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.
…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.