The Jadeite Jewel: Switching Things Up

Andrelton Simmons standing on a baseball field with a glove on his hand is a web gem waiting to happen, and this winter Braves Journal is going to determine which of his gems is the best of his best—his Jadeite. For the full rules, check out the introduction.

Round 1: Double ‘Em Off vs. Tricked You

Double ‘Em Off

Editor’s Pitch: Unless an attempted steal was happening, runners are usually not doubled off on looping line drives, especially looping line drives to short. When Andrelton Simmons is involved, though, words like “unless” and “usually” mean very little. If there’s a play to make, Simmons will be all over it.

Tricked You

Editor’s Pitch: This was one of those “wow, he almost made that play?” moments that he juuust missed. Fortunately, he came close enough—and opposing players know that he can make plays like this—that he was able to still get an out, just not the one he was initially going for. In the bottom of the ninth in a tie game with two runners on, that is a pretty big deal. Just when you get used to Simmons doing the exceptional in a certain way, he changes things up and does the exceptional in a different way. Just to keep things interesting.

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59 thoughts on “The Jadeite Jewel: Switching Things Up”

  1. Beyond his obvious athletic gifts, the presence of mind in the “Tricked You” clip is uncanny. Most infielders, after failing to catch a pop fly in the outfield like that, would frustratingly collect the ball and accept a bases loaded, nobody out situation.

  2. And because of Andrelton’s reputation, as ‘Rissa alluded to, he kept the runners at bay and still got an out. Very impressive.

    So, is Andrelton really one of the greatest ever, or is he just the best defensive player right now?

  3. I’ve been watching mlb since the late 60s and I think he’s the best SS I’ve seen in my lifetime. And Andruw was the best CF

  4. I do, if only because of Simba’s arm. Andrelton’s range may be slightly better also. Either could play on my team, though.

  5. Wow, coop, that’s high praise. Watching Andrelton play defense will be one of the few reasons to watch the Braves this year, so at least we have something historic we can enjoy!

  6. @7, Edward,

    Here are 6 Padres with hundreds (at least 200) AB’s who produced replacement-level offense:

    Chris Denorfia, 248AB, -0.1 oWAR
    Will Venable, 406, 0.1
    Everth Cabrera, 357, 0.4
    Jedd Gyorko, 400, 0.6
    Cameron Maybin, 251, 0.1
    Yonder Alonso, 267, 0.3

    This is according to ESPN, not fangraphs.

  7. Ah, but only half those guys were in starting-ish roles. I was drawing the cut-off at the top-8 guys with the most trips to the plate. I see what you’re saying now.

    Which brings me to why I think the Bizzarro Braves can compete in 2015. See Denorfia, Maybin, and Alonso up there? They don’t look ultra-productive at first glance. Nor on any ensuing glance, for that matter. Let’s throw in Tommy Medica, who put up 4/5 of an oWAR in 2014 in 259 trips to the plate. Those four guys, the 9th through 12th most-used Padres positions players, put up 1.1 oWAR last year. That same group of Braves (Laird, Doumit, Pena, and Uggla) were were -1.2 WAR on offense. Our bench was almost 2 wins worse than the Padres’ bench last year on offense.

    Freeman, Upton, Heyward, and Gattis were good offensive players last year. They all have good track records as offensive players, and the oldest of them is 28. It’s not a leap to imagine them being just as good as a group this year.

    Johnson, BJ, Andrelton, and La Stella were all replacement level offensive players last year. La Stella’s not on the team anymore. Gosselin wasn’t bad at all in his 100+ at bats and Peraza makes good contact and can run like hell. I’ll wager they’re better in 2015 than the 2nd base cabal was in 2014. Johnson and Andrelton were much, much, much better in 2013 than in 2014, so it’s not out of the question for them to have a 2015 somewhere in the middle. BJ Upton? Well…I bet he’s probably the Bizarro Braves’ worst hitter in 2015. But he could do that with his 2014 line, which wasn’t nearly as putrid as his 2013.

    So, yeah, I think we’d have gotten more offense out of our starters, as well as much better defense at 2nd base. And that’s without spending an extra dime.

    But the thing is, last year’s 79-win starting players were only a tick worse than 2013’s 96-win starters. What went wrong?

