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A free-agent target Phillies pitchers would love to have

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The Phillies spent over $700 million on free agents the last three offseasons. Spending all over baseball could be impacted this winter by revenues lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's not going to stop us from taking a daily look these next few weeks at some free agents who would fill needs and help the Phillies get better.

Today: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons

Career to date

Simmons is a four-time Gold Glove winner and probably the best defensive shortstop of the last decade.

He broke in with the Braves in 2012 and hit 17 homers in his first full season, but regressed offensively for a few years before becoming a more regular contributor with the bat in his late-20s.

Since 2017, Simmons has hit .281/.329/.401, averaging 34 doubles, 12 homers and 16 steals per 162 games. His OPS over that span is 2% below the league average but is more than made up for with his glove. 

Since his MLB debut, Simmons has been worth +191 Defensive Runs Saved. Brandon Crawford is next at +79. Shrink the threshold to 2017-present and Simmons is still first at +73; the only other shortstop better than +38 is Nick Ahmed.

Those are just the metrics, though. Eye-test, it takes only a few plays to see Simmons' defensive ability. Where it truly shows up is over the long grind of a season. His range is top-notch and every throw is chest-high. When the ball is hit his way, it's often for a pitcher a sigh of relief.

2020 season

Simmons hit .297 in 30 games with the Angels, wrapping up his fifth year with the team. He missed three weeks with a left ankle sprain.

 

Issues with that left ankle limited Simmons to 103 games in 2019 so it will obviously be a concern for interested teams.

How he'd impact the Phillies

Simmons would be a big help for groundballers Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. Who better to have to captain the infield?

Simmons does not possess the offensive skill set of Didi Gregorius. He doesn't have the power and he hasn't been an overly clutch hitter throughout his career. Didi has the bat of a set-it-and-forget-it No. 5 hitter. Simmons is more of a 7-hole guy.

Simmons makes as much contact as anyone in baseball. His career-high in strikeouts is 67 and he's averaged 43 per year. The trade-off is his average of grounding into 19 double plays per full season.

Contract outlook

Simmons turned 31 in September. He is the third-best shortstop on the market after Gregorius and Marcus Semien, both of whom are 30.

Teams interested in signing a shortstop long-term can also look to the magnificent class of 2021, which includes Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez.

So if you're a team looking to sign a shortstop to a deal of 3+ years, Simmons is no better than the eighth-best option who could be available over the next calendar year.

Because of that, and because of the depressed financial state of MLB in the wake of COVID, Simmons is a candidate for a one-year contract with an option. He will not want a one-year deal because it will mean re-testing the market in that strong class. Whether he gets multiple guaranteed years is anyone's guess.

Simmons just finished a seven-year, $58 million contract which he originally signed with the Braves in 2014. The Braves have done a heckuva job in recent years locking up their young players to team-friendly deals. Ronald Acuña Jr. is signed for eight years and $100 million. On the open market, he might command $40 million per year. Ozzie Albies, who is significantly better than a $5 million-per-year player, is signed for $35 million over seven years. Freddie Freeman's eight-year, $135 million deal expires after 2021.

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