BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Braves traded shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Angels early Thursday evening, receiving veteran shortstop Erick Aybar, the Halos' top two prospects -- left-hander Sean Newcomb and right-hander Chris Ellis -- and $2.5 million. Minor League catcher Jose Briceno also is headed to the Angels.
Newcomb immediately slotted in as Atlanta's No. 1 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, while Ellis took over the No. 9 spot. Newcomb is rated the No. 19 overall prospect in baseball by MLBPipeline.com.
Braves general manager John Coppolella anticipated the backlash he'd receive from fans who objected to the trade, but the shrewd and aggressive Coppolella was much more concerned with the potentially damaging consequence of passing on the opportunity this trade brought.
"It's a very tough trade, and a painful trade for us," Coppolella said. "We didn't want to trade Andrelton Simmons. But we felt this was too good for us to pass up. We felt like we were getting so much talent back in this deal, that if we didn't make this trade, it would be very tough for us to keep going forward with our plans."
When the Yankees showed interest in Simmons last offseason, the Braves balked and missed out on the opportunity to get an impressive package that would have been highlighted by righty Luis Severino.
This time around, Coppolella was not going to miss the chance to get a big league shortstop, and a potential ace among a pair of arms that could be with the big league club as soon as next season.
Given that Aybar is entering the final year of his contract, he certainly wasn't the primary target in this deal. But the 31-year-old former All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner does at least help the Braves bridge the gap to their top position-player prospect, Ozhaino Albies, an 18-year-old shortstop (ranked No. 2 on Atlanta's Top 30 Prospects list) who might make his way to the Majors within the next two seasons.
"[Albies is] a really good player," Coppolella said. "We feel he's going to be a really good Major League player. We'll let him tell us when he's ready and not set any kind of time frame to it."
Aybar, a career .276 hitter over a 10-year big league career, said about his new club: "I'm [going to give the Braves] 100 percent of what I have and try to win as much as we can."
As the Braves compiled prospects, including many pitchers, with a series of significant trades last offseason, they could not hide the fact that their focus was beyond the 2015 season. Although they added two more arms to their crop of highly regarded young pitchers Thursday, Coppolella stressed that this was a deal that could also provide immediate benefits.
It will be impossible for the Braves to replace the defensive value provided by Simmons, who has compiled a Major League-best 94 Defensive Runs Saved since the start of 2013. But with Aybar, they gained an adequate defender who could certainly add more with the bat than Simmons, whose uncertain offensive potential influenced this trade.
"You can make an argument that we are a team that could actually win more games with Aybar," Coppolella said. "[Aybar] was a huge part of this deal. This wasn't just some kind of prospect trade. This was a value-for-value trade that had two really good prospects in it."
Newcomb was selected with the 15th overall selection in the 2014 Draft. The 22-year-old southpaw provides a solid frame and a fastball that has sat in the upper 90s. He continued to draw some comparisons to Jon Lester as he produced a 2.75 ERA and recorded 39 strikeouts in the 36 innings he completed after being promoted to the Double-A level in August. The one knock against Newcomb is inconsistent command.
Ellis was taken in the third round of the 2014 Draft. He produced a 3.90 ERA while pitching at three levels for the Angels this past season. The Braves believe both of the pitchers could reach Atlanta at some point in 2016.
"We weren't sure we could get these sorts of players," Coppolella said. "This was such a good opportunity for us that we wanted to really kind of seize it once it was made available."
Albies' presence provided the Braves more reason to view Simmons as somebody they could reluctantly trade if they ended up getting the right offer.
Coppolella referred to Simmons as the best defensive player in the history of the game on Tuesday. But the Braves understood that his defensive skills could diminish with age and that the .666 OPS he has compiled through his first four Major League seasons might not improve much over the next few years.
As a result, there was some concern about the fact that Simmons' salary will rest between $11 million and $15 million during the final three years of his contract (2018-20).
"It would have been easy to not make this trade," Coppolella said. "It would have been easy to just say, 'Let me hold Simmons, because he's a fan favorite and he makes great plays.' But I want us to get better. I want us to have good young players filling our talent pipeline year in and year out.
"I'm not afraid. Fans won't like this trade because they all love Simmons. I love Simmons, too. He's fun to watch play. We need more talent and we need to get better. This trade helps that happen."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.