Let’s Get Jimmy Rollins Locked Up

If I polled a random selection of Phillies fans about Jimmy Rollins‘ .287/.379/.374 triple-slash line, I wager most of them would express disappointment with his 2011 season thus far. They would cite the two RBI he had in his first 23 games, hitting out of the #3 spot in the batting order, and perhaps the low slugging percentage. The more Sabermetrically-inclined would be a bit less critical of Rollins, happy with the improved place discipline and walk rate, but critical nonetheless.

The reality, though, is that good shortstops are hard to find. On the SweetSpot blog, David Schoenfield wrote about the dearth of quality American League shortstops, but the problem exists in the National League as well. Yes, the NL has Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes, but after those three, there is just not much out there. Last season, the average NL shortstop posted a .713 OPS, tied with catchers for the lowest average OPS at any position.

Rollins’ current .753 OPS seems reasonable at this point, no? In early March, I discussed the potential negotiations between the Phillies and Rollins, who becomes a free agent after the season. This situation wasn’t swept up during the past off-season because the Phillies did not know what they were going to get out of Rollins. Injuries sidelined him for roughly half of the 2010 season, so he very well could have gone into this season as a huge injury risk, or with a near-empty tank.

That Rollins hasn’t started off on a blistering pace should be good news, in one respect, for the Phillies organization and for the fans. He has proven himself reliable in all facets (offense, defense, base running), but hasn’t done so in a prominent way (yet) that would draw significant interest in terms of phone calls leading up to the trading deadline and in terms of the eyeballs of other teams’ scouts towards the end of the regular season. His .753 OPS is deceptively good, especially since it’s heavy on the on-base percentage; his .348 wOBA is well above the .315 average. Effectively, Rollins’ good-but-not-great start makes him quite affordable to the Phillies, since his leverage is limited.

The Phillies don’t have any depth in the Minors when it comes to shortstops; just Freddy Galvis, a slick fielder with very little in the way of offense. Unless GM Ruben Amaro feels confident diving into the shallow pool of Major League free agent shortstops — think Miguel Tejada, currently earning $6.5 million on a one-year deal with the San Francisco Giants — or resorting to his guile in manufacturing a trade, signing Rollins to a short-term extension makes a world of sense for all parties involved.

His subpar and injury-plagued seasons included, only three shortstops have been more valuable from 2008-10 than Jimmy Rollins, going by FanGraphs WAR: Hanley Ramirez (18.9), Derek Jeter (13.2), and Troy Tulowitzki (13.0). Rollins, at 10.3, should be just fine going forward.

Update: I posted a question to David Hale’s live chat today, and he was kind enough to answer:

Comment From Bill Baer (Crashburn):  Have you heard anything about Jimmy Rollins and getting him signed to a contract beyond 2011?

David Hale: Neither side has said much on the subject since the spring but I have to believe that there’s some sense within the organization that they’d like to get something done.

There isn’t a clear solution of Rollins leaves. The only real improvement on the free agent market is Reyes, and I’m not sure how much that’s a realisitic possibility.

Within the organization, there are some good defenders, but a lot of offensive question marks.

Jimmy’s looked improved this year in the early going — and if that continues for another month or two, and he’s not asking for a ton of years — I’m guessing something gets done.

Make sure to follow Hale on Twitter (@Philled_In) and check out his blog Philled In for Phillies news and analysis.

. . .

On a tangential note, Vance Worley‘s success (now known as “Vance Vance Revolution” as per Matt Gelb) is great for the Phillies. Stop me when I start sounding crazy.  It’s great not just because he’s helped the team win, but because it makes Joe Blanton expendable. Worley may not be a true 0.75 ERA pitcher (tongue firmly in cheek), but his Minor League numbers over 403 innings suggest he should be about as good as Blanton given his strikeout and walk rates, the best predictors for a pitcher’s future performance.

Blanton will earn $8.5 million both this year and next. Should the Phillies feel a need to clear salary, they can do so by making Blanton available. Blanton would represent an upgrade to most teams’ starting rotations. Assuming the Phillies aren’t interested in receiving any legitimate prospects in a Blanton deal, finding a team to consume the remainder of Blanton’s contract should be rather easy.

