Thinking About A Rollins Contract Extension

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?

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30 comments

  1. Richard

    March 07, 2011 08:52 AM

    I think Jeter’s contract is relevant, but only relatively speaking. He has been a much more valuable player than Rollins (though far inferior defensively), and prior to this contract, he was paid accordingly (between 18 & 23 million every year from 2004 to 2010). The new deal is a step back for Jeter, money-wise, with his age and decreasing on-field value factored in.

    So an analogous deal for Rollins would in fact be a step down from his $8.5 million for this year. That said, it seems unlikely that a lower deal would be in the offing.

    It depends on when the extension would be offered. If now, I’d go for around the same as he’s making now, or possibly a wee bit higher, over 3 years. If during the season, or after, it depends on the quality of the season, naturally. If the same quality (but without injuries), I’d maintain the 8.5; if a good bounceback (also without injuries), they’d be in a position of having to go quite a bit higher.

    (Btw, this is just a peeve of mine, but I wish people would stop saying that contracts are “handed” to players, or that they are “given” x amount of money. They are negotiated deals covered by collective bargaining, not gifts.)

  2. LarryM

    March 07, 2011 09:56 AM

    At that price, it would be an easy decision. I like Rollins a lot, but no, see you later.

    However, I’m inclined to think that the Phillies will be able to sign him for considerably less.

    Though a significant bounce back season could raise his price to the area you propose.

  3. Milt

    March 07, 2011 09:59 AM

    No way does J-Roll deserve anything close to 3yrs, 42 mil. He’s regressed offensively in the past two seasons and he has also had trouble staying healthy as well. I agree with Richard that if the Phils were to sign him to another deal, the annual number should be close to the 8 mil he’s currently making. If he truly wants to stay here, he would jump on a deal like that because he has to know himself that he’s simply not the player he was a few years ago.

    And IMO, the face of the franchise label is a little overrated when it comes to certain platers. Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer – they are legitimate faces of their respected franchises. I won’t argue that J-Roll could be accurately called the face of the Phillies, but they could survive without him if he chose to get greedy.

  4. Steve

    March 07, 2011 10:04 AM

    I’d obviously like to see Rollins stick around in red pinstripes. He’s the face of the franchise, better than anyone we have on the farm, and he’s a great clubhouse presence. (I can’t believe I just used that as a legitimate reason)

    Jimmy has a big personality, but I think he understands where he stands value-wise. I think a 3-year deal is fair, at around his current rate. However, I’d be a bit more comfortable with a 2-year deal with a 3rd year team option.

  5. Ajay

    March 07, 2011 11:01 AM

    I’m not sure about this “face of the franchise” thing either. Think about it this way: if you were to ask a sports fan (or perhaps better yet, a relative layman) “Who is the first person you think of when the word Phillies is uttered?”, would Rollins be the answer of a majority of people? I’d wager it is Ryan Howard.

  6. Kruks Krew

    March 07, 2011 11:12 AM

    MLBN ranked Reyes as 4th and Rollins as 6th best ss in baseball RIGHTNOW, so RAJ shouldn’t offer him more than Reyes gets as a FA. In fact, why not replace Jroll with Reyes. RIGHTNOW [sarcasm emoticon]

  7. SJHaack

    March 07, 2011 12:34 PM

    12m+ AAV is way too high for Rollins. I like him as a person, and over the course of his career he has been one of the top 1/3 shortstops in the league, but after two down years I think he has to prove he deserves what he’s CURRENTLY making. I don’t know if he would accept 2 years with a 3rd year option, but that’s about what I would offer him. Maybe 9.5m, 8.5m, 6m Option.

  8. awh

    March 07, 2011 12:52 PM

    Richard, et. al., while you bring up some good points, I think you’re being a little harsh here, and have overlooked the “non-baseball” related value that Rollins brings (IMO you’re selling him short on the ‘face of-the-franchise’ point).

    That said, the easy, and IMHO proper, way to handle the injury problems Rollins has had the last couple of years is to tie the average annual value of the contract to the number of games played – similar to the way pitchers are compensated for innings pitched.

    I think you’re being unrealistic as I don’t think there is any way they’ll get Rollins for less than he currently makes, because 1) he is the face of the franchise in that he’s the first guy the media go to to get a quote, 2) he still has tremendous defensive value (when healthy a GG calibre SS), and 3) salary inflation does happen. Also, Jeter is 3-1/2 years older than Rollins will be at the beginning of Jimmy’s new contract – it makes a difference.

    Rollins signed a team friendly contract (before he became a FA) several years ago in exchange for security, and it worked out for both parties.

    However, if Jimmy wants a raise, EVEN IF he stays healthy this entire season and has a good year, I still believe that given his injury history there ought to be some sort of “games played” performance incentive in his contract.

    Hypothetically, you could do this:

    Base: 3 yrs, 27 MM (slight raise)

    Incentives: 500K to 1 MM for every 50 games played: 500K/1st 50 gms, 1MM/2nd 50, 1.5MM/3rd 50.

