David Murphy: Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is too good to trade

Posted: July 18, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Logic is not always applicable when the topic is the Dodgers, a team that 4 years ago traded away a blue-chip catcher named Carlos Santana in exchange for 2 months from a third baseman named Casey Blake. But when you consider the context — LA was in dire need of a veteran third baseman and would eventually compete in the NLCS; Santana was at Class A — the deal made at least a hint of sense at the time.

Contrast that with the most recent cow pellet to be dropped into baseball's midseason hot stove: According to several media outlets, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has fingered Jimmy Rollins as a potential solution to the club's woes at shortstop.

We could spend all night listing the reasons why LA should not be interested in acquiring a 33-year-old veteran who will earn an average of $9.5 million per season through 2015, starting with the presence of 24-year-old speedster Dee Gordon, who was regarded as one of the sport's rising stars as recently as April. But the truth is, the move might make even less sense for the Phillies.

This isn't about Rollins' status as a lifelong member of the organization or his presence on the 2008 championship team or his MVP award from 2007. The Phillies long ago passed the point where they could afford to factor such abstractions into their decision-making.

This isn't even about the fact that Rollins has the right to veto any trade. No, this is about the fact that Rollins still provides more offensive production than two-thirds of the regular shortstops in Major League Baseball. You can argue against it, but doing so will require you to ignore facts and instead rely on generalizations like "he pops up too much" or "he does not run out every ground ball" or "he is too expensive."

Fact: Of the 27 major league shortstops who entered Monday with at least 225 plate appearances, Rollins ranked eighth with a .729 OPS, seventh with eight home runs, sixth with 14 stolen bases, 11th with 33 RBI, and third with 51 runs.

Fact: Rollins has given the Phillies more production than other shortstops who have signed similar contracts over the last year-and-a-half. J.J. Hardy, who signed a 3-year, $22.25 million contract extension with the Orioles last season, entered Monday hitting .217 with a .256 on-base percentage and .375 slugging percentage to go with his 13 home runs. Alexei Ramirez, who signed a 4-year, $32.5 million contract with the White Sox, was hitting .263/.284/.337 with two home runs. Erick Aybar, who signed a 4-year, $35 million deal with the Angels, was hitting .268/.306/.384 with four home runs.

Fact: Rollins entered Monday with the highest OPS of any shortstop who signed a free-agent contract this offseason, including Jose Reyes and Rafael Furcal.

This is the reality of the situation: Eight months ago, the Phillies decided that Rollins was worth $38 million over 4 years. In the three seasons leading up to that decision, Rollins posted a .255 batting average, .316 on-base percentage and .403 slugging percentage while averaging 15 home runs. In the first season after the decision, he is hitting .261 with a .315 OBP and .414 slugging percentage while on pace for 14 home runs.

The only thing that could possibly have changed is the front office's expectation for the next few seasons, because the shortstops who will be on the free-agent market after this season are just as slim as the ones who were there when the Phillies decided to re-sign Rollins.

Has Freddy Galvis really altered anybody's perception about his toolset or his future? And even if the Phillies do look past the fact that he hit .226 with a .254 OBP and .617 OPS, and the fact that he will be coming back from both a performance-enhancing drug suspension and a fractured bone in his back, what is their plan for second base when Chase Utley's contract expires after next season? Or if his balky knees sideline him for a couple of months, as they have in each of the last two seasons? And what about third base? Who do they have penciled in there?

Ruben Amaro Jr. has said publicly that he plans on contending in the next couple of seasons. If that is really the case, why would Rollins be worth any more to the Dodgers than he is worth to the Phillies? A sensible trade would require a return that would be insensible for the Dodgers. The Phillies already have enough holes to worry about. They do not need to create new ones.

Contact David Murphy at @murphyd@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @HighCheese. Read his blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.

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