In another scenario, the Phillies may still be looking for outfield or second base help going into late July, depending on how things shape up with Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and Domonic Brown. Blanton could certainly net the Phillies an everyday corner outfielder or second baseman, provided they cover most of his remaining salary.

On the other hand, Worley provides the Phillies quality insurance in the event a starting pitcher succumbs to injury, as was the case with Blanton. If the Phillies use Blanton to eat salary or make an offensive upgrade, that means Kyle Kendrick would be the first line of defense, a scenario no Phillies fan wants to envision. With Roy Oswalt‘s back problems, the Phillies will be weighing the pros and cons of a multitude of possible transactions as the season progresses.

Leave a Reply

*

36 comments

  1. bje79

    May 05, 2011 06:56 AM

    So, what do you do with Worley once Blanton comes back from the DL? I guess the smart move is to send him back down to the minors, to keep him stretched out as a starter, in case he’s needed again. But I can’t help but feel that he would be better than KK in that bullpen role due to his ability to actually, you know, miss bats.

  2. Bill Baer

    May 05, 2011 07:33 AM

    He would be better, but assuming that Kendrick is used correctly (which is a big assumption), the gap in skill between the two shouldn’t have that great an effect.

  3. charles

    May 05, 2011 08:05 AM

    Bill,

    Over/Under on Jimmy’s OBP at the end of the season? Is he really going to walk 80 times?

  4. Liz

    May 05, 2011 08:08 AM

    I’m not disappointed with Jimmy at all thus far. He’s hitting the ball, he’s taking pitches, and he’s walking. All things that I don’t remember him doing with much frequency last year (when he was actually playing, of course, not when he was sitting in the dugout acting as de facto hitting coach). It’s been nice to see him do everything better — it’s a good thing for the team, for the fans, and for Jimmy himself (though self assurance isn’t something that he’s ever lacked).

  5. Bill Baer

    May 05, 2011 08:26 AM

    @ charles

    I’ll set it at .365.

    Walk rate stabilizes at 200 PA. So, give it another three weeks and we can be relatively confident that Rollins will continue having a great idea of the strike zone.

  6. LarryM

    May 05, 2011 08:48 AM

    If anything I think he’s having a better year than you give him credit for. With offense down league wide, his ops+ is actually the second highest of his career, behind only his MVP season. And as you say, because of the high obp, his ops underestimates his value as a hitter. And if you project his current WAR (per Fangraphs) over the full season, he is looking at a 6.1 WAR season, which would be his second best WAR season, just behind the MVP year.

    Since I also think his power will come around some, the Phillies should indeed lock him up now. He could do better on the FA market than anyone would have imagined 2 months ago.

  7. LarryM

    May 05, 2011 09:06 AM

    I project 65 BB, using his BB rate from last year and this year combined, and assuming 600 PA. If he hits .270, that’s an OBP of roughly .349 for the year which would be tied for a career high. I tend to think that it will be a little higher, but .365 may be a little optimistic. As I said, I think his power will improve; .270/.355/.400 may be a reasonable projection, actually marginally LESS effective than he is now, but with more EBH probably more superficially attractive to the average fan.

  8. bill

    May 05, 2011 09:36 AM

    Jimmy continues to be an excellent fielder, and shortstops with even an above average bat and his fielding skills are tough to find. Additionally, if he continues to keep his OBP as high as he has, he has more value at the top of the order than ever. His BABIP was very low last year (guess partially due to leg issues), and if he maintains a higher BABIP (.291 career), he should be able to maintain at least a 350~ OBP, which will continue being valuable, even with a bit less power.

  9. LarryM

    May 05, 2011 09:44 AM

    Slightly OT, but it’s interesting to look at the WAR numbers of the Phillies position players thus far. Polanco and Victorino are predictably first and second with unsustainable totals due to fast starts. Rollins is third. Howard is fourth, with a total that projects out to 4.5 for the season – a slight rebound year for him.

    Fifth is Francisco, not surprising, except that he is right behind Howard and projects out to 3.9 WAR. Higher, I suspect, than most of us would have expected. His offensive numbers are certainly sustainable as well. The catch is that his totals are driven to some degree by perhaps unsustainable (and perhaps unreliable) fielding numbers.

  10. Phylan

    May 05, 2011 09:47 AM

    I was thinking the same thing about Worley/Blanton last night, but I kept it to myself since everyone loves the shit out of Joe Blanton right now

  11. Josh B

    May 05, 2011 09:47 AM

    Yes!

