Athletics Nation has been debating the various merits of Jimmy Rollins since the moment the A's got good in 2012. Rollins is a 35-year-old shortstop who can hit for power and occasionally play good defense. Here's a run-down of the facts:
- Switch-hitter who can hit against both lefties and righties
- Legit home run power, with 15 already this year, 23 in 2012, and 214 for his career
- Good plate discipline -- he's good for around 60 walks and fewer than 100 strikeouts per season
- Makes lots of contact -- those BB and K numbers come in seasons of 650-750 plate appearances
- Fielding is suspect -- DRS likes him this year, but hated him the three years before that; I expect his defense has slipped as he's aged, as happens with every middle infielder ever
- Resume includes an MVP ('07) and a World Series ring ('08)
Why am I bringing up Rollins, especially after repeatedly saying that I wasn't interested in him in previous discussions? There are two reasons. The first is that he appears to be good again. He had a terrible 2013 in which he didn't hit for any power and Baseball-Reference valued him at negative-0.2 bWAR, and at the time it looked like the inevitable decline of age. However, he has completely bounced back this season -- he's hitting for power again, drawing walks, and still stealing bases at a high rate (22 so far, at 81 percent success rate). The only negative is his low batting average, which I would at least partially attribute to a BABIP (.255) 30 points below his career average (.285).
The other reason is Jed Lowrie's finger. Susan Slusser reported Tuesday that Lowrie has a hairline fracture on his right index finger. At the moment, he claims that it hurts but doesn't affect his performance, which is exactly what every athlete in the history of sports would say about any injury. It bugs him when he throws and it bugs him when he hits, and I don't know what it takes for "it bugs him" to turn into "it adversely affects his performance." Slusser's story notes that doctors told Lowrie he can't make it worse by playing on it, so the only relevant consideration is his own pain tolerance. She also notes that players fight through injuries all the time in their quests for postseason glory, so let's not freak out too much here. But at the same time, with over six weeks left in the regular season, is anyone else completely satisfied just standing pat with a potentially broken shortstop and Nick Punto as the main backup during our once-and-for-all, all-in playoff run? It seems like a significant loose end to leave untied.
The past arguments against Rollins have been twofold. The first was that he was aging and declining, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. He's completely rebounded on the field this year. The other problem was always his contract, but that's no longer an issue either. He's making $11 million in 2014, most of which has already been paid. He's also got a vesting option for $11 million in 2015, and it's already been triggered since he has exceeded 1,100 plate appearances over 2013 and '14 combined. That's actually a fantastic deal now. It's basically like Jeff Samardzija -- a rental for this year, plus one more season next year. And $11 million on a one-year deal for a good shortstop is absolutely within the realm of reason -- Rollins is already at 2.9 bWAR this year, and he exceeded two wins each year from 2010-12. Lowrie is at 0.6 bWAR right now and has never exceeded 2.3 in any year.
Lowrie is a free agent after the season, and who knows what kind of deal he'll get on the open market. Seriously, who does know, because I have no idea. I do have a feeling, though, that it's going to be more than the A's want to spend on a guy who will turn 31 next April, and it will certainly be at least three years. I don't think Lowrie is back next year. Grabbing Rollins now not only helps the all-in 2014 team, but it gives the A's a plan for 2015 and time to identify and/or develop a long-term option up the middle. You can't have Lowrie back on a one-year deal in 2015, but some team will have Rollins on one.
So, what does it take to make this happen? The inner workings of Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro's brain are similar to those of Kenneth Parcell, so it's tough to say what he'd be looking for in a deal. He needs to rebuild, but he loves only expensive veterans. It's quite a difficult position for him to be in. It's possible that this whole thing is a non-starter because the A's have nothing the Phillies can use (or at least, nothing that Amaro thinks he can use). Rollins also has a no-trade clause and has never said anything about wanting to come to Oakland, so we can't just assume that's an attractive idea to him. He seems to love Philadelphia, although the general word I've heard is that his big goal was to set the all-time Phillies hits record and he has now done so. Perhaps he's ready to move on in order to shoot for one more ring before he hangs up his cleats.
Rollins was placed on revocable waivers on Aug. 4, but I can't find any news on whether or not he was claimed. The Good Phight reports, via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, that the A's already inquired about the shortstop but didn't get anywhere. That at least tells me there is interest on Oakland's part, or that there was at one point. If Rollins did indeed clear waivers, it would be in Amaro's best interest to shed some aging salary from his last-place club while he can, and the A's would be in a position to absorb the entire bill.
This is probably more of a pipe dream than anything else. I don't think it's likely that the A's will get Rollins, but for the first time in years I do think it would be a good idea. He's good enough, the team has a sort-of need, his contract is suddenly perfect, and he'd be one more quality piece with playoff experience (albeit a less-than-stellar personal postseason record). Billy Beane has already pulled out all the stops en route to a potential championship, so why not make this one last big push?
Alright, discussion time. The important questions:
1. Do you want Jimmy Rollins on the A's?
2. Do you think the A's have a realistic chance at actually acquiring him?
3. What would you give up to get him?
4. If not Rollins, what other middle infielder do you have your eye on (if any)?
5. If Oakland can't get him now, would you be interested in him as an offseason acquisition for 2015?
Let's duke it out in the comments!