Rollins' move was 'a really good fit'
Trade to Dodgers benefits all parties
FOR 9 DAYS, Jimmy Rollins, like everyone else in the baseball world, sat and waited.
He tried to keep himself busy. He fended off questions from family members, who wondered if they needed to trade in their red pinstriped jerseys for Dodger blue.
Yesterday morning, Rollins had just wrapped up a Pilates session when the phone call he was waiting for finally came through. It was Andrew Friedman, the Los Angeles Dodgers' team president of baseball operations.
For the first time since he was 17, Rollins was no longer a Philadelphia Phillie.
"My time here is up," Rollins, 36, said while fishing near his home in Tampa. "The Phillies are going one way and now I'm going in a different direction."
After Rollins waived his no-trade clause, and after Matt Kemp and the San Diego Padres held the Phils-Dodgers swap hostage for 8 crazy nights, the longest-tenured athlete in Philadelphia pro sports was traded to Los Angeles for two pitching prospects: righthander Zach Eflin and lefthander Tom Windle.
The deal, first agreed upon on Dec. 10, finally became official yesterday morning, about 12 hours after the Kemp deal was announced. The two deals were linked because Eflin arrived in Los Angeles from San Diego in the Kemp trade.
Rollins, the franchise's all-time hit king, the former National League MVP and the vocal leader during the greatest era of Phillies baseball, has vacated his familiar locker stall in the center of the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.
"It'll be a loss for the organization," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "At the same time, this is important for the organization. It's fairly obvious. We made the very concerted effort to decide that it was time for us to turn the page. I guess if we could try to draw it up and line it up, I don't know if Jimmy would be the first guy we'd move. But it's also the right thing for him . . . And it's something that I think was important to him, to play on a club that was going to contend. He only had 1 year on his contract left, at least at this stage, who knows what happens after 2015, but I know that Jimmy wants to play again for a World Series ring, and at this stage of the game, the Dodgers were probably more poised to do that."
For the past two seasons, when it became clear the Phillies were a franchise in need of a rebuild, Rollins had repeatedly said he had no desire to play anywhere else. With a full no-trade clause, Rollins could dictate his future. But after a conversation with Amaro in October, shortly after the season, he knew the front office was ready to make significant change. About a month later, Amaro and Rollins spoke again.
"The Mets, the Yankees and the Padres had some interest," Rollins said of the second conversation. "At that point, he can't really ask me to be traded. But I was able to read between the lines. So I just told him that if he could get me over to LA, we could make something happen."
About a month later, at baseball's Winter Meetings last week in San Diego, all parties agreed to a deal, one that should benefit everyone.
Rollins, who has just 1 year remaining on a 4-year, $44 million contract, joins a team with World Series talent. The Dodgers get a surehanded shortstop and proven playoff performer for a year while they await infield prospect Corey Seager. The Phillies get two players they hope will strengthen a previously poor crop of pitching inventory on the farm.
"Frankly," Amaro said, "it ended up being a really good fit."
Eflin, 20, was rated the 10th best prospect in the Padres' system by MLB.com. The 33rd overall pick (first round) in 2012 out of Hagerty High in Oviedo, Fla., Eflin has gone 17-14 with a 3.41 ERA in 50 games (49 starts) in the minor leagues.
Eflin was 10-7 with a 3.80 ERA in 24 starts at Class A Elsinore in 2014, striking out 93 while walking 31 in 128 innings.
Windle, who turns 23 in March, was the Dodgers' second-round pick in 2013. He went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 26 games (25 starts) at Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014, he struck out 111 while walking 44 in 139 1/3 innings.
Eflin and Windle should help bolster a farm system bereft in starting pitching depth, particularly at the upper levels of the minors. The newcomers could join former first-round picks Aaron Nola and Jesse Biddle at Double A Reading to start the 2015 season.
"They've got high ceiling - we like their arms," Amaro said yesterday. "We are short, particularly at the upper levels, in starting pitching. So they fill the needs that we have. We have to be able to pitch to win and we have to be able to develop pitching, long-term."
The Phillies have other needs, too. But their winter overhaul has just begun.
Marlon Byrd, a useful righthanded bat, could be the next former Phillie as contending teams look for offensive help via trade. Jonathan Papelbon and Carlos Ruiz are other veterans who could attract interest.
The Phillies would love to part with Ryan Howard, but the $60 million remaining on his contract, coupled with his declining skills, makes him difficult to deal. On the other end of the spectrum, Cole Hamels remains the most attractive of Phillies players, but the team will only part with the World Series MVP-winning lefty for a lucrative package.
"We're working on trying to do more things, I think that's pretty clear," Amaro said. "Hopefully, we'll continue to get some things done."
As the roster stands today, Freddy Galvis would be first in line to take over everyday shortstop duties in 2015. Former first-round pick J.P. Crawford, who was promoted to Class A Clearwater midway through the 2014 season, could take over at some point in 2016.
But the package that Rollins brought for 14-plus seasons - the player, the personality, the presence - is probably irreplaceable.
"The Dodgers are very lucky to acquire a player like Jimmy," Chase Utley, who has played with Rollins longer than anyone, said in a statement yesterday. "I've said it time and time again that Jimmy makes everyone around him better. The team will miss his leadership on the field and his infectious smile, but most of all, I will miss our pregame handshake."