Jimmy Rollins: How Does Philadelphia Phillies Shortstop Fit Into Team’s Plans for Future?

Howard Smith – US PRESSWIRE

There were mixed emotions when the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a three-year deal with shortstop Jimmy Rollins last offseason. Rollins had exhibited strong signs he was on the decline during 2010 and 2011, struggling to stay healthy and seeing a sharp drop in his numbers.

The contract looked like a mistake in the first month of the season. Rollins batted just .235 with no home runs and a .271 slugging percentage in March/April. He looked old and tired and nowhere near the player the Phillies thought he would be.

He followed that up though by playing at a very high level in the second half of 2012, putting up his best offensive numbers since his MVP campaign in 2007. Rollins hit 23 home runs and stole 30 bases, becoming the oldest player in major league history to do that while playing primarily at the shortstop position. Rollins scored 102 runs, drove in 68, and played outstanding defense.

He was awarded with his fourth Gold Glove, capping off a season in which he posted a .978 fielding percentage that rated second-best in the National League.

Rollins was particularly hot down the stretch, rejuvenating the Philly crowd that was desperately hoping its team could jump back into the playoff hunt. Rollins batted .287 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs in the final 27 games, helping the Phillies go 17-10. He scored 24 runs, stole six bases in six attempts, and even drew 16 walks at the plate.

Rollins will earn $11 million in 2013 and 2014, and if his option vests for the 2015 season, he will make another $11 million. Rollins is still a dynamic player and the Phillies aren’t paying too much for a player of his offensive and defensive caliber.

Rollins probably isn’t the team’s best leadoff option anymore, considering he posted just a .316 on-base percentage in 2012, playing primarily as the leadoff hitter. I would advocate that the Phillies move Chase Utley to the leadoff spot and bat Rollins somewhere around fifth in the lineup.

Rollins can still be counted on to provide stellar defense at shortstop and he’s a fantastic base runner, which means he can still accumulate wins for the Phillies even if his hitting drops. He accounted for 4.9 WAR this past season, which rated third in the major leagues among shortstops.

Rollins has been inconsistent as of late, putting up a 3.9 WAR in 2011, a 2.5 WAR in half a season in 2010, and a 3.0 WAR in 2009. His 5.6 WAR back in 2008 and 6.9 WAR in 2007 were when he was among the top several shortstops in the game, but he’s still definitely in the top 10. Rollins probably won’t duplicate his 4.9 WAR for the 2013 season, but if he can register a WAR of 4.0, that’s terrific for Phillies fans.

There’s been some talk about moving Rollins to third base so the Phillies can play Freddy Galvis at shortstop and Chase Utley at second base. That’s not going to happen though. Rollins is too good defensively. If anyone moves to third base, it’s probably going to be Galvis. He’s such a poor hitter that the Phillies don’t need to rush to get his bat into the lineup.

For now, the Phillies should be thankful they have Rollins because he’s a terrific player on a pretty reasonable contract. It’s too early to tell what the Phillies will do with him after his contract expires, but he should help the team win in 2013.

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