The Phillies and Jimmy Rollins agreed to a contract on Saturday. The reported terms are 3-years and 33 million dollars. There is a vesting option for a fourth year. The conditions of that option will most likely determine the reaction to this deal. It ends one of the oddest contract negotiations that I can remember in Philadelphia. The final numbers represent a compromise, but I’m not sure either side really got what they wanted.
Jimmy Rollins started the off-season with a declaration. He had a good 5 or 6 years of elite performance left. He was expecting a contract of similar length, and there would be no hometown discount. Keep in mind, Rollins is finishing up a deal that chewed up a good portion of his prime, spanned an MVP and multiple gold glove seasons and by all reasonable standards was very favorable to the Phillies. So, in only the way that a player who has already made 50 million dollars can, Rollins has probably spent the last several years feeling a bit slighted and underpaid.
That’s what makes this negotiation and resulting contract so interesting. Rollins has certainly been humbled. He didn’t take a hometown discount, but he took fewer years and less money than he wanted to. If I can insert myself into the mind of a ballplayer for a second, I’d guess Rollins had something in the 5-years, 70 million dollar range in his head as he played out the string on his previous contract. To settle on less than 40 million guaranteed has to leave Rollins a little salty. Then, there’s the question of how much the Phillies tightened the screws on this deal. How difficult are the terms of that option? Did they tell Rollins he might have to hit lower in the order?
We don’t know how much of that bravado from his original post-season press conference Rollins will have to swallow and maybe he is a reasonable person who sees the Phillies side of the deal as well. When you look at it from their side, you could easily make the case that they overpaid. Who else was going to give Rollins this deal? The answer is no one, and so the Phillies were left in a position where they had to decide if they wanted to risk really damaging the relationship with J-Roll. I honestly think he’d have been hard pressed to get 1-yr at 11 million from any other team in the league. To think it could easily escalate to 4, makes the deal pretty generous.
Of course, Rollins has more value here than he does anywhere else, and the Phillies have no reasonable replacement for Jimmy. Forget about Galvis. So, even if they could have forced Rollins to take even less, it wouldn’t have been a smart move. The Phillies are still working in 1-year at a time windows. It’s why they threw money at Papelbon, it’s why they realized they couldn’t make drastic changes and why they end up with Rollins again. It’s their best option for the coming season by a large margin and so they press on. Whether the deal ends up being a burden down the line, well that’s another issue that for the time being will be pushed to the back of the line. That will be dealt with after Hamels, after Victorino, after a 3B is found, and after Halladay’s deal expires.
If I’m weighing in with a final conclusion, I’d say this is definitely what makes sense for Phillies for the next two years. After that, you’re going to see a different Phillies team, and Rollins’ role there will likely be determined by his health. If the Phils are forced into some type of rebuilding, or quick reshuffling attempt in the near future, then they probably aren’t going to want to be paying this much to Rollins in 2014 and 2015. For Jimmy’s part, the good news is, he’s going to have to maintain his performance unless he wants to be a traveling, 2-million a year SS by the age of 35. If he’s going to get anywhere near that 70 million he had in mind for the rest of his career, he’s going to need a bit of a second wind.