    Well the bench, for one thing. I can’t emphasize enough how awful our bench was in 2014; as a unit they were 4 wins worse than our bench in 2013–and that’s including Gattis’s 2013 outfield defense, which tips the scales a full win the wrong way, so we’re really talking about a bench that was 5 wins worse. We can DEFINITELY build a better bench–and not only a better one, but a versatile one that allows, say, BJ and Johnson to sit much more often with a righty on the mound. So did we want to give up on 2015 because we thought we couldn’t build a bench?

    As far as the rotation, it’s the biggest concern for the Bizarro Braves. I’m not worried about Teheran at all, and I’m thrilled that we’re going to try to get 8-10 more starts out of Alex Wood, which should be a big boost. But how to replace Santana/Harang’s ~400 innings of league-average ball? Well, we re-sign Harang AND Gavin Floyd. No guarantees, but what you’re really betting on is for any two of Minor, Harang, and Floyd to be at least as good as Harang and Santana were in 2014. Obviously we need depth for if one of them figuratively or literally blows up, so it’s a good thing we picked up Bunny Banuelos, and that Hale and Cody Martin are still in the organization.

    As for the bullpen? Well, we’ll miss Kimbrel and Walden a lot, but I’m counting on great seasons from Carpenter and Simmons, plus with full season from Russell, Shreve, and Outman, we’ll actually be able to get something done against lefties. Mix-and-match young fireballers for the rest.

    So, do you want to gamble on the prospects we’ve just picked up or do you want to gamble on going to battle with the Bizarro Braves?

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YuyUmasjGt486ireo6Y5h2s2OURqWMchbjIC1L2m_aQ/edit?usp=sharing

  8. Maybe if we’re lucky, the Hawks will continue playing through half of baseball season so we don’t have to endure as much of the Braves’ impending crappiness. The Hawks make the NBA Finals – and I can’t believe I’m even typing that as if it’s a possibility, given the fact that they’ve never even made the Eastern Conference Finals (in Atlanta with the 16-team playoff format, anyway), but that’s how ridiculous this season has been so far for them – and football season starts on Labor Day weekend. Voila! Baseball season is reduced to just two months!

  9. #19
    Trying to steel myself for The Summer of Suck, so I’ll take it.

    Thankfully, the Hawks & the hoop Dogs are making the winter sports genuinely interesting for a change.

  10. Edward had created a scenario in his mind where the Braves made the moves he described in the Google Doc, but neglected to tell us about the events in his mind. As a result, he speaks as if they actually occurred, and confused the heck out of us.

  11. @21, Well, not exactly. Edward has told us, elliptically, over several posts, thinking it best perhaps to try to charm us into his exercise, rather than confront the set of people he wants to persuade.

    I get the intent. He’s trying to respond to the people who annoyingly state that there was no meaningful alternative to this off-season’s position player fire sale. The people who say this of course support the fire sale in the first place, and they know that none of us, to my knowledge, have access to any alternate realities where the fire sale didn’t happen, so as to speak to its necessity.

    To those people, Edward is calling your bluff.

    I had one quibble and one maybe more significant thing in response to the Bizarro Braves.
    – The quibble is: FAs like Harang or Floyd who didn’t sign with us have to be in there for more than they actually signed for this offseason. Because we can’t assume, if we are going for realism, that if Harang has a $5 mil offer from us and a $5 mil offer from the Phillies that he would take our offer (look at him, the guy probably enjoys a cheesesteak or five). We don’t actually know if we offered $6 mil that the Phillies wouldn’t have come back with $7, etc, etc, so I guess the no-parallel-universe skeptics win again.
    – The maybe more significant point: To win people over, I think the google doc has to speak to seasons beyond 2015. Because Sam is going to say something like that’s what adults have to do, and he’s right. And because there is something to the idea that it’s not worth going for broke in 2015 when “broke” is basically the 2nd WC spot and then we have to try to rebuild without having used our trade chips.

    You’d have to assume “the worst” from a long-term perspective, which is: the Braves are in contention all the way up until the last game of the 2015 season but, like the Mariners in 2014?, miss the play-in game by one game. It’s the worst case scenario because 1) no playoffs and 2) you’d have to assume we kept Heyward and Upton for the playoff run and so we get to QO them and that’s it. If in those circumstances, we could still field a competitive enough team in 2017, then I think you get to say that something like the Bizarro Braves are viable. And you can start the underground movement to restore Wren, much like Napolean returning from Elba.

    Anyway, it’s nice to have it confirmed for me that it’s not just my posts that people kind of don’t read sometimes :)

  12. My one quibble with the Bizarro Braves exercise is: What happens in Bizarro 2016? We start a counterfeit money enterprise?