  12. Scott

    May 05, 2011 10:36 AM

    Bill,

    Say that the Phils are able to find a suitor for Donuts, and RecSpecs Worley finds his way permanently into the rotation –

    In a nightmare scenario where Oswalt is shut down for a period of time, who would you look to in the minors to bring up? Is Carpenter ready?

  13. Bill Baer

    May 05, 2011 10:48 AM

    Carpenter has only made one start (as opposed to six relief appearances) for Lehigh Valley, so I think he’s out of the question at the moment. I think the Phillies would have no option but to go with Kendrick.

    If J.C. Ramirez ever starts to miss bats this year, he might become an option at some point.

  14. Shaun Hess

    May 05, 2011 11:03 AM

    Drew gets absolutely no respect, but that’s fine. In terms of Rollins and the position, those numbers are definitely conclusion worthy, can’t argue that. The issue lies in the amount of money that he would like. If he wants top dollar, Werth-like, forget it. And the Phils do not have depth at the position, but no one does. Even the higher rated young SS that have promise are really lacking at the plate for a solid 2-3 years, outside of your Hanleys and Tulos.

  15. KH

    May 05, 2011 11:26 AM

    I would be comfortable extending him for three years, maybe with a team option or some kind of vested extra year if he meets certain goals, at roughly what he made per year last contract. Could he get more then that on the open market with a good year? Crazier things have happened. He is a name and all it takes is one stupid orginization to cost the Phillies a lot of money or Rollins.

  16. Scott

    May 05, 2011 11:26 AM

    Considering what he’s making right now, and how salaries have ballooned of late – would it be realistic to think a contract in the 3 or 4 year range at 10 mil per would be about right?

    Even though Jimmy is still only 32, he’s got a lot of mileage on him.

  17. Scott G.

    May 05, 2011 11:38 AM

    I couldn’t agree more about everything in this post:

    1) Rollins is proving he has a decent amount in the tank, but not overwhelmingly so that he would require a big chunk of cash.

    2) Blanton is expendable, but let’s wait a bit until teams are out of it.

    Blanton and Ibanez for Ryan Braun!!!!!!!

  18. Smitty

    May 05, 2011 12:54 PM

    Yeah I agree with this. He’s still better than 75% of shortstops in the league. Plus for symbolic reasons it would be nice not to see Jimmy finish his career in a Dodgers or A’s uniform or something.

    @Scott G.

    Blanton and Ibanez for Braun? You realize Ed Wade isn’t the GM for the Brewers, they aren’t just gonna give up one of the top 5 outfielders in the NL for a burrito who almost needs tommy john surgery and a man who’s dangerously close to being eligable for social security.

  19. Phylan

    May 05, 2011 12:56 PM

    Yeah Scott, I think 4/$40 might get it done. He’s averaged 2 WAR for the last 3 years even through the struggles, so if he can do that for four more (by no means a guarantee) it’ll be worth it.

  20. joe

    May 05, 2011 01:12 PM

    no way. i love jimmy but it’s all downhill for him from here, and the Phils need to get younger.

  21. Matt

    May 05, 2011 01:38 PM

    Bill, just for the purpose of this question, let’s assume Jimmy maintains this level of production, or just a slight drop off. Any guesses what he might command on the open market?

  22. Tim

    May 05, 2011 01:41 PM

    Yeah, the shortstop position is fairly thin all around baseball, and Jimmy has been a huge part of this team seemingly forever. But I’m with joe here. The Phillies are so old. Raul will be out of the picture next season, and there could be some youth coming in the outfield, but can we afford to have an infield whose members are all well into their 30s? And I’m so glad that Jimmy’s doing well now, but given the rigors of shortstop, when he does hit the age wall, there’s potential for his offense to really fall off the cliff (pardon the mixed metaphor).

  23. Phylan

    May 05, 2011 01:50 PM

    @Joe

    OK, but what is your solution then? What young, serviceable shortstop is available to the Phillies?

  24. bill

    May 05, 2011 01:55 PM

    Phillies do need to get younger, and they almost definitely will next year by replacing Ibanez, and probably soon after that, Francisco (with Singleton/Brown).

