Ruben Amaro, who usually prefers to jump the market and make his signings before the dust settles, decided to play the waiting game with veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins and the result was a team-friendly three-year, $33 million deal with a vesting option for a fourth year. As WholeCamels noted last week, there was something that just seemed wrong about Amaro suddenly deciding to play hardball with a homegrown player who has been a cornerstone of the franchise for the last decade while at the same time leading the market and overpaying "out-of-towners" like Papelbon and Ibanez. But it's hard to argue with the results, and maybe Amaro's success in dealing with Rollins will lead him to re-evaluate his strategy for approaching contract negotiations.
It's not as if the deal is terrible for Rollins -- at $11 million per season, he'll be getting a raise of $3 million per season -- but he didn't get the fifth year that he was reportedly seeking. Hell, he didn't even get a guaranteed fourth year (although according to Matt Gelb the vesting option is tied to plate appearances and innings, so if he's healthy, he'll be here in 2015).
From the very beginning, Amaro made it clear that he wouldn't budge on the fifth year, but he nevertheless maintained a dialogue with Rollins and his agent Dan Lozano. When there were reports during the Winter Meetings that both the Cardinals and the Brewers had interest in Rollins, Amaro didn't panic. Rather, he reportedly explored the possibility of bringing in third baseman Aramis Ramirez and moving Polanco. Whether Ramirez and a shortstop to be named later would have been better than Rollins and Polanco is not clear, but this seemed more like a bargaining ploy than a realistic plan in any case. When the Brewers gave Alex Gonzalez a one year deal and the Cardinals re-signed Rafael Furcal for two years, though, it was apparent that the market for Rollins's services had all but dried up. Amaro also deserves credit for passing on Michael Cuddyer, an inferior player who yesterday signed with the Colorado Rockies on a deal similar to Rollins's.
Assuming that the fourth year option vests, four years and $44 million would only require Rollins to post about 8 fWAR over the life of the deal. We can reasonably expect some decline over the next four years as he is entering his age 33 season, but consider that Rollins's worst season since 2002 came in 2010, when he missed 74 games, and he still managed to rack up 2.5 fWAR. He rebounded nicely in 2011 to post 3.8 fWAR. If Rollins can remain even just moderately healthy, he shouldn't have a problem outperforming this contract.
A good deal for a good player who for the past decade has been a ton of fun to watch. Win, win, win.