Baseball Today: Andrelton, QO Acceptance, Silver Sluggers

Welcome to today’s Roundup, where we’ll recap the happenings of the day. Today included a bit of a blockbuster trade, the first Qualifying Offer acceptance ever, some more hardware given out, and more:

TRANSACTIONS

Angels acquire SS Andrelton Simmons and MiLB C Jose Briceno from the Braves for MiLB SPs Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, and SS Erick Aybar. 

Trade first reported by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com

The big piece in this deal is, of course, Simmons, who has a Satanic OPS of .666 for his career but is also regarded as the slickest infield defender in baseball, despite not winning a Gold Glove this season (thanks, voters). Simmons will add to an already solid Angels defense that includes Kole Calhoun (Gold Glove winner this year) and Mike Trout in the outfield but lacked stability on the infield, and is currently projected by RosterResource to lead off for what is a very weak Angels lineup that will likely be without Albert Pujols for the start of the season. The other player going to the Angels, minor league catcher Briceno, is simply a depth piece.

Atlanta was able to poach the Angels’ top two pitching prospects in the deal, with the better of the two being the lefty Newcomb. Newcomb struggles with his control (5.0 BB/9 last year) but also posted a brilliant 11.1 K/9 and only allowed more than five hits in a start once in 27 tries last season. Newcomb is projected to start 2016 in AA, where he finished 2015 by throwing 7 starts of 3.00 ERA ball, albeit with a troubling 24 walks. Ellis, like Newcomb, just completed his second professional season and will likely begin the season with Newcomb at AA, and the two are actually very similar pitchers, despite Ellis being right-handed. Ellis also struggled with his control in 2015 (4.0 BB/9) but struck out his fair share as well (8.4 K/9, including a 10.1 K/9 in High-A, where he started the year), although he gets by with less power pitching and more sink. Expect both to factor greatly into the Braves’ future plans, and if all goes well they should both be up to AAA by the end of the year– if not in the majors.

The last piece in the deal is Aybar, a lifetime Angel who had been with the team since 2006. Aybar is a switch-hitter with more offensive upside than Simmons (his career OPS is higher at .694, and he has a bit more speed) but is not nearly the wizard that Simmons is on defense, only slightly above replacement level there in 2015. Aybar would slot in nicely to 2-hole or 8-spot in the Braves lineup, but is also likely to be flipped to a contender in need of a shortstop so the Braves can stockpile more prospects.

Mariners acquire RP Joaquin Benoit for two prospects

Deal first announced by the Mariners

Benoit, 38, doesn’t blow hitters away or have the same nasty splitter than he once had (although it’s still solid), but has been a very dependable arm since his career renaissance in 2010, posting a 2.65 ERA and averaging 65 appearances per year over that span, and with a $7.5MM salary for 2016, he’s not expensive for a pitcher of his caliber. Benoit’s WHIP was a brilliant 0.903 last year, and it’s not as if he’s going to feel the effects of leaving Petco Park, as his new home park, Safeco Field, is just as pitcher-friendly. Benoit could slot in as the closer or be an eighth-inning guy, but either way, he gives new manager Scott Servais one-third of a solid back-end triad that will also include Tom Wilhelmsen and Carson Smith.

For Benoit, the Padres acquired infielder Nelson Ward, who doesn’t even project as a major leaguer, and RHP Enyel De Los Santos, a 19 year-old who posted an unimpressive 3.47 ERA but did have an excellent 71:18 K:BB ratio in 2015 pitching at the Low-A and rookie levels.

OF Colby Rasmus returns to Astros, accepting 1-year, $15.8MM qualifying offer

First reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports; not yet officially announced by the Astros

This is a bit of a surprise, as it had been expected that Rasmus would test the open market in search of a multiyear deal– even if it would be certain to provide a lower AAV than the qualifying offer. However, Rasmus expressed his enjoyment with the Astros throughout the season and also mashed a career-high 25 HR in 2015 while playing all three outfield positions at a just-below-replacement-level value, so this is a pretty good move for Houston. Rasmus should slot in nicely in the middle of the lineup once again, and if the Astros get ambitious and make a push for Alex Gordon or Jason Heyward to improve their contact rate, they have a trade chip in Carlos Gomez at the ready.

MINOR TRANSACTION/COACHING BULLETS

-The Phillies signed lefty RP James Russell to a minor league contract; the son of former big-league closer Jeff Russell struggled in 2015 but has had success out of the ‘pen in the past; he receives an invitation to Spring Training.

-The Cardinals signed RHP Juan Gonzalez and C Eric Fryer to minor-league contracts; both receive Spring Training invites. Gonzalez posted a sterling 1.62 ERA in the Rockies system in 2015 and Fryer has a shot to beat out Tony Cruz as Yadier Molina’s backup.

-The Diamondbacks have brought Matt Williams back to serve as their third base coach, the same position he held before going off to Washington. And we all know how that went…

-The A’s have hired Mark Kotsay to be their bench coach. The former Athletic was the hitting coach for the Padres last season, but left when Andy Green was hired and ultimately gets a promotion and works under a more experienced manager in Bob Melvin. Former bench coach Mike Aldrete will now be the first base coach; former first base coach Tye Waller was fired following the season.

SILVER SLUGGERS ANNOUNCED

Here’s the full list of Silver Slugger Award winners, with who I thought should have won in parentheses:

American League

Catcher: Brian McCann (McCann)
First Base: Miguel Cabrera (Cabrera)
Second Base: Jose Altuve (Altuve)
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts (Bogaerts)
Third Base: Josh Donaldson (Donaldson)
Outfield: Nelson Cruz, J.D. Martinez, Mike Trout (Cruz, Trout, Jose Bautista)
Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales (Edwin Encarnacion)

National League

Catcher: Buster Posey (Posey)
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt (Goldschmidt)
Second Base: Dee Gordon (Gordon)
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford (Crawford)
Third Base: Nolan Arenado (Arenado)
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, Carlos Gonzalez (McCutchen, Harper, A.J. Pollock)
Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner (Bumgarner)

So, yeah, the voters did a pretty solid job this season.

Please note: Ball Eight is not the first source for ANY of these rumblings, injury reports or transactions; the sources have been included for larger transactions that have not yet been officially reported on by the player’s team. 

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