According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Phillies and free agent Jimmy Rollins are talking, but Rollins is still asking for a five-year contract, meaning a quick resolution probably isn’t on the way.
Rollins is coming off something of a bounce-back season at age 32, having hit .268/.338/.399 in 567 at-bats. That was good for a 101 OPS+ (OPS adjusted for league and ballpark, with the average player coming in at 100). He finished at 87 and 85 in the two seasons prior to that. Those were two of his three lowest marks in his 12 years as a big leaguer.
Rollins still has considerable value as an everyday shortstop, but given that he appears well past his prime offensively, a three-year deal would surely be much more attractive to the Phillies. They could well get burned if they commit to him for his age-36 and 37 seasons now.
But what is the risk? Here’s a glance at how the players deemed most comparable to Rollins after their age-32 seasons performed at 36 and 37. I’m not going in depth here, just a quick look at their OPS+ and playing time for those two seasons. The player list is from Baseball-Reference.com.
Alan Trammell: 84 in 292 AB, 82 in 223 AB|
Craig Biggio: 88 in 577 AB, 96 in 628 AB
Joe Morgan: 115 in 461 AB, 115 in 308 AB
Dick Bartrell: Out of baseball
Lou Whitaker: 133 in 383 AB, 121 in 322 AB
Ryne Sandberg: 96 in 554 AB, 83 in 447 AB
Edgar Renteria: N/A
Derek Jeter: 90 in 663 AB, 97 in 546 AB
Travis Jackson: Out of baseball
Ray Durham: 113 in 370 AB, retired
It’s not quite as ugly as I thought it might be. The problem is that Rollins simply isn’t as good as most of the players on this list. He has a 97 OPS+ through age 32. Trammell, who should be in the Hall of Fame, was at 114. Biggio was at 125, and Morgan was at a whopping 140.
Rollins is more comparable to Renteria, but that’s not fair either. Renteria, who plays next year at 36, had his last good season at 30. Durham was a similar hitter to Rollins, and while he was out of baseball at 37, it certainly wasn’t because of his bat. Rollins has a lot in common offensively with former outfielder Marquis Grissom, who was just as good as ever at ages 36 and 37.
I suspect that Rollins will be a below average regular by the time 2015 rolls around, but he probably won’t be a big liability. The Phillies can afford to compromise and give him a four-year deal, solidifying their shortstop situation while they still rank among the game’s best teams these next couple of seasons. Things will likely get ugly in Philadelphia come 2015 anyway, so throwing an extra $15 million of so Rollins’ way that year shouldn’t wreak too much havoc.