As a kid, Andrelton Simmons would go out to his backyard and turn double plays by himself against the wall. He’d often compete with his brother, six years his senior, trying to impress him.
He’d watch Andruw Jones — a fellow Curacao native — and 10-time Gold Glover. He’d marvel at Derek Jeter and Omar Vizquel, who he noted “seemed like he never made a mistake.”
“I try to pay a lot of attention to guys who I think are really good at what they do,” Simmons said Sunday. “Those are some of the guys that I try to pick every little detail that I can that can benefit me.”
Now, Simmons, 31, is that guy for younger players. The Twins made their deal with Simmons, a four-time Gold Glove shortstop, official on Sunday. Simmons signed a one-year deal worth $10.5 million.
Simmons said the Twins showed appreciation for his abilities and in the past two seasons, they have shown that they “belong in the conversation of the best of the best teams,” helping draw him toward Minnesota.
“They’ve been a team that, whenever they came in town the last couple years I’ve been playing in Anaheim, they gave us some headaches so I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that right now,” he said.
Simmons, who began his major league career in Atlanta in 2012, spent the last five seasons with the Angels. He opted out of the last part of the 2020 season, saying that was the best decision for him and his family.
But now he has a new home, and the Twins are excited about how he’s going to impact their team.
Simmons is, too. One way he vows to impact the team is by limiting the work of his pitchers to the best of his ability, helping them save their bullets.
“By making sure you make every play or make as many plays behind them as possible, you’ve got a healthier pitcher, you’ve got a better staff. Down the road in the playoffs, everybody is a little fresher and not as worn out,” he said. “I guess that’s part of what I bring to the table.”
With Simmons in the fold, the Twins will slide Jorge Polanco over to second base and Luis Arraez into a super-utility role where they can move him around as needed and still get his bat into the lineup.
Manager Rocco Baldelli said he spoke with both Polanco and Arraez about how their roles will change during the upcoming season, and both expressed a desire to do whatever the team needed.
Polanco hasn’t played second base in a major league game since 2016, though he did spend plenty of time there in the minors. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said Polanco was both comfortable and natural at second base.
Top prospect Royce Lewis, also a shortstop, noted on Saturday during Virtual TwinsFest how excited he was to learn from Simmons, a benefit that can extend to all of the club’s infielders.
“We are talking about, honestly, one of the most cerebral ballplayers in the game, and I think there’s a ton he’s going to be able to bring to the table and both lead by example but also probably show us a few things, too. Myself included,” Baldelli said of Simmons. “I’m looking forward to watching him go out there, not just during the games, but even before the games and all the conversations that go along with it.”
One guy he’ll have plenty of time to have conversations with is third baseman Josh Donaldson, whom he will join on the left side of the infield. Simmons said he’s been impressed by Donaldson’s defense over the last couple years and is excited to improve offensively by picking his brain.
The shortstop is a career .269 hitter with a .317 on-base percentage and .379 slugging percentage. Last season, he slashed .297/.346/.356 in 30 games for the Angels, and he said he believes he’s been improving offensively over the last couple years to add to the defense that has always been there.
“The ability to help ourselves on that side of the ball in such a dynamic way was something that we couldn’t resist,” Baldelli said.