Another day, another huge multiyear extension for the Braves.
Andrelton Simmons became the team’s latest young standout locked into a lucrative contract extension when the Gold Glove shortstop signed a seven-year, $58 million deal Thursday, after less than two seasons in the major leagues.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Simmons said. “I know I’m happy though. I can tell you that. I’m really happy.”
So are Braves fans after seeing the previously budget-minded team guarantee five young players a total of $280.7 million in multiyear contract extensions during a dizzying 17-day spree that began in Atlanta and continued unabated in the first week of spring training. It might be over for now, but general manager Frank Wren said there are plans to try to sign more of the team’s “core” players to extensions in the next year or two.
First baseman Freddie Freeman signed a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million contract; closer Craig Kimbrel got a four-year, $42 million deal with a fifth-year option; pitcher Julio Teheran signed a six-year, $32.4 million deal with a seventh-year option, and right fielder Jason Heyward got two years and $13.3 million.
And now, the splendid-fielding shortstop is signed through the 2020 season, when Simmons will be 30.
“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,” Wren said of Simmons, who hit 17 homers and won a Gold Glove as the National League’s top defensive shortstop in 2013, his first full season.
“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.”
Simmons gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $1 million 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. It could be the big bargain of the recent Braves deals.
He hit only .248 with a .296 on-base percentage in 2013, but among NL shortstops he ranked first in WAR (6.7) and fourth in homers (17) and RBIs (59). He won the Rawlings Platinum Glove as the best overall defensive player in the NL.
“If he stops hitting, if he hits .150 every year, he’ll still make up this contract with his glove,” Braves pitcher Kris Medlen said. “He’s that good in the field, to where he could stop hitting overall and he would still cover this contract. The Braves did a good thing today.”
Most of the big spending in the five recent contract extensions will come after the Braves move to a planned new ballpark in Cobb County in 2017, where they project increased revenues.
“For the most part, it hasn’t really impacted our 2014 payroll, and we still have flexibility to make moves as we go through the season,” Wren said. “And I think as you look at our long-term payroll, it also fits for us.”
Simmons’ agents spoke with Wren about a possible long-term extension as early as last summer, but talks began in earnest in early January — as did negotiations on the other four recent extensions — and heated up in the past week. Simmons told his agents if there was an offer on the table they thought he should take, he was ready.
“I love it here,” Simmons said. “Getting to play next to these guys — we have great chemistry, we have fun. We all laugh together, we complain together, it’s fun stuff. We joke around all the time. It’s a fun environment to be around.”
“We have a lot of young guys, but we have a lot of young, mature guys. A lot of guys came up through the Braves organization, where they really press on us on bringing us up the good way, not spoiling us, making us earn whatever we have. So I feel like we have a very mature team, but young.
“It’s the team I grew up watching, so it’s a dream come true.”
Wren said that on Braves winter caravan stops, fans told him they wanted to see the team’s rising stars stay for years.
“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.”
The Braves have guaranteed $280.7 million in contract extensions during a 17-day whirlwind of deal-making. This does not include extensions for manager Fredi Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren, details of which were not announced.
Player; Contract length; Total money
Freddie Freeman; 8 years; $135 million
Jason Heyward; 2 years; $13.3 million
Craig Kimbrel; 4 years; $42 million
Andrelton Simmons; 7 years; $58 million
Julio Teheran; 6 years, $32.4 million