From the beginning, there was little doubt this winter the Phillies and Jimmy Rollins wanted to continue their 15-year marriage well into the future. In this city's transformation from National League also-ran to baseball power, there was one constant: Rollins.
And he will continue to man shortstop for the only team he has ever known.
The Phillies agreed Saturday to a three-year, $33 million deal with Rollins, according to multiple reports. The deal includes am $11 million vesting option for a fourth year. ESPN.com was the first to report an agreement.
"Gotta deal with me for 3 (4) more years," Rollins tweeted Saturday afternoon.
This day was long assumed even before the market for shortstops dwindled to only Rollins. He is the longest-tenured athlete in Philadelphia, active in the community, and still one of the more productive shortstops in the league.
But Rollins' pride was tested this winter.
Ultimately, it's a concession for Rollins, who declared days after the season abruptly ended that he wanted a five-year contract. But even then, the 33-year-old shortstop admitted Philadelphia was where he wanted to remain.
"I've been here since 1996. That's a long time in this organization," Rollins said shortly after the season ended. "It's the only one I've known. I've never thought about having to go anywhere else."
And really, there was nowhere else for Rollins to go. The Phillies were content to idle for much of the winter because Rollins was their priority, and with an advantage in negotiations, waiting was just fine.
During the winter meetings, signs emerged that a deal was close. The Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies' top competition for his services, were told not to bother continuing talks with Rollins. They eventually signed Aramis Ramirez, a player the Phillies inquired about as a backup plan, and Alex Gonzalez for the left side of their infield.
An erroneous report surfaced near the end of the winter meetings that the Phillies had agreed to terms with Rollins. That was merely premature.
Rollins offers stability at the top of Charlie Manuel's lineup. His .743 OPS in 2011 ranked 11th among all major-league shortstops and his defense remains above average. Of course, Rollins' production has waned since the MVP season of 2007, but faced with using 22-year-old Freddy Galvis or a stopgap veteran signing to replace him, the Phillies viewed Rollins as the best choice.
Amaro said last week that should Rollins be re-signed, it would likely mark the final offensive addition of the offseason. The Phillies have guaranteed contracts with 16 players for 2012 and four others are eligible for arbitration.
In the end, the market was slim for Rollins and a divorce was never a probability. The Brewers never seriously considered Rollins. Other teams like San Francisco and Atlanta plan to start rookies at shortstop. St. Louis was consumed with their failed quest at re-signing slugger Albert Pujols and eventually settled for Rafael Furcal at shortstop.
Thus, an agreement required Rollins' side to cave on their demands to make a deal. Rollins just completed a six-year, $46.5 million deal. He won an MVP award and three Gold Gloves during the contract, one he thought was a team-friendly deal. A baseball source recently said Rollins resented the idea of taking another discount to return, especially after Jose Reyes signed a six-year, $106 million deal with the Miami Marlins.
"If I was older, I'd take a shorter term," Rollins said in October. "But I’ll be 33 when I get the contract. That means I have good six years left to perform at a high level and maybe even more."
But Rollins is five years Reyes' elder and without leverage, he had no other options. Even then Amaro was careful to be respectful of a player with a substantial legacy in Philadelphia while the team maintained its desire for a shorter term.
"Jimmy has every right to feel prideful about what he's done in his career," Amaro said during the winter meetings. "I absolutely understand. He feels he has great worth and he should feel that way. It's a matter of us getting to the right place where we think the worth is the same."
That happened Saturday. Finally.
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