Analysis

Does Rollins Deserve a Contract Extension?

Over $88 million is already being doled out to seven players and a few option clauses in 2012. Presently, Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies decision-makers have more pressing needs with guys like Jayson Werth and possibly finding a new home for Raul Ibanez for 2011. The calendar still reads 2010, which matters not because the Phillies could have a decision to make on Jimmy Rollins soon.

Rollins’ 2011 option was exercised in advance of the 2010 season, which was basically a formality. Everyone knew Rollins would be back at a relatively friendly $8.5 million in ’10. What no one is sure of is if he’ll be back beyond next year.

Should the Phillies pay their superstar shortstop and franchise face now, locking him up a long-term deal, or wait it out until after this season to see whether or not he’s worth it? Ruben Amaro stated last week that they would not seek an extension with him for now. Here are the pros and cons of signing Rollins long-term this offseason when he turns 32 rather than wait until age 33.

PROS:

-His defensive metrics are still off the charts. As you witnessed in the postseason, even with one healthy leg and one not-so healthy leg, his arm is still 100 percent. Rollins has a cannon arm and continually made great plays to either side of the infield, routinely gunning out runners on close plays at first base.

-J-Roll’s UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) was 6.9, good for seventh in the majors with a minimum of 700 innings played. It was the third highest UZR of his career.

-When healthy, he’s still a demon on the basepaths. Rollins stole 17 bases in just 88 games. That’s a considerable amount of steals when you take into account the end of the season when Rollins was unable to run at full strength and therefore his numbers suffered.

-Not sure if this is a pro or a con, but Rollins did walk more times than he struck out (40 BB/32 K). This could fall into either category as we know J-Roll often swings early in the count.

-Rollins has the talent to turn things around instantly. The past two years have been sub-par by his standards, but everyone knows he can be one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. The question is, does he want to be the guy he was in 2007?

-The 2012 free agent list is slim pickin’s at the shortstop position. Clint Barmes, Jason Bartlett, Yuniesky Betancourt, Rafael Furcal, JJ Hardy, Marco Scutaro, and Jack Wilson are the better names on that list. None of them scream marquis defender and game-changing bat when healthy. They all whisper overrated and overpriced. Rollins is head and shoulders above the rest for ’12.

-His leadership abilities aren’t lacking. In my first season on “the beat”, J-Roll would usually speak whether or not he did well or not. Sometimes he would hide from accountability, but other than Brad Lidge or Shane Victorino, few Phillies were available everyday. Still, his loose demeanor and quiet confidence seems to soothe his teammates and the fans even in the worst of times.

-It assures the Phillies will have a viable shortstop option for several more years as the farm system lacks a guy who can step in for Rollins in the near future.

-Locking him up now would fit into the “cost certainty” category that Amaro routinely mentions when it comes to the payroll.

CONS:

-First pitch swinging. It’s going to send Philadelphians and those who follow the team to an early grave. So often, Rollins will roll a first pitch over to second base or pop it up to the shortstop, leaving him with an awful plate appearance. As his skills slowly deteriorate on the wrong side of 30, he’ll have to be more patient at the plate and that starts with working counts in his favor. This should be near the top of his to-do list for ’11.

-His conditioning was clearly an issue at the end of the season following his leg injuries. He looked slower and heavier and that was brought on by the fact that his most prized possessions failed him. Rollins must come into spring training next year in the best shape of his life.

-Is adding another long-term contract a positive for this team? Depending on what happens with Werth – his commands are in the $100 million range, presumably – then a Rollins extension expands the thick waistband the Phillies have grown recently.

-Why do it now if you don’t have to? The Phillies have the wiggle room to wait it out and see where this season leads Rollins. If it’s on a downhill slope, they can choose to look elsewhere via free agency or trade. If J-Roll fins that sweet stroke again and proves to be healthy, they may lose the upper hand they have right now.

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