One of the problems with the silly season of free agency is that fans and even the press are only privy to a small portion of the meaningful information. Agents and front offices float rumors, the press (almost always in good faith) reports, and fans and bloggers alike are left speculating and spinning. It's frustrating and also kind of exciting.
It's December 14th, a typically fun day in recent Phillies history, and the team's longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins still is not under contract. The prime alternate destinations for Rollins -- St. Louis and Milwaukee -- have already locked up shortstops, leaving the Phillies and possibly the Detroit Tigers as the most likely candidates for Rollins' services. According to reports, Rollins isn't making this easy. By most accounts he is sticking on a demand for a five year contract that would take him to his age 37 season, choppy waters for a shortstop with a recent history of leg injuries. It's been a boon to the Phillies' negotiating position that the market for Rollins is apparently drying up.
I'm heading into some choppy rhetorical waters myself vis-a-vis Jimmy Rollins. Yes, it's terrific for the Phillies in many ways that they now have most of the bargaining leverage with Rollins and can almost name their terms, but something just feels wrong about it, particularly in an off-season where the Phillies jumped to the front of the line and overpaid Jonathan Papelbon, for all intents and purposes a stranger, rather than taking reasonable steps to take care of one of the most important and greatest figures in franchise history.
That, and it's not like the Phillies have all of the leverage. A full season of Wilson Valdez / Mike Martinez / Freddy Galvis at shortstop could be an utter offensive disaster. Rollins' no longer hits like he did during his prime seasons, but his bat is more than good enough for the position, particularly in light of his elite defensive performance. It's hard to imagine an offensive decline from Rollins so steep that the alternatives this year would be more desirable. A team that has recently seen periods of offensive struggle can't really afford such a steep drop-off.
Over the past few years, the Phillies have built a reputation as a place players want to play, almost unthinkable ten years ago. Jimmy Rollins has been a big part of that. Speculation and conjecture, of course, but how does that change if Rollins leaves?
So, Phillies, cough up that extra couple of million bucks, or guarantee that fourth year. But bring Jimmy Rollins home.