MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andrelton Simmons picked the Minnesota Twins, eager to play for a balanced team that’s on track to be a contender again in the American League.
Adding a seasoned, slick-fielding shortstop like Simmons made the Twins even more well-rounded.
The Twins finalized an $10.5 million, one-year contract Sunday with Simmons, strengthening their infield for 2021 as they seek a third straight AL Central division title and attempt to stop their record postseason losing streak.
“It doesn’t just add to our defense. I think it’s going to add to the way our pitchers throw the ball and go about their business,” said manager Rocco Baldelli, who called Simmons “one of the greatest defenders of our generation” during a video conference call with reporters. “I just think that the ability to help ourselves on that side of the ball in such a dynamic way was something that we couldn’t resist.”
Simmons agreed to the deal earlier in the week. The four-time Gold Glove award winner will allow Jorge Polanco to move to second base, where he played throughout the minor leagues, and form a strong tandem on the left side with third baseman Josh Donaldson. The 31-year-old Simmons played the last five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.
“If you like defense in a baseball game,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said, “I suggest you tune in to a few of ours.”
Ankle injuries have sidelined the Curacao native for stretches in each of the last three years. Since 2012, his rookie season with the Atlanta Braves, Simmons leads all players in baseball in two key defensive metrics: runs saved (191) and ultimate zone rating (113.1).
“We are talking about honestly one of the most cerebral ballplayers in the game,” Baldelli said, “and I think there’s a ton he’s going to be able to bring to the table and both lead by example but also probably show us a few things too, myself included.”
Simmons batted .297 in 30 games during the pandemic-shortened season and is a career .269 hitter in nine years with Atlanta and the Angels. His fielding ability has been so superb that he received bottom-of-the-ballot MVP award votes in 2013, 2017 and 2018 even with what was essentially league-average production at the plate.
“I bring the awareness. I try to, I wouldn’t say educate, but keep everybody on their toes, making sure everybody knows what the next play should be. Where we should get the out,” Simmons said. “‘Watch out for this runner. He’s trying to steal.’ Make sure every base is covered.”
The Twins, who have lost 18 consecutive postseason games, signed starting pitcher J.A. Happ and relief pitcher Hansel Robles to supplement their roster.
Left fielder Eddie Rosario and relief pitcher Trevor May have joined other teams. Designated hitter Nelson Cruz and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi are the Minnesota’s most prominent free agents who remain unsigned.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to go to the playoffs and win the division the last few years. We’re never sitting back and thinking that will naturally happen again,” Falvey said. “We’ve got to go attack it.”
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