It was just a few days ago that I was talking to a friend about how bad the Minnesota Twins middle infield was defensively, and they must have heard me because today feels like Christmas in January. Just when it seemed like they had missed their opportunity to make a splash in free agency, they followed the Josh Donaldson/Kenta Maeda offseason with yet another All-Star caliber acquisition in Andrelton Simmons.
This has to be equally exciting for Simmons. He has pretty much been wasted alongside Mike Trout on a Los Angeles Angels team that just can’t seem to get out of the league’s basement no matter who they bring in due to the lack of depth and success of their farm system. Now, Simmons gets a chance to shine with a team that has won back to back division titles — only to have both seasons spoiled in the playoffs.
With the exception of an injury-hampered 2018 where he still played well above average, Simmons has been great both in the field and at the plate. He owns a career .269/.317/.379 slash line that has been trending in the right direction in recent years and his lack of power will be something that shouldn’t bother many Twins fans given that he is replacing a guy in the lineup, Luis Arraez, who also lacks power in a big way.
Although Simmons has proven to be an All-Star caliber hitter, the real win here for the Twins is in the field. They will gladly pair his four Gold Gloves with Josh Donaldson on the left side of the infield, especially after watching Jorge Polanco and Arraez fumble away a couple of playoff games the last two years.
I absolutely love this acquisition for multiple reasons. It’s only a one-year deal, giving the Twins the ability to extend him if they’d like or get him off the books for no more than $10.5 million. And he allows them to move the short-ranged Jorge Polanco to a position where he’s a better fit.
Polanco will look to transition to second base the same way Brian Dozier did as a once-failed defensive shortstop. That move worked out well for Dozier, who was an All-Star in 2015 and hit 42 home runs in 2016 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018, and it seems like the right move for Polanco to revive his career.
It also gives the Twins the flexibility to move Arraez to the utility role, where he belongs. I love watching Arraez battle in the batter’s box, but his defense leaves much to be desired, and I don’t think he can sustain a .340 average to make up for it. The Twins are probably still in the market for a utility guy, and might even bring back Marwin Gonzalez, but this still allows Arraez to fall back into a role that better suits his skill-set.
In addition to all of the things that makes Simmons an upgrade at short, I’m equally excited about this move because I couldn’t handle watching any more slow-motion double-play attempts from Arraez and Polanco. Donaldson’s health is always going to be vital for this team’s success, but if he can stay on the field, the Twins have one of the best infields in baseball.
Royce Lewis’ major league debut is impending, and this gives the Twins a little more time to decide who he will replace when he’s ready.
When a team loses 18 straight playoff games, it’s necessary to have an honest breakdown of what happened, and if you go and rewatch the Twins’ most recent playoff losses, the middle infield’s lack of defensive efficiency and cohesiveness is culpable in their failures. This move clearly patches a big hole in a huge way for at least one year.
With the acquisition of one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, the Twins can now shift their focus to the health of Polanco’s ankle, Miguel Sano’s progression (or lack thereof), the health of Byron Buxton and Josh Donaldson and the emergence of top prospects like Alex Kirilloff and Lewis.
What could possibly go wrong?
If the Twins can add one more offensive threat as well as a bullpen arm or two, this team will be more than ready to compete for another AL Central Championship and maybe (just maybe) more.