford to relax for a minute.
            My opinion is that it was some combination of all three or four lines of thought although MM fasiled many times to pull starters in blowout games ( Yadi playing 8 innings in a 6 or 7 run road loss for example etc;.MM failure to give breathers when the opporunity presented itself.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Mo hired mike, so is 100 percent responsible

    Mike probably has some fine attributes. Nobody is perfect.

  3. blingboy says:

    The Mariners scooped us by acquiring Boog Powell from the Rays.

    (Somewhere amongst my baseball bling I have an autographed copy of a BBQ cookbook written by the original Boog.)

    • Bw52 says:

      The original Boog was a big homerun hitter for the Orioles as you well remember.He had several alternating seasons GOOD/BAD..His stepbrother was Carl Taylor who also played in the majors for several teams.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Colby Rasmus is going to collect $15.8 mm next year. How bad is life for him?

    I am reminded of Steve Finley, who played 19 years. The first six, he hit few homeruns. But Finley power surged thereafter, reaching 304 for a career. Hit 34 at age 34 and 35 dingers at age 35. If a guy gets enough at bats in the majors, he can improve and stay employed for year after year. Rasmus may be like this. He is in a strong situation, financially.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Who would I rather have, Heyward with a 10 year contract or Rasmus with a one year deal? A lot less financial risk on the shorter deal.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Mark Buerhle has had an amazing career, 15 seasons of 198 innings or higher. Year after year, he has gotten the job done. A free agent from the St Louis area, he has long talked about pitching for his hometown team. Would I rather pay thru the schnoz for David Price or Greinke? Or sign Buehrle for 2016, maybe for $15MM?
        We did not tie down $200MM by signing Scherzer. I don’t think we are going to ink up Price.

        • Bw52 says:

          I would rather have a 2 year deal for a Mike Leake or a low cost deal on a Bud Norris or Mike Pelfrey guys on the rebound from injuries and coming back into better form.Rather have sevberal options instead of one big cost choice.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Its hard to pass by Buehrle. The Cards like guys who want to play here.
            He is a virtual lock to shoulder 200 innings. Mr. Reliable.
            If he pitches in the NL, he might have an ERA around 3. Performance wise, not much difference from Lackey.
            Buerhle has made a ton of money. From hereon, he might go year to year, not require a two year deal. The Cards could use a guy like him. And there he is.

            • Bw52 says:

              I am wary of soft-tossing LHPs pitching for the Cards.Buehrle might drop his ERA in STLOUIS but what about homer happy Cinncy,Homer happy Milwaukee,Wrigley?I wonder how Buehrle would hold up in STL.I have my doubts.If he wants to pitch for the Cards for a team friendly deal then why not? Otherwise go in another direction.

            • blingboy says:

              Mo will go for a short term commitment. Buehrle would fit. He will avoid the long term big money deals that do not have a palatable exit strategy if things go south. A year from now Lance should be back with his bionic elbow. Stronger, faster, better. We just need to get from now until then.

              We should also keep an eye on Lackey in case the market for him does not develop as his agent hopes. I doubt anybody surrenders a first round pick. Maybe a team with a protected pick, or one that has already surrendered their top pick signing somebody else. Mo might sneak in the back door. If Lackey and Mo are still on the board as spring nears, I like the chances. There is also Lohse out there. If we lose Heyward and Lackey, we could afford to lose our top pick. A Mo-like tactic would be to wait until March and approach somebody who is looking like they will have to wait until June to attract any interest. Offer them a job when no one else will.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                We agree on Lackey.

                Whoa Nellie, Kyle Lohse is through. Nothing left in the tank.

                Mo may be trained by Uncle Walter, but is a different animal. He is not a pure bargain shopper. Mo likes to be aggressive early. This brought Holliday, Heyward and Peralta to town, among others.

                • blingboy says:

                  Lohse probably just needed more rest.

                • blingboy says:

                  I agree Mo is not fixated solely on low hanging fruit, but he is not one to spend big to fix something that isn’t broke. I don’t think he perceives a need for a long term rotation acquisition. He is more likely to focus on replacing the aging core position players by supplementing what can be produced in house with a youngish potential core player. A starting pitcher will either be a short term front/middle rotation guy, or a guy who will have to compete with in house options for the back of the rotation. No over the top commitment in either case.

                  • Bw52 says:

                    Since most of the rotation seems to be made of glass………………………Martinez,Jaime Garcia,Wacha and Wainwright all have injuries recently or have had time off because of injury.Relying on more guys coming off injury (Gonzales) a guy who pitched better out of bullpen (Lyons ) just seems like Cards are daring fate .Yes its a impressive bunch when everyone is healthy but when is that?Pitching saved the Cards ass this past season and sitting on your hands expecting the same thing in 2016 is plain stupid……………………….almost as stupid as expecting the offense to continue the great RISP numbers from previous seasons.If you want to play big then dammit get the damn parts to stay trall or just slink off to the bottom of the pack.

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