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« Josh Johnson Most Important Marlin in 2012 | Main | Kubel to Arizona a Head-Scratcher »
Monday
Dec192011

Rollins Returns to Philly

It was bound to happen. Jimmy Rollins re-upped with the Phillies for three years and $33 million, with an "easily attainable" $11 million option that figures to keep the switch-hitting shortstop, originally acquired in the second round of the 1996 draft, in town through 2015. Rollins entered the offseason saying he wanted five years, but the 33-year-old's bargaining power was limited when it became clear that San Francisco and Detroit weren't serious suitors and Milwaukee decided to settle for Alex Gonzalez. The Phillies, meanwhile, ensure they don't have to turn to Freddy Galvis in 2012 or further gut the farm system to get someone like Alexei Ramirez or Asdrubal Cabrera.

While he no longer possesses the power displayed during his mid-to-late twenties peak, Rollins rebounded from two substandard years at the plate in 2009 and 2010 (a combined 86 OPS+ in 1,119 plate appearances) to post a 101 OPS+ in 625 PA in 2011. League-average offense from a guy who still covers plenty of ground at the diamond's premium defensive position is quite valuable: Rollins was worth 3.7 Wins Above Replacement, which ranked eighth among shortstops.

Rollins' offensive uptick was the product of a higher batting average on balls in play. His BABIP was just .251 from 2009-2010, fourth-lowest among all MLB hitters who got at least 1,000 PA over that period. In 2011, that BABIP improved to .275. Whether the result of better luck or perhaps better health (Rollins was bothered by calf and hamstring injuries for much of 2010), Rollins got more hits on pitches thrown above the letters from both sides of the plate and off the outside corner when swinging left-handed. Check out Rollins' in-play average by pitch location in 2009-2010, compared to 2011:

 Rollins' in-play average by pitch location, 2009-2010

Rollins' in-play average by pitch location, 2011

That improvement on outside pitches thrown from right-handed pitchers was especially key, considering that's where they like to pitch Rollins:

Right-handed pitchers' location to Rollins, 2011

Rollins' legs are a source of concern -- he's not young, and he served a DL stint for a pulled groin this past year on top of the calf and hamstring issues in 2010. But those ailments don't appear to have cut severely into his range (he has been +6 runs better per 150 defensive games than an average SS over the past three years, per Ultimate Zone Rating) or his base running (30 steals and a 79% success rate in 2011).

A decline-phase Rollins is still a pretty decent player, and the win-now Phillies weren't in a position to give the reins to Galvis, sign a mediocre option like Ronny Cedeno or Ryan Theriot or give up what farm talent remains in a trade. He might not be a huge bargain, but re-upping Rollins was the best course of action for Philly.

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