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Does Tulowitzki’s Monster Contract Benefit Rollins?

Troy Tulowitzki should be a household name. After Tuesday’s big day, he almost certainly is.

“Tulo” and the Colorado Rockies agreed to a mammoth contract extension that will keep the franchise shortstop with the club until 2020. All told, the pact is worth $157.75 million over the next ten seasons; some serious scratch.

Being a hot topic over the past 48 hours, many have wondered if he’s worth that sort of cash. Laying down your argument that no athletes are worth that kind of money, Tulowitzki is a fine, young player who may very well be the best at his position in the major leagues, offensively and defensively.

His .949 OPS was BY FAR the best for a shortstop in the major leagues. He also led the position in just about every category imaginable: home runs, RBI, batting average, extra-base hits, total bases. Another telling stat is his wins over replacement-player. His 6.4 WAR was by far the best at SS; the next highest was Stephen Drew at 5.1. Tulo did this while missing 33 games due to a broken wrist. An MVP-season was well within reach for the 26-year old.

It feels like only yesterday that numbers like this were reserved for someone of Jimmy Rollins ilk. As J-Roll has stumbled upon the other side of 30, his career has been in a bit of a decline as far as his hitting is concerned. Rollins saw action in just 88 games as injuries ravaged his season. In those 88 games, he hit just .243 with an OPS of .694. J-Roll’s WAR: an unsavory 2.3, which was still better than guys like Miguel Tejada and Marco Scutaro.

Defensively, Rollins is still the man we’ve known all along. His ultimate zone rating was 6.9, eighth best in the majors. Remember, he posted that figure on gimpy legs. So the glove it still fine, it’s the bat that needs some work. That may very well change as it’s a contract year for Jimmy – he’ll no doubt want to cash in on his brilliance with the glove, while making people remember he’s deadly with the stick, too. The Phillies would certainly like to see him revert to his MVP-caliber style.

Tulowitzki is now at a place where Rollins used to be: looking down at his competition playing one of the more demanding positions in baseball. Tulo cashed in, now it’s Jimmy’s turn. Does this new mega-deal help Rollins’ cause when negotiating his next deal?

As we’ve stated before, the 2012 crop of shortstops on the free agent market is paper thin. The entire lot of them in general is lacking – even the mighty Derek Jeter is having trouble getting the sort of money he wants. Jeter and Orlando Cabrera head the current free agent flock with names like Crosby, Lugo, and Renteria available. Ugly.

In 2012, Jason Bartlett, Yuniesky Betancourt, Rafael Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, Jose Reyes, and Marco Scutaro are part of a much better class of free agent shortstops. Reyes is a premier talent, but it’s highly unlikely he would ever wear red pinstripes. Other than Reyes, it’s a bunch of mid-level guys who are nice players, but lack either offensive or defensively.

You can make the case that Rollins has fallen into a category with the rest. The 2011 season will argue that for him. But even if J-Roll recovers somewhat by having his usual solid defensive season while remembering how to swing a bat, could his argument have been made for him 2,000 miles away?

Tulo’s giant extension could have put even more loot in Jimmy’s suit.

On name alone, Rollins is one of the premier players in the game. He’s a recognizable face and in a sport lacking in African-American stars, Jimmy shines even brighter. Rollins is a loveable character,a friendly smile, a franchise staple, and still, a hell of a player. All of those apply going into his next contract.

While making a list of the elite names at their position, you could fit them all on one hand. Tulo and Rollins are in a class with Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Elvis Andrus, and Jeter (on name alone). OK, maybe that’s two hands, but you get the point.

Here are some of the contracts doled out to shortstops recently:

  • Troy Tulowitzki: 10 years, $157.75 million
  • Hanley Ramirez: 6 years, $72 million (signed before ’09 season)
  • Jose Reyes: 5 years, $34 million (signed before ’07 season, includes $11MM club option this year)
  • Derek Jeter: TBD (offer from Yankees at 3 years, $45-50 MM)
  • Rafael Furcal: 3 years, $30 million (signed before ’09 season, $12MM option for next year)

Even at 32-years old (Rollins turned 32 on Nov. 27) he fits somewhere within this group contractually. Many would say he’s worth more than Furcal, Jeter, and otherslike Scutaro and Tejada. He’s certainly in the same ballpark as Reyes and while he’s behind Hanley, Rollins can boost his stock starting with a great offseason.

Tulowitzki’s contract has been presented to lukewarm opinion: was it too much for too long? Whatever the case may be, by getting nine digit’s worth, Tulo may have opened up the bank some for Jimmy.

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