FOR 2 MONTHS, Jimmy Rollins operated more as the businessman than the baseball player. When the final decision was made, though, Rollins allowed sentimentality to get involved and ensured that he will spend at least the next 3 years - he insists 4 - in Philadelphia.
The Phillies' 33-year-old shortstop re-signed with the only ballclub he's ever known. It is a 3-year, $33 million deal that has a reasonable vesting option based upon plate appearances. If vested, the fourth year will pay $11 million. If it's not vested, there is a club option for $8 million or a player option for $5 million.
"We took everything into consideration when you've been somewhere since you were 17," Rollins said yesterday. "To go somewhere new, in my situation, the second part of my career, you feel like you're a rented player. You're not part of the process of building the team up. Here in Philadelphia, I've been here since I was 17. The first day I got here, in the big leagues, it was about making this team a contender and eventually a champion. Those things have been accomplished."
Negotiations stretched this long while Rollins assessed the marketplace. In the end, both sides agreed the deal was sensible. Rollins has been a Phillies regular since 2001, winning the 2007 National League MVP and remaining a fixture in the lineup. Keeping Rollins was a priority for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., although the Phillies were reluctant to offer a deal too rich in dollars or years.
Rollins said there was a better deal elsewhere, citing Milwaukee - a team in the Midwest that wears blue and gold - as a possible destination. He said that deal included a fourth year and more guaranteed money, and it was "money I considered." However, his heart was set on returning to Philadelphia, and he acknowledged negotiations never reached the point elsewhere that he didn't think he would return. Plus, if the deal he signs vests, Rollins will make more overall money.
On the Phillies' end, sentimentality was also involved. They valued Rollins, and wanted to ensure they kept a player developed in the system with an established understanding of the club and the city.
"The toughest thing for any of us who've followed the club for any number of years, obviously 10-plus, is imagining someone other than Jimmy playing shortstop," Phillies president David Montgomery said. "On the one hand, you're not supposed to have sentimentality at play in the decision. But when you know and like somebody, and really in his case, not just him, but his wife and parents and in-laws . . . that's a factor you wouldn't have with some other players."
Amaro said seeing Rollins in a different uniform "would have been tough, but we would have survived." He pointed to other players who moved on, including former St. Louis Cardinals fixture Albert Pujols. Rollins has particular value to the Phillies, considering the team is built around pitching. Amaro cited Rollins' glove as a reason the Phillies wanted him to return.
No deal offered Rollins the 5 years he initially sought. Rollins smiled yesterday when describing his demand for 5 years, acknowledging it was more a negotiating ploy. From the onset, Rollins had an idea what he would sign for, and the Phillies hit that number.
"From the beginning, when my agent and I first talked about it, we knew realistically what I could get," Rollins said. "But you have to use strategy . . . We said from the beginning that if we get a 4-year deal, that would be a great deal for us. So in order to start shaping things, you start with a number you could come down from. So we started at 5."
The contract can ensure Rollins remains with the Phillies until he's 37. That could mean he concludes his career with the Phillies, an increasing rarity in professional sports that Montgomery wants to see happen. Montgomery pointed to the pain of watching Robin Roberts pitching in Reading and Steve Carlton playing elsewhere, adding it probably will be based upon how Rollins feels at the end of his contract.
Rollins has played in at least 140 games in all but two seasons, and he spoke yesterday about an improved in-season training regimen that includes power walking on a treadmill with a weighted vest. But he also remembered when he first ascended into the majors and pushed older players out of the lineup. The Bay-area native mentioned former San Francisco 49ers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice as franchise icons who played elsewhere. Even Amaro said there'll be a day when it's another player's time, and the Phillies must turn the page. That time, though, will not be in the next 3 to 4 years.