Angels acquire Andrelton Simmons from Braves

AP Photo/Todd Kirkland

UPDATE: The deal is now official. Simmons and Briceno have been traded to the Angels while Aybar, Newcomb, and Ellis are headed to the Braves.

7:23 p.m. ET: Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels will also receive prospect catcher Jose Briceno in the deal. The 23-year-old was acquired from the Rockies this past January and batted .183 with a .482 OPS in 88 games this season in High-A. He’s not regarded as a top prospect.

6:41 p.m. ET: Trade chatter began to intensify last night regarding Andrelton Simmons and the Braves have already found a match, as Jesse Sanchez of reports that the defensive wizard has been traded to the Angels.

It’s quite a big splash for new Angels general manager Billy Eppler. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Braves will receive shortstop Erick Aybar, prospect left-hander Sean Newcomb, and prospect right-hander Chris Ellis in return. The Angels are also sending $3 million to the Braves in the deal. Newcomb and Ellis are regarded as the Angels’ best pitching prospects. The Braves’ strategy of stockpiling young arms continues.

Newcomb, the centerpiece of the deal for the Braves, was selected 14th overall in last year’s draft. The 22-year-old posted a 2.85 ERA over 27 starts this season between Class A Burlington, High-A Inland Empire, and Double-A Arkansas. While he struck out 168 batters in 136 innings, he also issued 76 walks. He could be something special if he figures out his control. Ellis, 23, was a third-rounder from 2014. He put up a 3.90 ERA and 132/63 K/BB ratio over 140 2/3 innings this year between High-A Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas.

Aybar is due to become a free agent after 2016, so he’s obviously not a great fit with the rebuilding Braves. They now have the ability to ship him elsewhere for more prospects, if they so choose. Shortstop-needy teams like the Padres and Mets could come calling.

The Angels don’t have much left in their farm system after dealing Newcomb and Ellis, but they now have the best defensive shortstop in the game. The 26-year-old owns a .666 OPS over 499 games in his career, but he has still managed to be very valuable without making much progress offensively. He signed a seven-year, $58 million extension with the Braves last February, so he’s under team control through 2020.

The Angels still have some holes to fill on their roster — and they’ll likely have to do it exclusively through free agency with the farm system barren — but having Simmons and Mike Trout on the same team should be a lot of fun to watch.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.