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December 19, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Rollins in the Deep

by R.J. Anderson

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed P-L George Sherrill to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million plus incentives. [12/17]

Sherrill’s return to Seattle is nice in at least three ways. One, it represents a reunion between a player and the organization that discovered, appreciated, and cultivated his talents. Recall that Sherrill bounced around to three different independent league teams over five seasons before signing with the Mariners. From there, he reached the majors in his second season with the organization before being traded to the Orioles in the Erik Bedard trade. Sherrill has pitched for two other teams since—the Dodgers and Braves—and now returns to the Mariners as a soon-to-be 35-year-old.

Another reason for Seattleites to embrace Sherrill is his performance. Ben Lindbergh wrote about Dontrelle Willis’s nascent conversion to the bullpen last week and included the table below. Said table shows the performances of the lefties who faced the highest percentage of same-handed batters last season in 20-plus innings. Sherrill is included, and by multi-year True Average appears to be one of the better lefty-killing options out there:

Name

% 2011 PA vs. LHBP

2011

Multi

Randy Choate

72

.155

.178

Trever Miller

67

.292

.236

Tim Byrdak

65

.248

.241

Sergio Escalona

64

.234

.235

Boone Logan

64

.293

.264

Joe Paterson

61

.226

.226

Scott Elbert

54

.191

.208

George Sherrill

54

.226

.213

Josh Spence

54

.204

.204

Bill Bray

52

.221

.219

Dontrelle Willis

18

.149

.191

 

The Mariners went without a true left-handed specialist last season. Erik Bedard, a starter, posted the staff’s best TAv against southpaws, at a .265 clip. Aaron Laffey, the team’s primary left-handed reliever, saw his TAv against lefties finish at .300.  Seattle is unlikely to compete in 2012, but Sherrill will be an upgrade during the time he’s there; should all else fail, he might fetch a more youthful arm from a contender at the deadline.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Signed SS-S Jimmy Rollins to a three-year deal worth $33 million with a vesting option for a fourth year worth $11 million. [12/17]

Ruben Amaro’s greatest strength as a general manager has been the Phillies’ ability to act as a financial brute. Amaro is a greenback bull let loose in a superstar store. He stampedes through the market, plodding headlong into big deal after big deal, all the while running up an impressive bill. However, the Rollins deal is different from the typical Amaro big-ticket signing. Strong financial backing contributed to retaining the shortstop, of course, but Amaro also showed some uncharacteristic restraint.

Rollins stated his desire to sign a five-year deal all along. And all along, it felt like some team—whether it be the Giants, Tigers, Phillies, or an unexpected bidder—would give one to him. After the Phillies added Jonathan Papelbon, it seemed more likely that said team would reside outside of Philadelphia. However, another serious buyer never materialized, and Amaro never gave in. The two sides instead agreed to a compromise, with Rollins likely staying in Philadelphia for the next four seasons, as the vesting option’s trigger is said to be easily attainable.

The stand Amaro took was not without risk. Finding an alternative to Rollins, either via trade or free agency, would have proved difficult. Proceeding with the in-house option, Freddy Galvis, might have seemed plausible, but only if you didn’t look too closely at Galvis’s career minor-league line (.246/.292/.321).  Galvis is a wicked defender, but given the team’s gaudy expenditures and expectations, throwing a 22-year-old, glove-only shortstop into the fire made no sense.

As a result, Rollins returns, bringing his .255/.316/.402 slash line since 2009 with him. By now, the Phillies know what to expect from Rollins. He hits better than the average shortstop, including double-digit home runs in seven straight seasons in which he received 500-plus at-bats, and he has an 82 percent success rate on stolen bases over the past three seasons. Depending on the defensive metric, Rollins rates as either average or a tick above or below. Adjust his overall value as you see fit, but Rollins is clearly the best option the built-to-win, not-built-to-last Phillies had.

On a trivial note, can you believe that Rollins’s most recent All-Star appearance came in 2005? That in spite of the Phillies’ popularity and success—meaning Charlie Manuel has managed the National League team twice since that season—and Rollins’s personal achievements. Major awards can and do lie about a player’s value, but how many times does a player win three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger award, and a Most Valuable Player award before earning another All-Star bid?

Now, on to the really important matter: when the Phillies signed Papelbon, they raised their 2014 salary commitments to the $80 million mark. Add in Rollins’s presumed $11 million, and the Phillies are on the books for $91 million to five players (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Papelbon, and Rollins), with Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Hunter Pence all heading towards free agency over the next two winters. Who knows what will become of this bunch in two or three years, but for now, they are rightfully doing all they can to achieve five more champagne showers as a group—even if it means winning a staredown with a fan favorite.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Philadelphia Phillies

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