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The Angels got better with the Andrelton Simmons trade, the Braves got weirder

You know what the Angels were after. The Braves are a little bit harder to figure out.

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

On Thursday morning, the Braves had a shortstop. The Angels had a shortstop. The Braves' shortstop was going to be there for a long time, and even though the Angels' shortstop was a free agent after this year, he had been there for a long time. Everything was calm. Everything was mellow.

And then the Hot Stove broke through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man and started throwing baseballs at us. The Braves have Erick Aybar (for now) and two prospects, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis. The Angels have the best defensive shortstop in the American League now. I'M AWAKE. Hello, offseason.

The deal is obviously interesting from both sides, so it's time to play a round of What In The Heck Were They Thinking? It's a fun game, in which we ask things like ...

What in the heck were the Angels thinking?

The Angels have the best defensive shortstop in the American League now. Probably the best defensive shortstop in baseball.


No, that's it. That's the justification for the trade. Like you needed anything else. Simmons just might be the closest we've come to Ozzie Smith since he retired. Omar Vizquel just might make the Hall of Fame because of his fielding, and it's possible -- probable? -- that Simmons is even better. A list of the most dWAR accumulated by a shortstop before turning 26:

Rk Player dWAR From To Age G
1 Andrelton Simmons 15.2 2012 2015 22-25 499
2 Ozzie Guillen 14.6 1985 1989 21-25 769
3 Travis Jackson 14.5 1922 1929 18-25 899
4 Rabbit Maranville 12.6 1912 1917 20-25 771
5 Joe Tinker 12.6 1902 1906 21-25 695
6 Cal Ripken 11 1981 1986 20-25 830
7 Everett Scott 10.2 1914 1918 21-25 651
8 Lou Boudreau 9.8 1938 1943 20-25 656
9 Marty Marion 9.7 1940 1943 22-25 556
10 Robin Yount 9.2 1974 1981 18-25 1084
11 Tim Foli 9.2 1970 1976 19-25 799
12 Troy Tulowitzki 9.1 2006 2010 21-25 554
13 Tony Kubek 8.4 1957 1961 21-25 697
14 Joe Cronin 8.1 1926 1932 19-25 711
15 Omar Vizquel 8 1989 1992 22-25 502
16 Jim Fregosi 8 1961 1967 19-25 844
17 Ron Hansen 8 1958 1963 20-25 537
18 Terry Turner 8 1901 1906 20-25 415
19 Rico Petrocelli 7.9 1963 1968 20-25 508
20 Luis Aparicio 7.8 1956 1959 22-25 592

The number to look at is in the games column. Simmons is lapping the field, but he's played just two-thirds as much, if not less. Smith just missed the top 20, primarily because he didn't play as much before his age-25 season as the other people ahead of him. Can't rack up the dWAR if you don't play, right?

Through age 25, defensive wins above replacement
Ozzie Smith, 473 games played, 7.6 dWAR
Andrelton Simmons, 499 games played, 15.2 dWAR

Exactly twice as valuable defensively as the greatest defensive shortstop in history through his first 25 years on Earth. That doesn't mean he's going to be an inner-circle Hall of Famer like Ozzie. Doesn't mean he's just going to get better and better. It just means that he's rare. Very rare.

It's not like he helped the Braves win the NL East this year. He's not magic or anything, so don't get carried away. He's just the best defender of his generation at the most important defensive position in baseball. No big deal.

If there's a quibble with what the Angels did, it's that Simmons isn't going to help the Angels score more. At least, not yet. He has similar offensive stats to Brandon Crawford at a similar age, and he just won a Silver Slugger, so don't just write Simmons off as an all-glove guy. There's projection there. Still, in 2016, he's not going to be the engine that propels the Angels toward 800 runs.

Not untrue. Those two were rentals, but the larger point stands. The Angels could have exchanged their top two prospects for a lot of goods and services. A defense-first/defense-second shortstop isn't as sexy a return as one might expect.

Except Simmons is signed for the next five years for two-thirds as much as Elvis Andrus. He's a true bargain through 2020. It's a stretch to suggest Simmons is a prospect himself, considering he's due over $50 million, but he's a long-term solution at below-market rates. You trade prospects for that every time. Every time.

What in the heck were the Braves thinking?

Well, it's like this.

/pours glass of scotch

See, when you love a shortstop very, very much ... sometimes you love him too much, and ...

/refills glass of scotch

Sometimes when you love a shortstop too much, you set him free, you know?

/eats glass

Look, I don't know. Simmons wasn't going to cripple the Braves' payroll. If they offered him to the Rays for free, the Rays would have said, "Sure!" and figured a way to work around his salary. The fans loved him. There's a chance, a strong chance, that trading him after an 89 OPS+ season is selling low. He's about the same age as Yasmany Tomas, and it's not like the Diamondbacks are convinced that what they see is what they get there. There's room for improvement.

And if there's no improvement, he's still the best defensive shortstop in the game. For below-market prices. For years.

Braves fans loved him, as you might expect. He caught everything and hit just enough. Those players are usually popular. The Braves were marketing him -- along with Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman -- as the reason to get excited for the new stadium. Only Freeman remains. But Simmons was also a reason to get excited about the Braves now, right now. Watch the Braves because of this guy, right now.

Now they have a stockpile of young pitching prospects, and they're proud of their top youngster, Ozhaino Albies (a shortstop, not coincidentally). But Albies is 18 and nowhere near the majors. The pitching prospects might be closer, but they're certainly not a sure thing. It's not like you have to tell Braves fans about the perils of young pitching. In 2016, it's not like any of them are going to make Braves fans as excited to watch as Simmons would have made them. Or Alex Wood, for that matter.

Which means it's the second straight offseason in which I throw up my hands and proclaim I have no idea what the Braves are doing. Last year, they stripped the roster down, declared a rebuilding process, came away with Shelby Miller (good!), and spent scores of millions on Nick Markakis (uh, okay). If the Simmons trade was about money, oh, there are worrrrrrds to be written about that signing.

It probably wasn't about money, though. It was about the Braves thinking they were selling high, which meant this was their best chance to build a super team to blow the doors off the stadium that no one wanted that people can't get to. Okay. I'll appeal to authority, here. Maybe the Braves know something we don't.

What it looks like from here, though, was that the Braves traded a rare, generational defender under team control for the next five seasons for a couple of pitching prospects. Did the Braves get more than the A's got for three months of Scott Kazmir? Probably. But the fact that we're asking this question suggests they got an ordinary return for an extraordinary player.

Trusting the process worked in Kansas City. We all looked stupid on that one. Maybe this will be a reverse-brilliant trade after all. From here, though, I have no idea what the Braves were thinking. Newcomb can't just become a good pitcher to even this deal out. He has to be outstanding. He has to follow the path everyone expects, which isn't how pitching prospects usually work.

Smooth defensive masters usually keep on keepin' on, though, especially when they're just entering their mid-20s. He was safe, he was filled with upside beyond his predictable value, he was relatively inexpensive, and he was a fan favorite.

I don't get it. I just don't get it.