For the 2012 season, it should be a reasonable assumption that the Philadelphia Phillies will contain both Jimmy Rollins and Roy Oswalt. In 2010, Rollins had a down year due to the fact that he spent nearly half of the season on the disabled list. However, it is safe to assume that he will return to form in 2010.
Rollins is a veteran and a star, and he knows what is at stake this year. This could be the only opportunity that he will have to play with a rotation of this caliber, and, beyond the chances of a repeat of a World Series championship, his career is also at stake, as this is the last year of his contract.
Oswalt is a proven ace, who still has yet to lose a game in Citizens Bank Park as a Phillie. He still ranks as one of the top pitchers currently in baseball and finds himself among the best rotation that exists in baseball today. At the end of the 2011 season, there is a mutual $16 million option to stay with the Phillies for the 2012 season. If that option is not taken by either party, we will likely see Oswalt retire, although I think that he would take a serious pay cut to stay with the Phillies before he actually retired.
Rollins will produce a season much more like his 2008 and 2009 seasons to ensure his longevity with the Phillies organization, and Oswalt will continue to hand his command on the mound for this coming season. Expect both of these players to have great 2011 seasons and be on the Phillies roster for 2012.
Who should the Phillies keep after the 2011 season?
However, for the sake of argument, let us assume that the Phillies can only or will only spend the amount of money to keep both of these players. Which of these players has more to offer to the organization and would be more worth paying to keep as a Phillie? I think that if we examine the 2010 season, we can assume that Oswalt brings a talent to the organization that would be harder to replace than it would be to replace the talent that Rollins brings.
We saw a 2010 season where Rollins was missing from nearly half of it. Of 162 regular season games, Rollins played in 88 of those games. Even with Rollins missing half of the season, the Phillies had the best regular season record in all of baseball. It would be much more difficult and expensive to find a replacement for Oswalt than it would be for Rollins, especially since the Phillies could look within their own organization to find some to replace Rollins who could produce very comparable numbers.
I am, of course, speaking of Wilson Valdez. Valdez sometimes gets criticized for not producing offensively, but this is not quite fair. Valdez may have less ability to hit home runs or steal bases than Rollins, but he still is quite able to do so. Valdez filled in for Rollins a lot this season, having played in 111 games, still not quite the numbers for a full season, so his numbers would be north of where they were had he been an everyday starter.
That being said, Valdez had seven stolen bases and was never caught in 2010. He also hit four homeruns. With stolen bases, Rollins had 17 and was caught once, so Valdez is not quite to Rollin’s ability, but they compare more closely when it comes to other aspects of batting.
Rollins batted for an average of .243 with 41 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .320 and a slugging percentage of .374. Valdez, on the other hand, batted for an average of .258 with 35 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .306 and a slugging percentage of .360. I should also mention that Rollins made $8.5 million in 2010, whereas Valdez only made $400,000. Valdez is only entering his sixth year as a professional player—although he is technically six months older than Rollins—and will not be eligible for free agency until after this season.
When comparing Oswalt to the rest of the pitching in the majors, he was eighth with ERA, second with WHIP, 18th with strikeouts and 33rd with wins; however, that last stat would likely have been higher if he had not played the first half of the season in Houston. Oswalt’s 2010 stats were a 2.76 ERA, 13-13 Record, 193 strikeouts, 55 walks, and a 1.03 WHIP. With the starting pitcher free agents who are due to hit the market after the 2011 season, only two pitchers can really compare to Oswalt, Chris Carpenter and Cole Hamels.
Even if the Phillies went the route of trying to sign a free agent to replace Oswalt, they would be paying top dollar to replace him or, more likely, sign someone who does not really hold a candle light to what they could get out of Oswalt. If the Phillies tried to trade for someone to replace Oswalt, the cost would likely be too great to either the everyday starters or the farm system. Rollins could be replaced from within at a fraction of the cost and see similar results.
Oswalt would not be nearly as easy to replace, not that replacing Rollins is easy, and finding one from within may be difficult. Vance Worley has potential, but I will not claim that he is Oswalt’s caliber until he proves it, nor would I bet on it. Oswalt is a quality pitcher that is rarely found in baseball, especially at his consistency.
Overall, the Phillies would be better off with keeping Oswalt and letting Rollins go than they would be if they kept Rollins and let Oswalt go. I would expect both players to remain a Phillie, but if we could only pick one, Oswalt is the better option for the team to keep.