Last offseason, I heavily campaigned for the Philadelphia Phillies to re-sign shortstop Jimmy Rollins, rather than let him walk in free agency.
The Phillies ended up signing Rollins to a three-year, $33 million deal that extends through the 2014 season plus an $11 million vesting option for 2015, and they’re starting to really reap the rewards from this deal.
Rollins has quietly put together one of his more productive seasons as a pro, and this is coming from a guy who has already made three National League All-Star teams and won a league MVP award. And he’s doing this at the ripe age of 33 years old.
Rollins is batting .251 with a .431 slugging percentage and .746 OPS this season, numbers that don’t scream All-Star. But keep in mind that he also has 22 home runs (from the leadoff position, no less) and 30 stolen bases, making him the first shortstop in major league history to put up those homer and steal numbers at the age of 33.
Rollins is on pace for his sixth season of at least 100 runs scored (and first since 2007). And his fielding has been top-notch like always – he has a .977 fielding percentage, the second-best total in the National League, and he still possesses a rocket of an arm from the shortstop position.
Rollins has been particularly hot as of late, helping the Phillies fight their way back from 14 games under .500 to in the thick of the hunt for the final National League wild card spot. He’s batted at a .312 clip with a .587 slugging percentage and ridiculous .976 OPS since August 23, during which the Phillies are 20-8. Rollins has six doubles, eight home runs, and eight stolen bases in eight attempts during that span – a tribute to his underrated power at the plate and his incredible ability to steal bases while very rarely getting caught.
What’s remarkable about his recent stretch is that he’s even showing a vastly improved batting eye – Rollins has never walked more than 58 times in a season (ironically though he’s walked between 54 and 58 times on seven occasions), but he already has 57 free passes in 2012 and he’s going to set his new career high by the season’s end. In the past 28 games, Rollins has 15 walks, which is a number that has to make Charlie Manuel feel good about sticking with Rollins in the leadoff spot.
Rollins still can cause major headaches at times – it’s apparent that he never will hustle, regardless of how much flack he takes for it from the Philly faithful, and that’s shocking coming from a sanguine personality who loves his role as a fan favorite.
But he’s had a borderline Hall of Fame career (a subject I’ll discuss in a later article), he’s led the Phillies to a World Series championship a year after proclaiming the team as the one to beat in the NL East (and actually backing it up!), and he’s been arguably the face of a franchise that has employed Ryan Howard and Chase Utley during virtually the same span.