The Cubs have made their first move of post-lockout free agency, and it’s for a shortstop — but not the one Chicago fans may have been hoping for.
Simmons brings to the North Side elite defensive ability in the middle of the infield, as he’s won four Gold Gloves over his career and ranks near the top of virtually every advanced metric with the glove. He’s been a productive contact hitter in the past, but his offensive numbers have fallen off greatly over recent years.
Last season with the Twins, Simmons hit just .223/.283/.274 with just 15 extra-base hits over 131 games. He had an OPS+ of 57; 100 is established as a league-average benchmark.
The Cubs will hope he can return to the production he showed previously with the Angels, most recently when he hit .292 with a 108 OPS+ in 2018 before sliding to .264 with a 78 OPS+ in 2019. He bounced back to .297 with a 94 OPS+ in 2020, but he appeared in just 30 games.
Shortstop is widely accepted as the top position available during free agency, with Javier Baez and Corey Seager inking nine-figure deals prior to the lockout already. Carlos Correa and Trevor Story remain as the marquee options still available, and the Cubs have been linked to Correa. According to Rosenthal, though, signing Simmons does not take Chicago out of the race for Correa.
Free agency is expected to ramp up over the weekend as players begin to report to camps in Arizona and Florida. Spring training games are expected to begin March 18.