Even when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, there was talk of a mythical window. Word was that window wasn't open very far and it could close pretty quickly if the Phillies weren't careful. Just as the Nuclear Clock gauges the world's end, the Phillies Window gauges the end of the Phillies opportunities for winning another World Series. Well, that window has continued to close and if you have fat fingers, you might want to step away from the window, because they could easily get pinched very soon.
While Ruben Amaro Jr. was making moves that we all applauded, we forgot about that window and one key component that could force that window to close prematurely; age. The Phillies are simply getting older and there's only one way to change that.
At 32 - he turns 33 next month - Jimmy Rollins isn't old, but he is aging, which isn't good in baseball terms. He's much like most of the other players on the Phillies roster and he's not going to get any younger. Injuries are starting to plague him, he's a little slower in the field and he's completely given up on running out groundballs. Even at this point in his career though, Rollins wants a five-year deal. It's not out of the question that he'll get a deal like that, but the Phillies certainly aren't in a position to be the one handing it out. The Phillies would even be pushing the window shut a little more with a two-year deal for Rollins. In a perfect world, the Phillies would offer arbitration and Rollins would accept, giving him a one-year deal, which would give shortstop-elect Freddy Galvis another season to fine tune his offense at Triple-A and perhaps an opportunity to play at the major league level here and there should Rollins again find himself on the DL.
In retrospect, the Phillies may have jumped the gun on contract extensions and they certainly have a contract or two that are going to run longer than they might really be worth. Ryan Howard should be thanking the Baseball Gods that he got the extension that he did from the Phillies, otherwise, he would be entering free agency with a serious injury to convince everyone isn't all that bad. At this point, he would possibly be hoping for an arbitration offer from the Phillies. Chase Utley is signed through 2013 that will pay him $15 million in each of the next two seasons. Giving Rollins a long-term deal would be adding to the deals that are on the books that the Phillies likely aren't going to get their money's worth out of over the next couple of seasons.
Over the past week or so, Rollins may have been executing the beginnings of an exit strategy. First, he was upset that fans weren't loud enough at Citizens Bank Park. Then, after the Phillies were eliminated from the NLDS last Friday night, he was nowhere to be found when the clubhouse doors opened after the game. He was next heard from on his Twitter account, letting fans know that he loves them. "Thanks to all the #Philliesnation that helped to make 2011 such a wonderful experience. I love you all." He went on to state that when he does eventually retire, it will be as a Phillie. We'll have to wait and see if that turns out to be prophetic.
Losing Rollins would open up two important spots in the Phillies lineup; shortstop and leadoff hitter. Filling both of those spots - especially with one player - would be awfully tough to pull off. Looking first at the shortstop spot, there is Galvis. His defense is no problem at all. He's likely been defensively major league ready for a couple seasons, at least. The question is his offense, but he is coming off of his best offensive performance of his career, splitting the season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Galvis hit a combined 8-43-.278/.324/.392 and might just be ready to step up to the big leagues.
With veterans like Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr around to give Galvis a breather here and there, the Phillies could likely make it through the 2012 season in good shape as far as the shortstop position is concerned. Valdez is well versed in filling in for injured players and could handle playing some of the games against tougher pitchers in the league to protect Galvis here and there as he learns the ropes with the Phillies.
That still leaves filling the leadoff spot, because Galvis isn't suited to that spot in the order and likely never will be. Shane Victorino has often hit leadoff, although the Phillies prefer to have him a little lower in the lineup where his power and ability to drive in runs are more of an advantage. In 177 games as a leadoff hitter, Victorino has a line of .253/.324/.421 in his career, not exactly the type of numbers that would inspire a lot of confidence. He's an option to hit leadoff, but he's not truly the answer to hit leadoff. That would leave the Phillies with the unenviable task of finding someone else to hit leadoff and the candidates aren't exactly abundant.
Will it be difficult for the Phillies to let Rollins walk? Yes. There's going to be a parade of angry fans hitting online message boards and everybody will be talking about how the Phillies can't win without Rollins. After all, the mantra has been 'as Rollins goes, so go the Phillies', but at some point, the Phillies have to do something to stop that window from closing. With age being a major factor for concern, adding a shortstop 11 years younger than Rollins is a good place to start.
Jimmy Rollins career stats