    Multiple option years/auto vesting to keep him in Philly for his career if he performs and stays on the field.

    So, his minimum annual value would be $9MM, and his maximum would be about $12MM, making the deal 3/36 if he plays 150 games.

    If the deal has option years with raises and wound up being 5/62 to 6/75 then Jimmy is here and productive for the rest of his career.

  9. awh

    March 07, 2011 12:55 PM

    KruksKrew, I get the joke, but still…if the Phils even TRIED to sign Reyes there would be pickets outside the ballpark. I think he’s so disliked in Philly there would be revolt of the fanbase.

    Personally, I want no part of the guy, regardless of talent level.

  10. Dan P

    March 07, 2011 01:05 PM

    14 mil per year means the Phillies are asking for around 3-WAR (3.5 to be conservative for inflation) per season out of Rollins. That seems pretty fair. He had just 2.7 WAR in ’09, but he was really bad in ’10 and still put up 2.3 WAR in 83 games.

  11. awh

    March 07, 2011 01:15 PM

    KruksKrew, keep in mind that those MLBN rankings are affected by the players ability to stay on the field and perform when healthy.

    Overall Reyes has been slightly better than Rollins offensively, sporting a career 101 OPS+ to Jimmy’s 97 (after 2 injury riddled seasons), and a .769 OPS to Jimmy’s .764. The only thing Reyes does significantly better than Jimmy is steal bases, but he also gets caught more. He also hits for slightly better average, though his career OBP is barely higher.

    But defensively it’s not even close. Reyes, despite being 4-1/2 years younger, has been a negative in the field the couple of years.

    Despite the age difference, unless Reyes can rebound to pre-2009 form, Rollins might actually be a better value in a 3-4 year deal as long as can stay on the field.

  12. awh

    March 07, 2011 01:15 PM

    Oh, Kruks, one thing I forgot to add is to ask whether you think those MLBN rankings might be a little affected by a NY bias?

  13. awh

    March 07, 2011 01:17 PM

    Dan P, fangraphs projects a 3-3 WAr for Jimmy in 2011. It’s how I came up with my hypothetical contract numbers.

  14. awh

    March 07, 2011 01:18 PM

    Oops, should say 3.3 WAR.

  15. Scott G

    March 07, 2011 01:32 PM

    I wasn’t going to be the first one to comment on the face of the franchise thing, but I don’t understand how some of you believe he is the face of the Phillies. Why does it matter if he were around the longest?

    I see way more Utley, Howard, and Hamels t-shirts/jersies than Rollins. I would also wager that more people view these three as “favorite” more than Rollins. So it stands to reason that these players are more valuable from a fan standpoint than Rollins. They sell more merch and would probably cause a bigger uproar if let go.

    I have no problem with Jimmy btw.

  16. Kruks Krew

    March 07, 2011 02:12 PM

    Believe me, no way do I want to see Reyes in red pinstripes. Who knows how MLBN got to their rankings but even Reynolds was shakin his head about Reyes. Frankly, I’m not in the New York bias camp.

    At the same time, I’m not thrilled that JRoll has started extracurricular business activities (e.g. Beiber rap song rights) while still in uniform. Can’t tell me that won’t be a distraction for him for however long he is still playing basebll.

  17. eh

    March 07, 2011 03:17 PM

    Bill, you hosting fantasy baseball again this year??

  18. Kruks Krew

    March 07, 2011 03:40 PM

    I could live with Omar Infante and Galvis covering ss in 2012. Remember Cholly chose Infante for the AllStar roster last year.

    Getting Infante would also allow Polanco to play second.

  19. Dan P

    March 07, 2011 09:42 PM

    Re: Fantasy Baseball

    I’m definitely in

  20. hk

    March 08, 2011 07:06 AM

    Re: Fantasy Baseball

    How does one get in?

  21. hunterfan

    March 08, 2011 08:31 AM

    $42 million over 3 years, with a $10 mil option and a $2 mil buyout? Are you kidding me?

    If Rollins continues to perform at the same level he has the last two years, no way.

    The Phillies would be negotiating against themselves.

  22. hk

    March 08, 2011 01:01 PM

    $44M over 3 years (if the option is declined) or $52M over 4 years (if the option is picked up) seems about $1M per year too rich, especially if they negotiate now with JRoll coming off two subpar, albeit (unlucky) seasons.

    If Jimmy had not been injured, he would have generated 3.5 WAR last year despite the low BABIP induced hitting numbers. If we expect his BABIP to improve somewhere between the .249 of the last two years and his career average, which has dropped to .290, we can probably expect 3.5 WAR this year if he’s healthy. If we project his WAR to drop by 0.5 per season during the extension, we’d be looking at 7.5 WAR from 2012 through 2014. With 5% salary inflation from $5M per WAR, it comes to about $41.25M over the three years.

