Rollins is available, but the market appears thin

Rollins is available, but the market appears thin

Sandberg on expectations for Rollins

December 17, 2013, 9:00 am
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In 2013, Jimmy Rollins hit 17 fewer home runs and slugged 79 points lower than in 2012. (USA Today Images)

The Phillies' entire roster is available for the right price, and as Buster Olney reminded on Monday, that includes shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

The Phils shopped Rollins at the 2013 trade deadline but a move was never worked out, mostly because Rollins stated his desire to remain with the team that drafted him.

Because Rollins has at least 10 years of service time with at least five coming with the same team, he has full no-trade rights. So if the Phillies want to deal him to a team in need of a shortstop, like the Twins for example, they'd need Rollins' permission. And there's pretty much no way he'd say yes.

Though the demand for shortstops outweighs the supply, the Phillies are in a bit of a bind when it comes to Rollins. He'll be unwilling to waive his no-trade rights to go to a non-contender, and that means that any team interested in him will have leverage over the Phillies.

Which contenders are in need of a short-term solution at shortstop? Perhaps the Red Sox, if they trust Xander Bogaerts more at third base. Every other AL contender is set, though. In the NL, you're looking at the Pirates and Reds.

So even if Rollins is willing to waive his no-trade rights to go to a contender, there are only three fits, one of which (Boston) is unlikely. Cincinnati is set to start Zack Cozart at short, and Pittsburgh has Clint Barmes and Jordy Mercer -- shaky options at best. 

Cozart had a .284 on-base percentage last season, Barmes doesn't get on base or hit for power, and Mercer performed well in limited duty last season but has just 145 games of major-league experience.

Rollins' defense and baserunning have slipped slightly, but he's still on the elite level in both categories and could help both NL Central clubs. His offense has dipped significantly -- he slugged 27 points lower last year than ever before -- but he's still probably a better option for one or two years than Barmes, Mercer or Cozart.

The issue is that since there are so few fits for his services, the Phillies don't have much leverage. If they want to rid themselves of his contract -- $11 million for 2013, with an easily vestible option at the same price for 2014 -- they won't get much of anything in return. It's another Jonathan Papelbon situation.

It still might make sense to deal Rollins for nothing but salary relief. The Phillies have Freddy Galvis ready to step in, and although Galvis provides no offense whatsoever, his defense would make him nearly as valuable as Rollins. (That's if and only if 2013 was a sign of things to come and not an aberration. After all, Rollins did hit 23 homers the year before.)

The likely reason the Phils want to move Rollins is for that salary relief. As we outlined over the weekend, they are dangerously close to the $165 million mark that Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team doesn't wish to exceed. And they have holes to fill on the bench and in the bullpen, and could use another decent starting pitcher.

This is, again, why you don't re-sign all of your veterans while trying to rebuild the farm system at the same time.

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