  25. LarryM

    May 05, 2011 01:56 PM

    Really, that high?

    I think he is a difficult guy to project for a lot of reasons (not the least of which are recent injuries). I’d certainly hope the Phillies can sign him for 3/30, which I would do in a minute, but maybe I’m kidding myself.

  26. Bill Baer

    May 05, 2011 02:02 PM

    @ LarryM

    That’s slightly less than what Jeter got. $14M/season would pay him like a 2.5-3.0 WAR player, which he is — and he has the potential to be a lot better as well.

  27. joe

    May 05, 2011 05:01 PM

    it’s true enough that all the proven young shortstops are locked up… i hadn’t noticed the the chisox-alexei ramirez deal until today.

    the only decent options that i see are both in the division: the marlins’ osvaldo martinez and the nationals’ ian desmond. maybe the nats would take blanton?

    i feel like giving a 3-year deal to a player like jimmy is the classic way that franchises whittle away at their flexibility. i doubt he’d take less, knowing he can get it somewhere.

  28. Joe Redden

    May 05, 2011 05:59 PM

    Bill,

    While I agree we need to lockup Rollins for a couple more years, I can’t see us digging in the bank for $14M per year. I do put him above Jeter though. Jeter stats are bolstered by the fact that he has absolutely no range and therefore is never in position to make an error. With that in mind, Jeter was wayyyyyy overpaid for nostalgia sake and I just can’t see the Phillies paying that out. I would think Rollins would settle for 2 years @ 12M per with a club option for the third at $15M. That would protect us if we see some serious drop-off and would also give him something to work towards. He has definitely shown he puts out when under the gun.

  29. Jim

    May 05, 2011 08:06 PM

    3/42 is way higher than every estimate I’ve read about his open market value, with most estimates hovering around 30-35 for 3 years.

    I’m all for locking him up for 3 years with a team option for a fourth, but for no more than 12 million annually. He’s not getting any better but he is still better than anything outside of Reyes (who will supposedly ask for 7 years).

  30. Ryan

    May 06, 2011 03:08 PM

    I was under the impression that Joe Blanton has been available in a trade since the day Cliff Lee signed here.

    Would the Phillies, who are clearly a “win-now” type of team, not benefit more by making WORLEY available in a trade, similar to the way they moved Happ last year?

    Trading Blanton will not, in and of itself, be enough to get a meaningful bat in return. The salary relief is good, but then Amaro has to make two deals before the deadline, and more then likely who ever takes Blanton will not want 100% of his salary.

    With Worley, you could make on move and realize an immediate value.

  31. Ryan

    May 07, 2011 02:14 AM

    I agree with most fans on here. I would like to see Jimmy signed to a 3-year extension with a 4th year option, if it was no higher than 12million annually. Even considering the apparent shortage of ‘good’ (for lack of a better word) shortstops in the game, I dont know how many teams would pay more than 12million per year for Jimmy on the FA market…

    …and I see some fans here are mentioning potential July deadline moves. I do think the phils will more than kick the tires on Quintin and the White Sox. I believe they were already looking at him and his right-handed power bat as a potential jayson werth replacement during the offseason, and if the White Sox stay at the bottom of the AL Central, I’m sure Ruben could work some magic in a deal. However, Quintin is only making around 5.5 mil this year I think, and will have another arbitration year next before FA. The White Sox could easily afford to keep him through 2012, but if they are out of contention I think a deal could get done. A decent prospect package could interest the White Sox and their seemingly depleted farm system…I think its gonna happen

  32. Larry M

    May 10, 2011 12:26 PM

    The “slow start” meme regarding Rollins becomes more outdated every day – I think it was when this was posted, but is even more so now. Despite still mediocre power numbers, he is overall now having easily his second best season offensively so far. And, in context, not far behind his MVP year (OPS+ 119 versus 113, but given his increase in OBP, I would argue that it’s quite close. Offensive WAR projected to be 4.76 versus 5.0 in the MVP year.)

    Despite that, 14 million a year seems steep for a variety of reasons, mainly because his age means a lot of downside risk. I think the Jeter contract is not very relevant for reasons which should be obvious. But if he keeps it up I can certainly see him getting 36/3, which is more than I would have guessed if you asked me before the season began.

Next ArticleGraph of the Intermittent Time Period