When the Phillies picked up his $8.5 million option, 2011 became a very important year for Jimmy Rollins. The 32-year-old is on the verge of free agency for the first time in his career, and it may be the last opportunity Rollins has to sign a significant contract.
Unfortunately, 2010 was the second consecutive disappointing season for the well-tenured shortstop, a fixture in the Phillies organization since 1996. His .719 and .694 OPS, respectively, were his worst since ’03 when he was still getting his feet wet in the Majors. Last year, he landed on the disabled list twice, both for calf strains. He was sidelined an additional 17 days in September due to a thigh strain.
With age and injuries against him, bettors are casting their chips elsewhere, leaving Rollins by himself to prove them all wrong.
For the Phillies, they are in an interesting predicament. Clearly, they have a team built to win now, but they are by no means all-in as prospect mavens rave about the high upside found within the farm system. The ultimate goal, however, is to win the World Series and no team is better equipped to accomplish that goal in the next few years than the Phillies.
Despite the high upside in the Minors, the Phillies have only one notable shortstop prospect: Freddy Galvis, a very light-hitting defensive wizard, who just finished his first full season at Double-A Reading at the age of 20. Losing Rollins to free agency would mean relying on Galvis, a yet-to-be-named free agent or trade acquisition, or career utilityman Wilson Valdez — certainly not a situation in which a World Series contender would want to find itself.
This is a perfect storm for both Rollins and the Phillies. Given his recent struggles, Rollins has very little leverage to bargain with, while the Phillies very much would enjoy keeping Rollins around. Given inflation, incentives, and Rollins’ increased stature (veteranosity), the Phillies would have to do better than the $8 million average annual value on his last contract. What would a realistic contract look like? We can check out those handed to other shortstops recently (all information from Cot’s Contracts):
- Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: 3 years/$51M (2011-13), plus 2014 player option
- 11:$15M, 12:$16M, 13:$17M, 14:$8M player option ($3M buyout)
- signed December 6, 2010
- Marco Scutaro, Boston Red Sox: 2 years/$12.5M (2010-11), plus 2012 options
- 10:$5M, 11:$5M, 12:$6M club option/$3M player option ($1.5M buyout)
- signed December 4, 2009
- Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks: 2 years/$15.75M (2011-12), plus 2013 mutual option
- 11:$4.65M, 12:$7.75M, 13:$10M mutual option ($1.35M buyout)
- signed January 18, 2011
- Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox: 4 years/$32.5M (2012-15), plus 2016 club option
- 12:$5M, 13:$7M, 14:$9.5M, 15:$10M, 16:$10M club option ($1M buyout)
- signed February 3, 2011
- Jason Bartlett, San Diego Padres: 2 years/$11M (2011-12), plus 2013 option
- 11:$4M, 12:$5.5M, 12:$5.5M club option ($1.5M buyout)
- signed January 10, 2011
Obviously, Troy Tulowitzki‘s mega-deal has absolutely no place in the conversation here. Overall, I think Jeter’s contract has the most salience to this discussion. Like Rollins, Jeter is the face of the franchise going into the late stages of his career. And, like the Phillies, the Yankees are a well-funded organization with no obvious replacement at shortstop in the short term.
The average annual value of $17 million on Jeter’s contract is more than double that of Rollins’ current contract. Rollins isn’t quite the marketing phenomenon that Jeter is, so there is less return on investment for the Phillies. What if we scale back Jeter’s contract a bit to $42 million over three years, with a fourth year option for $10 million and a $2 million buy-out?
Does that sound like a realistic contract extension for the Phillies’ shortstop? Or would you rather let him go to find a replacement in free agency or via trade?