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Jimmy Rollins to be traded? What would it take for the Dodgers or someone else to pry him loose?

Ante up if you want J-Roll.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Ante up if you want J-Roll. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Trade talk involving Jimmy Rollins and suitors such as the Los Angeles Dodgers has heated up recently. Rollins has the right to veto any trades, so trade talk may be moot anyhow, but let's just assume J-Roll wants to vault into a pennant race, and agrees to a trade. What would it take to get him?

Jimmy Rollins has posted fWAR of 2.5 so far in 2012 through 90 games for the Phillies. Here is a list of MLB shortstops sorted by fWAR. You will find Rollins tied for third place. His BABIP, ISO, and walk rates are all in line with his career averages. His contract is for $11 million a year for three years with a reasonable vesting option for a fourth at the same amount.

Prorating the WAR for a player who has created 2.5 WAR through 90 games over the year results in about 4.5 for the year. Creating wiggle factor, and adjusting down to 4.0, it's still an excellent number. Even at 4.0 he would generate $20 million in value this year. During a horrible, injury-riddled 2010, when Rollins played in only 88 games, he generated 2.5 fWAR.

He is 33 years old. As discussed in my 2012 preview of Jimmy Rollins this spring, speed is in his game, but it is not his game. Those who depreciate his WAR producing abilities on an age curve may be a little surprised with how Rollins ages. I think he'll beat the estimates on the upside. Using a rule of thumb of WAR at $5 million per year, how much surplus value will he generate over his contract? The WAR assumptions are big, and I'm dropping him a 0.5 per year. Your mileage may vary.

  • 2012: 1.5 in addition to the 2.5 already created: $7.5 M of value for $4.25 M in cost (prorated contract), giving a surplus WAR of $3.25
  • 2013: 3.5: $17.5 million in value - $11 million = $6.5 surplus
  • 2014: 3.0: $15 - $11 = $4 surplus
  • 2015: 2.5: $12.5 - $11 = $1.5 surplus
The total "surplus" WAR is $15.25 million, which needs to be discounted for injury risk or risk related to estimating the aging curve improperly. Lets assume maybe he's worth $10 million in surplus WAR value over the contract life, after allowing for injury/inflation/time cost of money. It's just a SWAG number (scientific, wild-ass guess), but let's work with it, ok?

So what is Jimmy Rollins worth in trade?

Here is Victor Wang's research on the values for prospects. A more-easily read version of it is here, though that is a bit dated. Here is Jon Sickels' top 120 prospects list. The Dodgers want Jimmy Rollins? Then they need to cough up a 50 - 100 hitter (hint: they have none) or a 25 - 75 pitcher, like Zach Lee.

Dee Gordon, you say? Plus a more fringy prospect? Gordon doesn't hit for power, doesn't walk, and can't field well. I guess being 24 and cheap has its benefits, but since he (with his -1.2 fWAR - see the *bottom* of the SS WAR ranking list) is playing like a replacement level player, he should be cheap. Not interested. David Murphy covered much of the same territory recently in this very worthwhile column, and came to the same conclusion - not interested.

Keep in mind that the surplus value on the contract's final year (the vesting year) is only $1.5 million. If Rollins is injured or otherwise falls off a cliff, the option won't vest, reducing the risk profile for the team that pays the contract. He will be an old shortstop, but the deal may not end up including that last year. For an acquiring team, that's a good thing.

The bottom line is that any team that wants Rollins had better be prepared to cough up something decent for him. He's valuable, despite what the talk radio crowd thinks.