As Freddy Galvis ascended through the minor league system and finished a very productive 2011 season in Reading and Lehigh Valley, the Phillies were faced with a difficult decision regarding Jimmy Rollins‘ free agency.
Do they take the shortstop keys away from Jimmy in preparation of handing them over to Galvis, or do they re-sign Rollins as a free agent and push back Galvis’ arrival in the big leagues as an everyday shortstop?
When push came to shove, the Phils re-signed Rollins to a three-year, $33 million deal, with an option for a fourth year that could push the contract value to $44 million. Galvis’ time as an everyday shortstop, at least for the Phils, appeared dead for the time being.
And the signing made sense. Galvis was no sure thing, he had played just 33 games at the AAA level, and still had not shown a lot at the plate. Meanwhile, Rollins was still seen as one of the better shortstops in the game. Last year, Rollins responded with an up-and-down year, with the final statistics (.743 OPS, 23 HRs, 33 2Bs, 30 SBs) belying a very streaky season full of both drought and great bounty.
Galvis, meanwhile, showed his defensive value by stepping in for an injured Chase Utley, playing 58 games in the Majors last year, most of them coming as Utley’s replacement while the second baseman was on the disabled list. Freddy showed an incredible aptitude for the game defensively, and even provided a little pop at the plate, even though his overall offensive numbers were not terribly impressive (.226/.254/.363, .617 OPS, 15 2Bs, 24 RBI in 200 ABs, 29/7 K/BB ratio).
At the end of the day, re-signing Rollins was the right thing to do. There’s no question about it.
However, an interesting question was posed to me about Freddy Galvis on Twitter last night (@FelskeFiles, for the uninitiated) that I thought was worth a few hundred words of exploration.
— Nate (@DelcoNate) May 15, 2013
@felskefiles I’m saying throw all the BS, contracts, etc out. If you could choose 1 or the other right now for this year, you don’t take FG?
— Nate (@DelcoNate) May 15, 2013
Given the small sample size of 2013, it’s probably not fair to use statistics from just this year to make a judgment, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s just take a look and see what we’ve got.
In 55 plate appearances, Galvis is hitting .294/.357/.471 for an OPS of .828. He’s shown surprising pop for a guy his size, with two home runs and three doubles. He’s also struck out just eight times while walking four, which isn’t bad for him at all. His walk rate is at 7.1% while is strikeout rate is 14.3%.
It’s a small sample and there are still a lot of obvious rough edges around his game. As a part-time player, Galvis can hide some of those deficiencies. As an everyday player, some of them would be exposed. Still, Galvis is a plus-plus defender, can seemingly play anywhere on the field at a high level, and his offensive game appears to be improving.
Rollins has played a whole lot more than Galvis this year, so to be fair, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. In 167 plate appearances, Rollins is hitting .248/.299/.373 for an OPS of .672, with two home runs, 11 doubles and one triple. He’s stolen four bases but has also been caught twice. He’s walked 11 times and struck out 28 times, giving him a walk rate of 6.6% and a strikeout rate of 16.8%.
J-Roll does continue to play an above average defensive shortstop, although his defensive skills have eroded some and is not as good a defender as Galvis, who may be one of the best defensive shortstops in the game right now.
Both players have added about half a win above replacement level so far this year, only Galvis has done it in 112 fewer at bats.
It cannot be argued that Rollins has not done a very good job at the top of the lineup getting on base. There is a reason the Phils’ last 17 home runs have all been solo homers, and some of that is due to the inability of the top of the order to consistently get on base, Rollins included. And for all the talk about how good Rollins’ 2012 season was last year, his on-base percentage was still under .300 August 25th. From that point on, Rollins was able to keep his OBP above the .300 mark.
That’s just not good enough for a lead-off hitter.
Still, were Galvis to replace Rollins at shortstop, Freddy would not become the team’s leadoff hitter, so perhaps that little nugget doesn’t really have anything to do with the price of tea in china. Speaking of price, though, let’s factor in the cost of both players.
Rollins is due to make $11 million this year, with $11 million more next year and an $11 million vesting option for 2015 that takes him through his 36th birthday. That’s a potential $33 million more dollars.
Galvis is making $490,000 this year, and is not arbitration eligible until after the 2015 season. He is also under team control through 2018. He will not see his first significant raise until he reaches arbitration after 2015, meaning he will be extremely affordable over the next year and a half.
I am not arguing the Phillies should replace Rollins with Galvis. Not yet. We’re only 40 games into the season, so no definitive judgments should be made on Rollins or Galvis yet. Rollins is a major part of this team and getting rid of him would send a message to the rest of the clubhouse that the club is looking ahead instead of trying to fight for a playoff spot this year.
After last night’s win over Cleveland, the Phillies are just 3 1/2 games in the NL East. The Phils are not anywhere close to going into sell mode. And while Jimmy’s numbers certainly haven’t been too good so far, it’s still too early to bench him.
The other issue is that, other than Rollins, the Phils don’t really have any other options to lead off. The hope was Ben Revere would be the guy, but his early season struggles atop the lineup make him a less-than-ideal candidate right now.
So, for now, Jimmy stays in the lineup, and there are good reasons for him to do so. It’s too early to pull the plug on him, and everyone knows J-Roll is capable of a hot streak that carries the team. No one knows if Galvis is capable of something similar.
But if Rollins continues to struggle by the All-Star break, even if the Phils are in contention, and Galvis continues to play well, Charlie Manuel should at least consider giving Freddy more starts at shortstop. The team’s offense is its Achilles Heel, and if Galvis can provide more punch, the Phillies would be stupid not to at least consider doing something about Rollins.
Jimmy Rollins is not the team’s biggest problem right now. But he’s not doing a whole lot to help, either. And the Phils have reached a point where there should be no more sacred cows.
At the very least, Freddy Galvis’ play so far in 2013 allows one to at least consider life without Jimmy Rollins, perhaps sooner rather than later.