  13. To those people, Edward is calling your bluff.

    No. Edward is wishcasting and rosterbating with fantasy trades that other real life GMs wouldn’t agree to, because in the real world every other GM isn’t there to lube up Edward’s rosterbation fantasies. And Edward also fails to explain how exactly his model is sustainable into the future, beyond his wishcast 2015. As Schiller says at 23, are we going to start printing fake money to keep the band together in 2016?

  14. I take that back. He’s simply pretending the world ends in 2015. Which may in fact be even stupider. In 2016, he has to replace two starting pitchers, a LF, a RF, and a 2B.

  15. Actually, one post before “As Schiller says in 23,” I said:

    To win people over, I think the google doc has to speak to seasons beyond 2015. Because Sam is going to say something like that’s what adults have to do, and he’s right. And because there is something to the idea that it’s not worth going for broke in 2015 when “broke” is basically the 2nd WC spot and then we have to try to rebuild without having used our trade chips.

    Later, I also said:

    Anyway, it’s nice to have it confirmed for me that it’s not just my posts that people kind of don’t read sometimes

    I must be some kind of Braves-blogging Nostradamus.

    Anyway, Edward will eventually come on here and explain how his trades all either actually happened for the Braves this off-season or are basically plausible. But he’ll have to come up with 2016 and beyond. This, I foretell.

  16. The only spin I can see is “but the limited prospect pool I got back for my trades totally worked out perfectly.” He’s punting the future for one last run at the second WC. Sorry if my reaction to that idea is predictable.

  17. “No. Edward is wishcasting and rosterbating with fantasy trades that other real life GMs wouldn’t agree to, because in the real world every other GM isn’t there to lube up Edward’s rosterbation fantasies.”

    1.) I include this quotation to emphasize what an adult Sam Hutcheson is.
    2.) In the Bizarro Braves exercise, I made 4 trades. 2 of them are trades that the real life Braves actually made this off-season. Let’s agree that since they happened, they’re realistic, yes? The other two were a.) Moving Kimbrel somewhere for 2 unspecified b-level prospects and b.) getting Manny Banuelos for Walden and Avilan instead of Shreve and Carpenter. I’d love it if someone who thinks those are ridiculous ideas would tell me why.
    3.) 2016, 2017, 2018, and the Future: let me go ahead and marinate on that for a minute. I might end up with a decent answer. I might just throw my hands up.

    Edit: Ryan C, can you link up that interview for us?

  18. My minor quibble is, we wouldn’t have gotten Manny Banuelos with Walden and Avilan. Walden may or may not be a better play that Carpenter, but he has way less control, and gets paid more. And if we could have swapped Avilan in for Shreve, under any version of reality, of course we would have done that. Other than throwing with his left hand, Avilan isn’t much of a Loogy, and again, control and dollars.

    The reasons we want to keep Carpenter and Shreve are the reasons the Yankees would want them.

  19. As mentioned by ryan c @ 24 from MLBTR:
    Heyward also offered some interesting words on his past talks with the Braves and why they never proved fruitful, in his view. “For me, I’m from Georgia [and] I grew up playing baseball in that state,” said Heyward. “I grew up watching the great teams of the 1990s and got to play for a Hall of Fame manager [Bobby Cox] who helped build that organization. For me, I was never opposed to [staying]. There wasn’t a lot of time put in on their part, I feel like, getting to know me as a person and getting to know my mindset on it.

  20. Jason signed a two year deal, purportedly because the Braves could not agree to the value he thought he had. I wish Jason were still with the team, but I prefer two controllable birds in hand over one whose self-evaluation might just possibly have contributed to his departure.

  21. There is nothing in the linked article to indicate that Jason Heyward was going to sign a contract that Atlanta could afford.

  22. There is no way to tell how serious Heyward is (or was) about an extension until he actually signs one. He can talk all he wants about how the Braves didn’t negotiate enough, but if he still ends up signing for $25 million annually, it doesn’t make that much difference.

    If he does sign for a discount, of course, that’s an entirely different story. Somebody’s spinning here, but we won’t know who until we see a figure.

  23. “It’s kind of a unique situation because this is my last year before free agency.”

    There’s not a lot of “before I might go into free agency” there. If this is the language Heyward’s been using for two years, there’s no reason to think he had any intention of not going free agent to test the market.

  24. “Insult him.” He hasn’t actually performed at the ML level to deserve 20 million a year. You do realize that, right?

