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Going forward, Phillies face shortstop question

Sometimes, seemingly minor transactions can telegraph what's to come. If a baseball team clears a spot on its 40-man roster for no apparent reason, for example, it could mean that the opening was needed to make room for a player who's about to be acquired.

The Phillies would likely miss Jimmy Rollins' defensive skills if they let him walk after the season. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
The Phillies would likely miss Jimmy Rollins' defensive skills if they let him walk after the season. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

Sometimes, seemingly minor transactions can telegraph what's to come. If a baseball team clears a spot on its 40-man roster for no apparent reason, for example, it could mean that the opening was needed to make room for a player who's about to be acquired.

With that in mind, the promotion of shortstop Freddy Galvis from Double A Reading to Triple A Lehigh Valley this week seemed to portend more than just a prospect moving up through the system. "We've got to find out if he's ready to handle the next level," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. conceded.

The urgency to gather this intelligence sooner rather than later is, of course, because incumbent Jimmy Rollins can be a free agent at the end of the season.

It almost goes without saying that the best outcome for the Phillies would be to bring Rollins back. The rationale is the same one that moved Amaro to trade still more prospects for Hunter Pence. Which is that Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt ain't getting any younger and that Cole Hamels is under control only through 2012. And Pence is the only regular position player under 30.

So the window of opportunity, at least as it exists now, is shrinking. The Phillies would like to win as many World Series trophies as possible while this rotation remains intact and the nucleus of the lineup is still productive. In that scenario, teams are going to prefer proven over unproven almost every time.

"Obviously, we'd like to bring Jimmy back. And I'd like to think he would want to come back," Amaro said.

The obvious disclaimers are how much money and for how many years, with the latter likely a larger hurdle than the former. The Phillies don't have much to spend if they don't want to surpass the luxury-tax threshold, which they clearly don't. There is some cash coming off the books but there are also built-in raises to deal with. And that's before contemplating locking up Hamels and whether they can re-sign closer Ryan Madson.

Amaro said there probably won't be discussions with Rollins until the end of the year, which also appears significant. The Phillies have extended players during the season before. Brad Lidge. Ryan Howard. Heck, they even picked up the option year on Rollins a year before they had to.

The general manager, sticking to policy, declined to reveal if he has an idea what sort of contract the 32-year-old Rollins might be looking for. But it's not a huge leap to suggest that the team's willingness to allow their longest-tenured player to test the market indicates a belief that there's a significant difference of opinion at the moment.

The average annual value of Rollins' contract when he signed it was $8 million. That's relatively modest now but represented top-of-the-line money for shortstops at the time. It's also tough to assign dollars to the unquestioned intangibles he can bring. That was the sticking point between Derek Jeter and the Yankees last winter, a negotiation that turned out to be both protracted and unseemly.

The Phillies are in a win-now mode and will be for at least the next couple of seasons. And nobody would seriously suggest that their chances are better without Rollins than with him.

As usual, the devil will be in the details.


Add Rollins

Jose Reyes, of the Mets, and Jimmy Rollins project as the top shortstops available on the free-agent market in the offseason. Some others who are currently unsigned for 2012: Alex Gonzalez (Braves), Jack Wilson (Mariners), Ramon Santiago (Tigers), Ronny Cedeno (Pirates), Rafael Furcal (Cardinals), Adam Everett (Indians), Augie Ojeda (Diamondbacks), John McDonald (Blue Jays).

Add Galvis

It may seem like Freddy Galvis has been on the radar for a long time, but the diminutive Venezuelan is still just 21. His defense has never been the issue, but he came into this season with a career .233 average in the lower minors. He was hitting .273 with the R-Phils when he was promoted.

What's the difference?

Going into last night's game at AT&T Park, the Phillies had allowed by far the fewest runs (366) of any team in baseball and the Giants were second (391). That would seem to make the teams pretty evenly matched ... until you factor in run differential. The Phillies have scored 118 runs more than their pitching allowed this season while San Francisco was just a plus-two while ranking 28th in runs scored with 393. That's clearly a better predictor for success over the course of a season than in head-to-head competition, of course.

Among the other NL contenders, the Braves are plus-47, the Cardinals plus-43 and the Brewers plus-13. In the American League, the Yankees had the biggest edge, having scored a whopping 168 more runs than they've given up going into last night followed by the Red Sox at plus-142.

Select company

Here's just one more bit of evidence that Phillies fans should enjoy the success the team is having. The four straight first-place finishes they've already posted rank as the fourth-longest streak since the leagues were divided into divisions in 1969. That trails only the Indians (five from 1995-99), Yankees (nine from 1998-2006) and Braves (14 from 1991-2005).

The Philly connection

Matt Stairs was released by the Nationals with 23 career pinch-hit home runs, more than any player in history. The current active leaders are Greg Dobbs and Ross Gload with eight each. All played for the Phillies.


Bourn to run

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was pretty excited when Atlanta traded for speedy Michael Bourn before the deadline. "He gets on base and creates havoc. He's a game-changer," Gonzalez enthused. Atlanta had just 42 stolen bases - while being thrown out 29 times - before Bourn arrived.

Naughty, naughty

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa filed an official complaint with Major League Baseball, alleging that Milwaukee gets an unfair advantage at Miller Park by increasing the illumination of the "ribbon boards" that ring the field when the Brewers are batting. That was denied by the Brew Crew, of course. Which didn't explain why they were 40-14 at home at the time but just 21-35 on the road.

Naughty, Part 2

The Rays, meanwhile, are first in the majors in runs scored on the road and 29th in scoring at home at Tropicana Field. "It does prove one thing," said manager Joe Maddon, who apparently couldn't help himself. "That we're not cheating at home."

The answer

White Sox lefthanded reliever Matt Thornton offered a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek explanation for not being traded at the deadline. "I think my [clubhouse] fantasy football performances," he said with a straight face. "The other teams would have been dreading the idea of me coming in there. I think that's what it came down to."

Believe it or not

Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee was asked by the father of a special-needs child on Wednesday to hit a home run for his son that night. McGehee protested that he only had five all year. Naturally, then he went out that night and hit three home runs for the first time in his career.

The inactive list

Only four teams didn't make at least one trade in July: the Yankees, Rays, Twins and Angels.


It's no secret that Jayson Werth got off to a miserable start after leaving the Phillies and signing that 7-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals. But Werth is a better player than what he has shown and he might be starting to demonstrate it. In his last seven games going into last night in Colorado, he was hitting .370 with two doubles, two homers, seven RBI and five runs scored.