Thinking about Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins is 32 years old, and he’ll turn 33 in November. Along with Jose Reyes, he represents the cream of the crop of this year’s shortstop free agent market. Reyes is out of the question — this has been established by now. Rollins, on the other hand, is not. C.C. Sabathia even recently predicted Rollins would end up here, per Jon Heyman. The Giants have to fit some payroll restraints, but Rollins certainly remains a possibility for San Francisco, especially considering their dire need for some stability at shortstop. In a recent blog post on the SF Gate Splash Blog, Henry Schulman noted that payroll could be stretched in order for the Giants to sign a specific target.

That would make it extremely difficult to keep all the free agents and arb-eligible players they want, take care of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and go after new free agents. However, Sabean did note that he could go to ownership and ask for more money based on a specific player they are targeting.

The only problem: Jimmy wants a five-year deal. And that’s not going to cut it.

On offense, Rollins is decent — especially for a shortstop. Over the last few years, he’s declined to where he is now — more or less a league-average hitter.

Jimmy Rollins wOBA

…though he does have a standout skill, something I really like about him: plate discipline. His plate discipline is excellent, and in recent years, it’s really started to develop.

Granted, as a guy approaching his mid-30s, the reasonable expectation is that he’ll really start to decline over the next few years. As a player with above-average speed, perhaps he’ll age somewhat-gracefully, but he’s even lost a little zip in the past couple of years. By EqBRR, he’s racked up -0.2 runs in value on the basepaths in the past two seasons. He’s stolen 47 bases over that time (SBs are, of course, a component of EqBRR), yet still rated out as a below-average baserunner. It’s quite baffling.

I haven’t watched enough of his baserunning to judge myself — perhaps he just has poor baserunning instincts, or his speed has eroded some, or maybe a little of both. But Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley (the excellent ESPN SweetSpot affiliate Phillies blog) confirmed that he hasn’t been the same as he was in prior years.

The big question mark with Rollins, however, is his defense. Over his career, he’s — for the most part — rated as a solid defender by most metrics: UZR has him at +47.4 (5.1 UZR/150), and DRS has him at an astounding +70 runs. FRAA, however, is not a fan of Rollins’ defense (-45.6). That’s the nature of defensive metrics, I suppose. They disagree.

In any event, Rollins was at -2 DRS this year, representing a career-low. His UZR, +2.9, is the lowest mark he’s posted since 2007, and the range component (-3.9 RngR), is the lowest he’s posted since 2002.

This is all fairly intuitive stuff: players age, and Rollins, like most players entering their mid-30s, has shown signs of aging — on defense, on the basepaths, and at the plate.

I think a nice — if not overly optimistic — estimate of Rollins’ production over the next three seasons would be 2.5 WAR/600 PA. If he stays healthy, and shows some gradual decline with respect to his offense and defense, I think that’s the player he is. Not elite, but slightly above-average. And that would be a very nice thing to have.

But I don’t dare guess what kind of player he’ll be in 2015 or 2016. I’d hate to see the Giants go out this offseason and pay him to play in San Francisco ’til he’s 37 years old. Given his injury history, it would obviously be foolish to sign him to the five-year deal he’s looking for. He’s simply not good enough, at the ripe age of 32-going-on-33, to justify that kind of long-term financial commitment.

So here’s where I’d go with Rollins: three years, $40MM. I’d imagine there’s a good chance it’s an overpay — especially if he can’t stay healthy. There’s also a very good chance he would settle for no such deal. But that’s where I’d go to get him. As much as I’d hate to see the Giants put another decrepit stopgap at shortstop, I’d also very much hate to be complaining about the “Rollins contract” a few years from now.

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8 thoughts on “Thinking about Jimmy Rollins

  1. Would seem that Crawford’s defense would give him a shot at starting and the Giants could look to add a bat to make up for his offense until it comes around or not rather then overpaying for an older player

  2. Why wouldn’t Rollins want a 5 year deal? I think it shows some realism on his part, and you don’t go into free agency asking for a 2 year deal. The question for me is what will Amaro Jr. offer him? He let Werth, Burrell and some guy named Rowand walk. They didn’t play a premium position though.

    Washington came way over the top on Werth – I think the Phils offered him 4 years at a little over 15MM/yr. Phils apparently offered PTB 2/22MM but he wanted a third year, ended settling for less with the Rays. I don’t think they got past 3 years with Rowand and I’m not looking further on that one.

    I think its a good bet that they offer Rollins 3/30-36. If the Giants offer 3/36 and a 4th year 12MM option with a 3MM buyout does he bite? It would be nice to either drive up the price for Amaro or steal a good piece off them. If Rollins doesn’t get what he wants from the Phils I think the Giants are an obvious 2nd choice for 3 reasons: NL team, Homecoming and the sellout crowds. He is used to playoff baseball and I’m sure he wants to continue that. Plus the motivation to stick it to the Phils.

    I think its worth being in the mix for, and agree that anything over 3 years won’t age well. His defense is pretty slick but that declining UZR is a worry. Mainly I’d worry about his hamstrings and ankles becoming a Ray Durham situation. I think he’s a decent bet to put up 6.0 WAR over 3 years if he stays reasonably healthy. Is he an ideal leadoff guy though?

  3. Rollins will NOT get 5 yrs. It’s just negotiating. Start high. Beltran also wants 5 year. Neither will get it.

    Beltran will probably sign for around 3yr / 45 mill
    Rollins will probably sign for around 3yr / 30 mill

  4. Rollins 5 years ago, I’m all over that. At 32 with Crawford and Adrianza coming in the next 2-3 years, no way he get a long term deal in SF.

    Get Beltran signed for a couple of years with an option and Crawford is the new SS for the Giants 2012.

  5. I for the life of me cannot understand why ANYONE with the remotest knowledge of baseball would want Crawford starting for the Giants. I don’t care if he’s Ozzie Smith x100 – anyone who bats .190 in teh Majors does NOT belong in the Majors. Especially when you have a supremely hitting challenged team as it is, the last thing you need is to give the opposing team three free outs. Crawford has NO business as the starting shortstop. End of story.

  6. Why would anyone want Crawford starting or to sign Rollins for more than 2 years? That is beyond me. Second of all to the guy who said hes used to playoff baseball, ehhh Wrong. Giants arent some perrenial playoff team. Last time they made it before last year was 02. And they arent going anywhere if they keep signing scmucks

  7. Isn’t McCutchen available for around 9 million per year? Young, fast, great defensive centerfielder who would be perfect in the leadoff spot. All Star as I recall. Cheaper than Rollins and fills two needs. He would also replace Cody Ross’ 6 million contract and only raise payroll 3 million per year. Torres is a cheap backup for all outfield spots and if Beltran is resigned gives a nice defensive outfield with Schierholtz, McCutchen and Beltran. Still doesn’t solve the problem at shortstop but leaves us with some trade chips to get someone as a stopgap. Add Posey, Sandoval, F Sanchez/Keppenger and Belt/Huff to the mix along with a mystery shortstop and that is a very nice lineup and a good defensive team.

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