Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins and his desire for a five-year deal

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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.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.