Over the last two weeks, the Braves have been hard at work, locking up their core for the foreseeable future. They signed first baseman Freddie Freeman for $135 million over eight years, outfielder Jason Heyward for $13.3 million over the next two years, starter Julio Teheran for $32.4 million over six years, and earlier today inked closer Craig Kimbrel to a four-year, $42 million deal. Next up on the list? Shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Simmons, 24, will be eligible for arbitration starting in 2016 and can become a free agent after the 2018 season. The Braves are perfectly aware of the value Simmons brings defensively, but as Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes, the two sides don’t see eye-to-eye on Simmons’ offensive ability going forward. Thus, extension talks — which aren’t expected to begin in the immediate future — will focus on Simmons’ ability to consistently make hard contact.
Simmons hit six home runs in 1,042 plate appearances in the minors, and three in 182 PA with the Braves in 2012. To the shock of many in the baseball world, he broke out with 17 homers last season. Unfortunately, that was the extent of his offensive contributions. He hit .247 and posted a .296 on-base percentage.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that third baseman Jung Ho Kang has been granted a work visa and will soon rejoin the Pirates. Kang had previously not been allowed to enter the U.S. after he was arrested for his third DUI in Seoul in December 2016.
There was some thought that Kang wouldn’t ever play for the Pirates again, but things have worked out in his favor. It will still likely be a while until he actually appears in a major league game, as he will need to get back into game shape and up to game speed.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly said, “After a lengthy process, we are pleased that Jung Ho has been allowed to re-enter the United States. We are encouraged by the steps that Jung Ho has taken to date and are hopeful that having the games he loves taken away from him for more than a year has driven home the reality that he must make better life decisions as we move forward together.
As we have communicated to him throughout this process, we will work to provide Jung Ho with the resources and support necessary for him to meet the high expectations that we have for him as a member of our organization and our community.”
The Pirates signed Kang as an international free agent out of South Korea to a four-year, $11 million contract in January 2015. If he were to appear in the majors this season, he would earn a prorated $3 million. He has a club option for next season worth $5.5 million with a $250,000 buyout.