When Ruben Amaro wants a guy, he goes and gets the guy. That’s been his Modus Operandi since he took the reigns from Pat Gillick just prior to the 2009 season. We can hardly fault him for that line of thinking because it has worked out pretty well for the Phillies; a team that has made three playoffs appearances in three seasons under his watch.
The Jimmy Rollins signing on Saturday was a wonderful mix of Amaro “getting his guy” and waiting it out to let the market dictate what would happen. Had Amaro done that with the Papelbon signing, he would almost certainly have saved a boatload of money on a really good closer of some sort.
So, the J-Roll deal, in my estimation, is an A-deal. The Papelbon signing was about a C-minus right off the bat. We don’t know how either will shake out, but from just a contractual standpoint, and in the context of how the free agent market has looked all offseason, I think those grades are fair assessments.
Had Amaro waited on the closer, he could have gone after Ryan Madson on the cheap if Papelbon were no longer available. At this point, that could be a $15 million difference, or more.
Amaro, however, more than made up for it with a fair-market value contract for one of the top shortstops in baseball. No matter what you think of Rollins, he still is just that. And think about it; J-Roll got just one more guaranteed year than Rafael Furcal while making $4 million more per season than the Cardinals shortstop. I’d say he’s worth about $4 million more than the $7 million-per-year Furcal was given earlier this month; wouldn’t you?
And as we’ve learned this winter, shortstop is embarrassingly thin throughout Major League Baseball. Maybe you’re tired of seeing Rollins pop up or not be the prototypical leadoff hitter. But, you can’t honestly tell me you’d rather have Yuniesky Betancourt or Jack Wilson manning that position for a year or two. Freddy Galvis is not ready for prime time, so this is a move that had to be made. Perhaps when Galvis is ready, Rollins will be primed to change positions. But right now, Rollins is a superior defensive shortstop that still has the ability to change a game with his bat.
Over at Brotherly Glove, Eric Seidman says the allocation of both the Rollins and Papelbon contracts are a little bit skewed, but that paying $23-25 million for a top-flight closer and a top shortstop is fine overall. I happened to agree with that sentiment.
I’m not saying I’m a fan of paying a closer all that money. But if you’re going to pay it, you might as well pay for the best – and that’s exactly what Pap has been (other than Mariano Rivera, of course).
Although I’m bringing it back up, the Rollins deal definitely overshadows the Papelbon signing. It was a mark of a GM using patience and the market to his benefit. Had he done that with Papelbon, we’d all be doing back flips. But overall, it’s been a solid offseason for Ruben Amaro.