While the Philadelphia Phillies continue to pave their way to the post season with win after win, it may be a bit premature to be talking about off-season concerns. But that's what's on this writer's mind this morning, so there it is. Once their post-season concludes (Will they win their second title in four years?), they have a Jeter-like decision to make concerning Jimmy Rollins. Rollins isn't as old as Derek Jeter, but at the age of 33 when he plays next season, he's no spring chicken either and he's shown some durability issues in the last couple of years. What should the Phillies do?
First off, the Phillies have no one to replace Rollins. None of their top prospects are shortstops. Well, you could include Freddy Galvis, who is as good as Rollins defensively but shows no promise of being able to hit. Though in fairness, his bat did improve this year in Double A. Wilson Valdez has filled in for Rollins during previous injuries, but Valdez doesn't hit consistently and isn't nearly the fielder that Rollins is. So who else is there? Their Triple A shortstop has a .588 OPS and a .957 fielding percentage. Ugh. There won't be any shortstops worth obtaining on the market. Rollins is the team's best option.
Rollins has been underpaid. Jimmy Rollins has been quite a bargain for quite a few years now. Even last year, a decidedly off year for Rollins, he still earned more with his play than his salary paid him. And for most of the last six years, his play was worth double and triple what his paycheck paid him. And that includes this year. While it would be nice to keep that reality, the fact is that Rollins is going to get paid, if not by the Phillies, then by someone else. He's earned it.
The major stumbling block will be the length of the contract Rollins will ask for. Rollins will be looking for terms that will seal his earnings potential for the rest of his career. Anything longer for the Phillies than four years would be troubling. A way out for the team would be a four year deal with mutual options for two years after that. That way, if Rollins deteriorates, the Phillies have an out while protecting Rollins with a buyout.
Shortstops are valuable commodities. And Rollins hasn't lost anything in the field. He still runs well and has some pop left in his bat. He's certainly not a lead off batter anymore (if he ever was). But shortstops, especially when they have been a face of your franchise and highly underpaid for years, should be kept. The Phillies, as they are currently constructed, could compete for several more years with their core of players. Jimmy Rollins should remain among that core.