There was no way any other outcome was possible, and Dontrelle Willis‘s recruiting pitch proved successful, as the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed Jimmy Rollins to a three-year deal worth $33 million. There is a vesting option for a fourth season, and that is also at $11 million. J-Roll has been with the Phillies since the turn of the millennium, and there was never any doubt in my mind that the shortstop would return. I mean, I just can’t see him playing on a team outside of Philly.
Rollins still plays solid defense and is still decent enough on the bases, even though he is at the ripe, young age of 33. He will begin his decline during this deal, but it is important to note that J-Roll was worth 3.8 WAR last year; he’s still quite valuable. Even in a down year like 2010, Rollins was still worth a solid 2.5 WAR. The market for shortstops was getting thin, so it was important for the Phils to re-sign one of their best players in recent history.
For the first time since 2008, Rollins had a wRC+ above 100 (a total of 106). He drew a solid amount of walks, and you don’t have to be spectacular to provide an above-average bat at a weak offensive position. It’s difficult to find a shortstop who can get on base at a .338 clip, hit 16 homers, and put forth decent defense at an extremely tough position.
In 2010, Rollins’s down year, his line drive percentage was a career-low 16.8%. This definite anomaly messed up his offensive numbers and caused him to have an insanely unlucky BABIP of .246. His year of decline was based solely on luck and not on a lack of skill- or even decline, but there aren’t many 33-year-old shortstops who can stave off the effects of old age. Expect his defense to decline and his power to gradually decrease with age.
The fans on FanGraphs see Rollins as a 4 WAR player in 2012, while Bill James believes that J-Roll will be worth 3.5 WAR. I think James’s projections are right in line with Rollins’s true value, and Rollins holds more value than what WAR/$ would say based on what he means to the Phillies. He is one of the faces of their franchise, and a shortstop who is able to do hit, field, and run well is tough to find indeed.
Since there are three guaranteed years, I will focus on these three seasons when analyzing the amount of money tied into this contract. Jimmy Rollins will have to be worth- assuming $5 million is the value of a win- 6.6 WAR during these three seasons. An average of 2.2 WAR per season is something that Rollins will be able to accomplish, and I see him being worth around 9 WAR (3 WAR per season) during the course of this three-year contract. Thus, the Phillies saved about $12 million in what was a cheaper deal than what I expected.
It’s funny to look at a deal like the one given to Rollins and the deals given to other shortstops. The number of suitors for Rollins was dwindling down, as most teams filled their needs at short with cheaper players. They may have been cheaper, but the deals were not worth it due to the lack of production that these below-average shortstops provided. Rollins has sentimental importance to the Phillies organization, and all of the other shortstops were flawed in either their offense or defense. Again, it is almost impossible to find a shortstop who has the ability to provide above-average offense and defense to a club. Of all shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances last season, Rollins was one of only three players to have a wRC+ of 100 or more, a positive Fld, and a positive BsR.
At first glance, it looks like the Phillies gave up too much money. $11 million to a 33-year-old shortstop is usually not ideal, but people forget that the game goes beyond simple statistics and that Rollins isn’t your usual shortstop. Rollins’s ability to hit as a shortstop and not sacrifice on defense is certainly valuable, and the Phils were able to retain a key franchise guy for cheaper than market value. What makes this deal even more surprisingly good for the Phillies is that much worse shortstops were receiving higher-than-expected deals. The organization must be commended on this move, as they didn’t overpay for one of the big names in baseball.