Thursday’s roundup: Angels acquire SS Simmons

Associated Press

Anaheim, Calif. — The Atlanta Braves traded Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels for Erick Aybar and top pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis on Thursday night.

The Braves also get $2.5 million, while the Angels get minor league catcher Jose Briceno in a deal headlined by two quality major league shortstops trading places on teams with differing needs.

Simmons is arguably the best defensive shortstop in baseball, winning the Gold Glove in 2013 and 2014. He was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, offsetting his mediocre offensive skills with spectacular work in the field.

Simmons also is under contract through 2020, while Aybar could become a free agent next winter.

“We are extremely excited to acquire an impact shortstop and one that fits our championship standards,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said in a statement. “Andrelton provides us up-the-middle foundation at a premium position for years to come. To know we have a player with Andrelton’s talents, drive and competitiveness at such a young age signed through 2020 is a vital step in adding to our core group.”

Aybar has been the Angels’ starting shortstop since 2008 and a key player in Anaheim for a decade, making the AL All-Star team in 2014 while batting .276 in 1,220 regular-season games since 2006. He has been dependable in the field and at the plate, although his offensive contributions slipped slightly last season to his lowest average (.270) and RBI total (44) in a half-decade.

“This is one of those transactions where each organization will benefit in both the short and long term,” Eppler said.

Los Angeles broke up its long-standing double-play combination last season by trading second baseman Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers one year before his own free agency.

The 6-foot-2 Simmons has a career .983 fielding percentage with outstanding range, leading all major leaguers since 2013 with 1,354 assists and leading all shortstops with 692 putouts.

He is under the big-budget Angels’ control for the next five seasons at a fairly hefty price, making $11 million in 2018, $13 million in 2019 and $15 million in 2020.

Mariners acquire Benoit

Seattle acquired 38-year-old right-hander Joaquin Benoit from San Diego for two minor league prospects — right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos and infielder Nelson Ward.

Dipoto saw Benoit pitch in September. He raved about the former Tigers reliever’s change-up and was impressed with his ability to still throw in the mid-90s by season’s end.

Benoit, a former Tigers reliever, was 6-5 with a 2.34 ERA in 67 appearances last season for San Diego.

Opponents hit just .159 against Benoit. He was especially tough on right-handed hitters, with a .144 average against him. It was the lowest of any NL pitcher who faced at least 100 batters.

Around the horn

A person familiar with the decision says outfielder Colby Rasmus has accepted the Astros’ one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer, the first free agent to agree to such a deal.

... Veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski, 38, will return for another season with the Braves after agreeing to a one-year, $3 million contract. He hit .300 with nine homers and 49 RBIs in 113 games in 2015.

... Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has been guaranteed $1.5 million by the Mariners in his one-year contract and can make $4.25 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances.

...Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has begun his offseason conditioning program and is expected to be ready for spring training, according to Michael Hill, president of baseball operations. Stanton missed more than half of last season due to a slow recovery from surgery after he broke the hamate in his left hand.

... Former outfielder Mark Kotsay has aspirations to be a manager one day, and he’ll get an up-close glimpse at the job next season as bench coach with the Athletics. Kotsay, a career .276 hitter who turns 40 next month, was the Padres’ hitting coach last season in his first job as a professional coach.

... Matt Williams, who lost his job as Nationals manager, is returning to his old job as third base coach for the Diamondbacks. Arizona also named Garvis Alston as bullpen coach.

... Former major leaguer Scott Brosius has been hired as the hitting coach for Triple A Tacoma in the Mariners organization.