The proverbial hot stove hit its temperature apex yesterday with the New York Mets making a flurry of moves to bolster their bullpen, the ongoing negotiations between the Florida Marlins and Albert Pujols, and the plethora of trade rumors ricocheting off of the hotel walls in Dallas, Texas, the location of the winter meetings.
One player creating a lot of Phillies-related buzz is, of course, Jimmy Rollins. The free agent shortstop is seeking a five-year deal, something which correctly makes the Phillies’ brass flinch. As a result, the Phillies have attempted to look elsewhere for solutions, whether legitimately or as a means to increase their leverage. Rumors linked the Phillies to third baseman Aramis Ramirez and initial reports indicated that the Phillies were shopping Placido Polanco. With Jose Reyes off the market, the gap between Rollins and the next-best available shortstop is a veritable chasm, so it makes sense that they would attempt to make an improvement elsewhere, rather than settling for less.
A byproduct of trading away Polanco in favor of Ramirez or any other third baseman is that it very nearly relegates the Phillies to relying on Minor League shortstop Freddy Galvis. Galvis put himself on the map last year with a breakout season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, finishing with a composite OPS at .716 and a marked increase in power (.128 ISO with Reading, 50 points higher than his mark there in 2010). It was a nice change from his previous four seasons when he finished with an OPS below .600.
Although the league-average offensive output for shortstops is paltry (.688 OPS, .113 ISO last season), it is unlikely that Galvis would be able to produce enough to warrant the promotion. ZiPS, a projection system created by Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski), sees Galvis with an OPS+ of 77, meaning his OPS would be 23 percent lower than the league average after adjusting for park factors. In 2011, 25 different shortstops (min. 300 PA) equaled or exceeded that mark, while only six were found below. Additionally, while the 22-year-old’s defense is highly-regarded, it is still a work in progress and is unlikely to be elite if he were to be given the starting job out of spring training. ZiPS projects his defense merely as average.
Given the way the Phillies have handled Domonic Brown — delay, delay, delay — it doesn’t seem consistent that the team would rely on a 22-year-old rookie with just 126 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Still, the thought is there and if Rollins continues to stick to his pursuit of a five-year contract, it becomes more and more of a possibility. When other options include using internal options like Wilson Valdez or making a trade for a hired gun such as Jason Bartlett, Galvis becomes more attractive by the day. And that’s just unfortunate for everyone involved.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: please come back, Jimmy.