In his talk with Heyman, Jimmy Rollins made it clear that he thinks a five-year deal is the perfect length of a new deal for him. He also made it clear that he is looking forward to free agency and testing what his worth might be on the open market. As usual though, Rollins straddled the line nicely and gave kudos to Philadelphia and his love for playing with the same organization that he's been with since he was 17.
For their part, the Phillies will have some contracts coming off the books after the season and they can afford to give Rollins a competitive number when it comes to salary per year. That five years though might be somewhat of a deal-breaker and Rollins himself understands that. "Teams don't give you years. They want to keep the uncertainty to a minimum," Rollins told Heyman.
The Phillies have been very careful not to bog themselves down with long-term albatross contracts that have hurt them in the past and are currently hurting other clubs. There is some thought though that the Phillies may have at least a couple of those deals on the books right now, but only time will tell if those deals really do turn out to be cement shoes. Top of the list would be Chase Utley, who is signed through 2013 at $15 million per year. Utley's offensive numbers are falling steadily over the past few seasons and he's also become one of the more brittle players in baseball, so by the time 2013 ends, the Phillies may be ruing the day they took Utley out that far on a deal. Then again, a turn-around by Utley would make that deal look reasonable, so only time will tell.
If five is the perfect number for Rollins, then three is likely a near perfect number for the Phillies. Ideally, they might even be able to stay at a year or two, thanks to the emergence of Freddy Galvis, who is moving closer and closer to being major league ready, but they know that's just not going to happen. Ruben Amaro Jr. is smart enough to realize that there is no way Rollins signs for just a season or two, so he's going to have to go three years if he expects to be serious at all about re-signing Rollins. By the time a three-year deal would end for Rollins, he would be 35 and could potentially still be in line for another nice payday, depending on his numbers at that time. Of course, if Rollins' numbers aren't near what they are now, his five-year plan would still give him a couple more years of financial windfall to keep his accountant happy.
Looking at the numbers, Heyman points out that Rollins' season numbers for 2011 are right around where he is for his career. Rollins career line stands at .268/.338/.396 and his 2011 numbers are currently at .272/.329/.433, which seems to give credence to the fact that he's not anywhere near the down-side of his career. It also means that he could very well get a five-year deal from a club who is in need of a driving force in their clubhouse and in their lineup. That's where the San Francisco Giants come in.
The Giants are perpetually looking for offense, but every attempt to add what they needed has pretty much failed. Last season, Cody Ross gave them a nice boost, but again in 2011, their offense was hurting. Carlos Beltran turned out to be one big medical bill for the club and the Giants wound up missing the playoffs. Rollins would fill a need in their lineup at shortstop and also give them a bona fide leadoff hitter. His character and attitude in the clubhouse would also be a big addition to the club as they attempt to reload for the 2012 season. And last, but not least, Rollins grew up in the Bay Area and would be an instant fit for the club and their fan base. Add to that the fact that one of Rollins' best friends, none other than CC Sabathia, recently said that he thought Rollins would wind up with the Giants and there appears to be a lot of reason to believe that Rollins might be pulled from one coast to the other by the Giants.
So, can the Phillies go five years for J-Roll? Yes. Will they go five years for J-Roll? Maybe. Should they go five years for J-Roll? No.
The Phillies are an aging team and they need to fit in some young players where possible if they're going to keep their streak of division titles alive past five years. With the likely exit of Raul Ibanez, it figures they'll be younger in left field next season with John Mayberry Jr. and/or Domonic Brown taking over in left. Brad Lidge could exit and hand over his role to a younger pitcher like Mike Stutes, who actually handled that job when Lidge was on the DL earlier this season. Or possibly, Michael Schwimer, who has had a tough time here and there in his early opportunity with the Phillies, but looks to be able to at least battle for a spot next season. The Phillies might also decline to pick up the $16 million option on Roy Oswalt for next season and attempt to negotiate a lesser deal or maybe even let him walk, which would open another door for a younger pitcher like Kyle Kendrick to hold down a season-long spot in the rotation.
Since Galvis isn't quite ready, the Phillies would need to at least find a veteran shortstop who could mentor Galvis throughout the season. The perfect choice would be Omar Vizquel, who was Galvis' idol when he was growing up. The two might be able to fill the shortstop spot and put up adequate numbers and at least provide strong defense. The other route would be to give Galvis more time at Triple-A and go for a veteran able to play everyday, who would be agreeable to a one-year deal. The thought of using Galvis for a season as a super-sub has also been bounced around, although he is really only a shortstop and moving to any other position would provide a bit of a gamble.
The biggest hit for the Phillies might be with their fan base. Rollins is a popular player and one of the more popular players ever in Philadelphia. Amaro would have to find a way to make it look like the Phillies did all they could to re-sign him, but he simply wanted to go elsewhere, unless he has a popular plan to replace Rollins somewhere up his sleeve. As popular as he is, some fans believe Rollins is replaceable and point to his jogs down the first base line on groundballs as a reason to move on and hand the job over to someone else.
Maybe the most telling words spoken by Rollins to Heyman were these: "I've been here since I am 17. I never thought of going anywhere else. But am I afraid to leave? Not at all. Nothing's permanent. I don't get caught up to the point where it's either this or nothing."