The Philadelphia Phillies have committed to a number of veterans over the past few years, opting to retain their in-house talent in hopes of making one last run at contention, rather than blowing things up and rebuilding like some believe they should.
Among those retained veterans was shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who signed a three-year, $33 million extension prior to the 2012 season that includes an $11 million vesting option for 2015.
Now, it appears that the 35-year-old Rollins is butting heads with manager Ryne Sandberg this spring. Could this be the beginning of the end for the long-time Phillies star?
The former NL MVP was out of the lineup on Tuesday and Wednesday and is not listed among the Phillies starters for a televised home game against the New York Yankees on Thursday, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.
As the article notes, Rollins was among a number of Phillies in camp dealing with a stomach bug, but when asked if anything was wrong with him on Wednesday Sandberg claimed he was fine.
The most telling quote of the day had to do with Rollins' backup Freddy Galvis, when Sandberg was asked if he could push Rollins for the starting job:
Freddy’s a guy that will get playing time at various positions. He’s a guy that I like in the lineup. I felt good about what he brings to the table. The biggest thing I like is his energy and his positive influence, his positive influence on everyone around him.
After that, Sandberg was asked how he feels about Rollins in the same regard and he responded with a short and sweet "no comment," raising more than a few eyebrows.
Rollins responded to this, and it sounds like the tension is not going away anytime soon (h/t to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News):
Jimmy on Ryno's "no comment" regarding energy: "Everyone is allowed to have their opinion. That doesn't make it right."— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) March 13, 2014
Neither player has been impressive so far this spring and this could simply be a matter of Sandberg trying to light a fire under Rollins.
On the other hand, getting the 24-year-old Galvis into the everyday lineup would certainly bring some much-needed youth.
This could simply be a matter of a single quote being over-analyzed, but it at least begs the question if there could be something bigger at play here. Could the team look to move on from Rollins after 14 seasons?
Rollins saw his name come up in trade rumors this offseason and the club was reportedly "very willing" to listen to offers on him, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
PHI has made clear to other teams, as it did during the summer, that it is very willing to move Jimmy Rollins. Has a no-trade clause, tho.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 16, 2013
Those rumors were at least somewhat put to rest when Rollins indicated he would likely be unwilling to waive his 10-5 rights, according to another article from Salisbury back in February:
I’m not planning on waiving my no-trade clause. My plan is to bring a championship back here, to be honest. So until something else happens and the situation presents itself where it may help the team, then I’ll think about it. But until then there’s nothing to think about.
Could a trip to Sandberg's doghouse be exactly the situation Rollins needs to consider waiving his no-trade rights? Time will tell, but this is certainly something worth keeping an eye on over the next couple weeks as we push ever closer to Opening Day.
There would certainly be some teams interested in acquiring Rollins if he were made available and was willing to move.
Will Jimmy Rollins open the season as the Phillies' starting shortstop?
He is not the superstar player he once was, but he was still a productive option last year, hitting .252/.318/.348 with 36 doubles, six home runs and 22 stolen bases.
On top of those numbers, he is also still a solid defensive option, though not with the same range he once had, and a good clubhouse guy.
The New York Mets immediately come to mind as a team that is in serious need of a shortstop upgrade, but it's hard to imagine the Phillies making a move in-division.
The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers could use infield depth, but would Rollins accept a diminished role for a chance to be a piece of one of those contenders? It's all hypotheticals and questions at this point, but it's an interesting storyline this spring nonetheless.