  25. At this point, we still have the same opportunity at signing Jason long term as we did before the trade. We can submit our best offer next offseason just like every other team.

  26. @31

    Yeah, I was thinking the 1.5 million difference in salary wouldn’t be a roadblock for the Yankees, but the years of control is definitely something they’d be a stickler about. As far as Avilan v. Shreve–Avilan wasn’t very good last year, but Shreve has all of 12 major league innings to his name. For both the Yankees and Braves in that scenario it’s a little of the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t.

    Is there another scenario where we could have been able to grab a potential 2015 spot starter/2016 back-of-rotation prospect? I’m trying not to veer from partial fantasy into unadulterated fantasy.

  27. Here’s Freeman’s contracts for the duration of his extension:

    2015 – $8.5M
    2016 – $12M
    2017 – $20.5M
    2018 – $21M
    2019 – $21M
    2020 – $22M
    2021 – $22M

    Do you think Heyward would have signed that?

  28. @40, You’re embarrassing yourself. You’re essentially saying Heyward’s less than a 3 WAR player? Because that’s only been the case in one season of his career so far. You can regress his defensive value a ton, and still on the open market, he’s easily worth the $20 mil. Easily.

  29. Yes, I’m saying a defense first RF with the offensive profile of a CF (to date) is a risk for 20m per. Do you think Heyward would have signed the deal listed at 43? If now, tell me precisely how you get to a higher value per year for Heyward than that, without crafting little Elder God shrines to dWAR out of pieces of hair you picked out of a lint brush.

  30. As a member of the actual braves front office, after all, Sam has simply adopted the company policy of completely failing to adapt expectations of offensive performance to the new dead ball era wherein Heyward is actually well above average offensively. Sam continues to be thrilled about his new happy workplace, however.

  31. I don’t think Heyward would sign for the rest of Freeman’s extension. Barring complete collapse/injury, he’ll top $127 mil. I’m certainly not alone in thinking so.

    I’m enjoying you having to side with the cave-dwellers on the advanced stat stuff, on account of the Braves’ own backwardness. There’s probably an OBP wedge to exploit in there at some point. But as far as a Heyward contract goes, teams come up with contract offers by looking at comparable players. I’ve been saying that a good comparable is Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed an FA deal recently and whom you could think of as a defense-first RF (or an ok CF) with the offensive profile of a CF.

    Looking at offensive value only, Ellsbury’s wRC+ was 109, and Heyward’s is 117. Ellsbury got 7/$153. That’s already $20 mil per year, without salary inflation since when Ellsbury signed.

    Or: assume a win is worth, what, $7 mil? If not quite that much yet, it probably will be next offseason. Heyward’s oWAR on bbref each year of his career: 4.8, 0.8, 3.5, 1.6, 2.8. The average is 2.7 oWAR. He’ll be just 26 when he reaches FA, so it’s not like he’d be expected to decline. If anything, he’ll improve some. All you need to do is give him a tiny shred of credit for his defense to see that he should get at least $20 mil per year.

    The contract Heyward deserves is a risk for the Braves, but not for other teams. I’m not saying extending him or resigning him is the right move for the team. Hart’s $100 mil comment is just insane, is all.

  32. The word “deserves” troubles me. To date, Heyward’s massive WAR is mostly defense-generated. A field-first rightfielder deserving more than $127 million does not compute to us cave-dwellers. Perhaps if Jason had done more than tickle us with his offensive potential, I’d be more inclined to agree; but …

    there are better ways for the Braves to build their future than betting that the world’s greatest defensive rightfielder currently playing might actually develop into an offensive star.

  33. What Jason eventually gets paid and what he is worth are different questions. I think he’ll make a ton (more than Freddie), but I don’t think I could give him that kind of money if I were a GM. And if I were him, I don’t think I’d settle because someone’s gonna shell out.

  34. @48, I was just looking at the WAR Heyward has accumulated on offense. His annual average offensive WAR nearly gets him to $20 mil per year, is what I’m saying, if a win costs $7 million on the market.

    So don’t let the “defense first” messaging fool you. Even last year, he was above average offensively for his position. In part because baserunning matters, and in part because he consistently gets on base.

    I’m not sure if I’d rather keep talking about this or Scherzer as a National.

  35. If the Nats move Zimmerman, they will get quite the haul. If they don’t, they will have quite the rotation. God bless the NL East.

  36. @56

    Seeing how we got a bunch of their minor league constructors, I feel pretty good about how we are retooling.

    At least that is what I keep telling myself.

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