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Andrelton Simmons remains quiet on whether he wants to return to the Angels

Angels' Andrelton Simmons celebrates with Anthony Bemboom.
Angels’ Andrelton Simmons celebrates with Anthony Bemboom, right, after both scored on a single.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

It was a softball question, standard fare for a soon-to-be free agent whose seven-year, $58-million contract expires in a few weeks, but to Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, it looked like a nasty slider.

Asked before Tuesday night’s 9-8 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks whether he wants to return to the Angels next season, Simmons hemmed and hawed before giving a vague answer that sparked more questions.

“I plead the fifth,” Simmons said.

Simmons, 31, is in his prime, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner who is an elite defender at one of baseball’s most demanding positions, a solid .280 hitter with occasional power, but he has not reached the postseason since 2013 with the Atlanta Braves.

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Barring a miracle finish to this 60-game season, the Angels will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year and finish with a losing record for the fifth straight season under general manager Billy Eppler, whose first move after being hired in the fall of 2015 was to acquire Simmons in a five-player trade with Atlanta.

Would Simmons, slowed by left-ankle sprains in each of the last two seasons, prefer to sign with another team that gives him a better chance of winning?

The commissioner’s office and players union reached agreement on a postseason bubble plan that includes Arlington, Texas, hosting the World Series.

“No, I’m not saying that,” he said. “I know it’s a business. I can’t negotiate anything sitting in front of the camera right now. I can’t pay myself to play here, so it’s not my decision. I don’t want to touch too much on it, because it’s on the business side of things. I do enjoy the company of my teammates. I enjoy the city. I like the stadium. So that’s all I’ve got for you.”

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Simmons is making the prorated portion of $15 million this season. With $116 million in 2021 payroll committed to four players — Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Justin Upton and Albert Pujols — it seems unlikely the Angels will sign Simmons to a long-term deal.

Versatile infielder David Fletcher showed during Simmons’ 3 ½-week absence from late July to August that he’s more than capable of playing shortstop, so letting Simmons go would free up money to spend on pitching or other needs.

The Angels could also extend a qualifying offer to Simmons that, if accepted, would retain him for one season at about $17.5 million. If rejected, the Angels would get an extra draft pick.

“I try not to think about those things,” Simmons said of his uncertain future. “You’ll go crazy.”

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One thing the acrobatic and athletic Simmons, with his wiry 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame and strong arm, is sure of: his ability to play shortstop well into the next decade.

“Eight, 10 years, I don’t know,” Simmons said, when asked how much longer he could play the position at this level. “You’ve got to believe in yourself first and foremost. I hurt my ankle again this year, and not playing at 100% hurts what I can do, but I know what I’m able to bring to the table every day.”

Simmons, in his ninth season, has learned to be more economical over the years, adjusting the velocity of his throws to fit the speed of the runner and playing with what Angels manager Joe Maddon calls an “internal governor.” For as many spectacular plays as he makes, he won’t try the impossible.

“I work on not forcing a play here and there that might cost an extra base or run,” Simmons said. “Knowing when to push the envelope and when to hold my cards. I think that’s an acquired skill.”

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Jared Walsh is in the midst of a major breakthrough at the plate, showing he’s capable of potentially taking over Albert Pujols’ role at first base.

For as much as Simmons enjoys watching Fernando Tatis Jr., he knows he can’t play with the same intensity and energy as San Diego’s 21-year-old star and most-valuable-player candidate.

“I see myself my first couple years in that,” Simmons said. “Wanting to make every play, run every ball down, steal every base. I try to maximize the risk-reward. That comes with experience and, I think, watching a guy like [Omar] Vizquel play.

“He was one of my idols. I learned that from him, just being very cerebral, anticipating plays, not making mistakes and always being prepared.”

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Three takeaways on the Angels

  1. The Angels erased an 8-1 fourth-inning deficit with a five-run, five-hit fifth, which featured Jared Walsh’s two-run double to right and Justin Upton’s two-run homer to left, and two runs in the sixth on consecutive doubles by Taylor Ward, Andrelton Simmons and David Fletcher.
  2. Former Angel Kole Calhoun drove a 419-foot two-run homer to right-center in the first inning off starter Julio Teheran, lined a three-run homer that left his bat at 105.7 mph to right in the third off Hoby Milner and lined a 98.9-mph single to center off Cam Bedrosian in the fifth.
  3. In addition to his fifth-inning double, Walsh doubled in the first and hit a solo homer to right in the third — his fifth homer in six games. Since the start of September, the Angels first baseman is batting .415 (17 for 41) with four doubles, six homers and 16 RBIs in 11 games, raising his season average to .315.

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