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 MLB.com 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.