The Rollins Drama
ESPN’s Buster Olney had a very interesting tweet and story today about Rollins, who was benched three consecutive games last week because Ryne Sandberg had a problem with him:
Sources: There is strong sentiment within PHI organization right now that the team would be better off trading shortstop Jimmy Rollins ASAP.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 18, 2014
Olney then noted, “Jimmy Rollins, of course, cannot be traded without his consent, because he has 10-5 rights.”
Yes, there are folks who have grown tired of Rollins. But then the Phillies also signed him to a three-year, $33 million extension following the 2011 season, despite no evidence any other team in baseball offered him more than a one-year deal. Rollins’ deal includes an easily attainable club option for 2015, which essentially makes this a four-year, $44 million contract. The Phillies handed him this contract, despite knowing his shortcomings, knowing they had Freddy Galvis waiting in the wings and knowing Rollins’ production had declined the previous three seasons. His .720 OPS from 2009-11 ranked 144th out of 181 qualifying players, and 14th out of 25 qualifying shortstops.
They committed big money to him anyway.
Two important things to remember here:
1. Rollins has the power. Don’t forget that. He has 10-and-5 rights, so he can reject any trade at any time for any reason. He has made that perfectly clear repeatedly over the past year. Talking about a potential fire sale last season, he said in May it would be strange not to see Chase Utley at second base. I reminded Rollins that he could be traded, but only if he accepted. He smiled and said, “Yeah, I’ve got the juice.” He reiterated that stance in July, when he said he would not waive his trade rights because he wanted to pursue some personal records, including the franchise’s hits record.
“I don’t plan on putting on a different uniform,” Rollins said. “That’s just the way it is. I could say it that way. I could say I’ve got work I need to do. I could say I’ve got records I need to break. I could say I want to win another World Series or two. They would love that because it’s said the way they want to hear it. But we weren’t going to win a World Series last year, so I couldn’t make that statement at that moment. It doesn’t matter how it’s said. I really don’t plan on putting on another uniform. If I say something wrong, get on me. If I speak the truth, you can get on me, but it’s not going to bother me. That’s the thing. I’m straightforward. I’ll be politically correct because I have to be at times, but I’m straightforward.”
And, yes, Rollins repeated himself once more just the other day to CSNPhilly.com.
The Phillies have tried the previous two trade deadlines and offseasons to move him, but does he sound like a guy who wants to be traded? Does he sound like a guy who would even entertain the thought?
2. The Phillies are expected to have a franchise-record payroll come Opening Day. Whether or not anybody thinks this team is going to be any good — there are plenty of signs this spring that suggest otherwise — the Phillies have committed a ton of money to their roster, so they are going to try to win. People love Galvis’ glove, but some remain unconvinced he can hit big-league pitching on a regular basis. And while Rollins is coming off the worst year of his career, some still think he can bounce back (along with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, etc.) and provide enough production to put this team into postseason contention. It might be a long shot, but in some ways it would make little sense to try and trade Rollins now.
Not that Rollins would accept a trade anyway.
Rollins needs 434 plate appearances to have his club option automatically vest. This is a layup, if he is healthy. Couldn’t the Phillies put the screws to him and tell him they plan to split time at shortstop between him and Galvis? I suppose they could, but it seems unlikely. (Rollins said last week he hasn’t even thought about that possibility.) Push aside frustrations regarding Rollins for a moment. He is the greatest shortstop in franchise history. He helped the team win just its second World Series championship in franchise history. He won a National League MVP Award in 2007. He is a former All-Star, Gold Glover and Silver Slugger winner. He works in the community and has the most tenure of any professional athlete in Philadelphia. For those reasons, and knowing how Phillies president David Montgomery runs his business — he appreciates what Rollins has meant to the organization as much or more than anybody — I would be surprised if the Phillies tried a tactic like this.
But this whole thing really comes back to production. The Phillies turned a blind eye to Rollins’ faults in the past when he put up big offensive numbers. Eh, so he doesn’t always run hard to first. Eh, so he seems indifferent at times. The guy produces. But now that Rollins isn’t producing there is less tolerance, and more people expressing their frustrations, whether it’s a pointed “no comment” from Sandberg when asked about Rollins’ influence this spring or sources in Olney’s story.
Sandberg sent Rollins a clear message last week. Could the Phillies be trying to send another? Or is this just the wishful thinking of a Phillies front office executive? Remember, front offices discuss countless scenarios, the majority of which never come close to fruition. Regardless of what anybody feels or desires, the Phillies and Rollins are going to continue their relationship into the season. I would bet on it.