LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons signed a seven-year, $58 million contract extension on Thursday, and If you didn’t know better you might think Ted Turner was back as owner of the Braves. They are spending money like their planned new ballpark will have a currency printing machine.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Simmons said. “I know I’m happy though. I can tell you that. I’m really happy.”
The deal for Simmons, which buys out all of his arbitration years and up to two free-agent years, makes it $280.7 million in guaranteed money that the Braves have doled out in contract extensions during a 17-day whirlwind of deal-making to lock up most of their young standouts to multi-year deal.
“For us it was something of a no-brainer that he was going to be part of the core of young players that we wanted to sign long-term,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said of Simmons, who hit 17 home runs and won a Gold Glove as the National League’s top defensive shortstop in his first full season in the majors in 2013.
“We believe (he is) the premier shortstop in the game. We’re thrilled to have him signed through all his arbitration years and two free-agent years. It continues with the theme of keeping our core together for a long time, and we think he’s an integral part of that.”
Simmons gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $1M this season, $3 million in 2015, $6 million in 2016, $8 million in 2017, $11 million in 2018, $13 million in 2019, and $15 million in 2010.
The increased revenues that the Braves expect to have with their move to a planned new ballpark in Cobb County in 2017 is what has enabled the team to make more long-term commitments than they would have otherwise.
The Braves signed first baseman Freddie Freeman to a franchise-record five-year, $135 million contract; closer Craig Kimbrel to a four-year, $42 million deal with a fifth-year option; starting pitcher Julio Teheran to a six-year, $32.4 million extension with a seventh-year option, and right fielder Jason Heyward to a two-year, $13.3 million deal.
“The primary focus is keeping this young team together,” Wren said. “It’s somewhat historic, the level of talent we have at that age… We were able to have such a good young core that it was imperative that we try to tie up as many of them as possible. And there will be more.
“I’m not saying they’ll be more this year, but there will be more as we go forward.”
Starting pitchers Mike Minor and possibly Kris Medlen figure to be among the remaining extension possibilities.
All five Braves who’ve been signed to extensions are 25 or younger, and the 24-year-old Simmons and 23-year-old Teheran were signed with less than two years of major league service. Teheran was two years from arbitration eligibility, and Simmons was either a year or two from arbitration, depending upon whether he would have had enough service time at the end of the 2014 season to qualify as a Super 2 arbitration player.
Simmons hit just .248 with a .296 on-base percentage, but among NL shortstops he ranked first in WAR (6.7) and fourth in homers (17) and RBIs (59). He not only won a Gold Glove, but also the Rawlings Platinum Glove as the best defensive player in the NL regardless of position.
The Simmons contract appears to be the most club-friendly of the five deals the Braves have extended in this spree, especially considering he might have been just a year from arbitration.
At $58 million over five years, he’s a bargain compared to the eight-year, $120 million extension that the Rangers gave shortstop Elvis Andrus a year ago, when Andrus was also 24. Andrus had four years of major league service at the time, compared to Simmons’ less than two seasons.