  23. madhatters

    March 08, 2011 02:33 PM

    Jeter is a .280 hitter. James Rollins (he’s no longer J-Roll until he proves his worth) hasn’t produced a season worth memory in 3 seasons. The thought started creeping into my head last season and only gets lounder and louder. Would you pay $10million for a .240 leadoff man with aboout a .320 obp? NO

    Would you pay that much a 5-hole hitter? No unless he was hitting 30-40hr per year.

    I think mentioning the Alexei Ramirez and Stephen Drew is misleading because these are young guys with huge upside. Jeter is on an entirely different plane than Rollins.

    Jimmy’s best asset was to lead by example but now he leads by showing what the example shouldn’t be. His greatest asset is defense and that is not a $10million per year skill

  24. Bill Baer

    March 08, 2011 04:14 PM

    hk,

    Once I find out how many of last year’s players are returning, I’ll open up the rest of the slots to people here, giving preference to frequent commenters — so you’re probably going to get a spot if you’d like to participate.

    I’m also waiting for some feedback on the fantasy baseball format. Last year, we used a Saber-ish format in a ten-team head-to-head league, but I’m considering going to a standard 4×4 roto with 12-14 teams.

    I’ll be posting about it soon, and the draft will occur some time during the last week of March.

  25. hk

    March 08, 2011 04:38 PM

    madhatters,

    Defense matters. Jeter being a slight upgrade over a cigar store Indian in the field led to the Captain producing a WAR of 2.5 last year, despite 739 plate appearances. On the other hand, stellar defense played a significant role in JRoll producing a WAR of 2.3 despite the injury holding him down to 394 plate appearances. If JRoll had been healthy, his WAR would have been closer to 3.5, well in excess of Jeter’s.

  26. hk

    March 08, 2011 04:49 PM

    Bill,

    Thanks. I would by happy to take a slot if one is open.

  27. LarryM

    March 09, 2011 09:17 AM

    I get why teams do pay a premium for “face of the franchise” players. I just think that 90% of the time it ends up being a bad move. The types of players paid that kind of bonus tend to be overpriced anyway (aging vets), and adding a “face of the franchise” premium to that just makes it worse. By and large, overpriced player means less wins, and losing hurts attendance more that keeping a popular player helps it.

    In this case, Rollins’ “face of the franchise” value is pretty low. He isn’t any more the face of the franchise than Howard or Utley, and probably less so. And the proposed contract pays him probably about double his likely worth in WAR terms.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that by paying Rollins that kind of money is that the Phillies would be doubling down on a strategy of committing themselves to huge contracts on older players. I’ve defended that strategy in the past to some extent (the horrible Howard contract aside), and defended keeping Rollins at a much cheaper price, but there are limits. In 2013, they have already committed to 80 million in salaries for 4 players who will be 35, 34, 34, and 33. Committing to 14 million (for that year alone) more for a 34 year old who already has shown signs of a slightly early decline phase … would not be wise.

    Finally, given what appears to be chronic physical problems on the part of Utley which likely will accelerate his decline phase, I’m not really sure the “win now” strategy (which is the only real justification for overpaying Rollins) obtains past this year. I think 2012 may be the time to start getting significantly younger.

  28. dan

    March 11, 2011 05:57 PM

    ^^ for the same reasons u give above, I believe that Rollins is the FACE OF THE FRANCHISE! in that you are right….the Phillies have 4 faces to this franchise. 4 pedigree players who have been Phillies from Day 1. Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. Now each one of them have gotten market/above market extensions midway through their contracts. You don’t think Utley Hamels and Howard were all given face of the franchise consideration>? So why then wouldn’t Rollins, the longest tenured phillie…. I can’t believe this article says 1996! How can he not be here? He won the MVP the year the PHillies actually became relevant again and is one of the major reasons we made it to the world series. Lead off home runs in the playoffs? Hello! Rollins has done this so many times. One could argue that Rollins has already settled for less than market value given his production over the 2005-2007 and even big moments in 2008. Broxton?! If these aren’t face of the franchise moments than what is>? Not to mention his affinity with the fans. He has the guts to call out Philly fans…take the boos when he does bad, and still goes out there and wins back our respect with his play and attitude….

    Rollins deserves a 3 option 4 yr contract… Not as high as they are saying at the top… but definately 10mil with healthy gold glove incentives (IE stay healthy cuz his glove is always golden)…

    Rollins did not quit on this organization when a lot of players did and he deserves to retire in the red pinstripes.

  29. Steve

    March 11, 2011 06:10 PM

    Who would the Phillies be competing with to sign Rollins? It’s difficult to envision the Phil’s front office handing out more than $30mm to resign Rollins. And in the odd chance that he has a 2007-type season, I suspect he will surely be playing for another team in 2012. $8mm per seems like a reasonable offer to retain him. Perhaps the reality of leaving will result in a discount for the Phils.

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