The Oakland Athletics have the best record in baseball and have been atop Major League Baseball since June. They haven’t had a losing month in almost 15 months of regular season play and are one of the favorites for the A.L. pennant — maybe even the World Series.
Prior to the fourth of July, when the A’s shocked the baseball world by trading top prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney for two of the trade market’s top pitchers in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, it was the consensus that the A’s had two small weaknesses. The lesser of the two weaknesses being the back end of their starting rotation, which was taken care of on July 4, and the rather large hole the team still has at second base.
At second base they have the three player combination of Nick Punto, Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo. Together they are an offensive disaster with Sogard and Punto hitting .205 and .206 respectively and Callaspo batting only slightly higher at .234.
Defensively when paired with shortstop Jed Lowrie and All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson the job gets done, most of the time. Still there must be improvement at second base if the A’s are serious about making a run at the World Series.
The Athletics have been linked in multiple rumors to available second basemen, for example, Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies and most recently Nick Franklin of the Seattle Mariners. Of the many players they have been linked to thus far this season, Utley would be by far the best option. Franklin and Zobrist are not “big” enough in name or in statistics to help take the A’s where they are looking to go in October.
I propose another option, Utley’s teammate, Phillies’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Rollins works for the A’s in pretty much every way from filling the hole in the infield to having an affordable salary, affordable at least for this year’s A’s team. Oakland’s general manager Billy Beane has shown that he is not concerned too much with a budget this time around having just lost $10 million by designating former closer Jim Johnson for assignment. He proved he was going all-in for this A’s team when he acquired Samardzija and Hammel from the Chicago Cubs.
Rollins had a $11 million vesting option for 2015 that just recently kicked in. He will now be making $11 million in 2015 wherever he plays.
And the answer is …. Rollins’ 2015 option for $11 mill kicks in with 2 plate appearances tonight.
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) July 25, 2014
That is something that the Athletics should be able to handle if they could pay $10 million for Johnson. Plus with Rollins they would be getting so much more. As MLBTradeRumors.com’s Steve Adams wrote just days ago,
“Rollins has enjoyed somewhat of a rebound season in 2014, slashing .243/.326/.398. He’s already more than doubled his 2013 home run total (from six to 13) and has swiped 19 bases in 24 attempts after stealing just 22 bags in 2014. The former MVP, now 35 years of age, has 10-and-5 rights, if he decides to waive those rights, teams might look be interested given his respectable production at the plate and still strong defense.”
Besides being a former N.L. MVP Rollins is a three-time All-Star, has won four Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger award. Although he’s past his prime at 35-years old Rollins is still putting up better offensive numbers than any of the middle infielders that Oakland has and he plays better defensively.
By sliding Lowrie from shortstop to second base, the A’s would have the 4-5-6 combination of Lowrie, Rollins and Donaldson which would definitely solidify the infield for slightly over $11 million and it is highly unlikely that Rollins will have a sharp drop off at just 36 next season. He may be past his prime but he can still produce.
There is the 10-5 rights issue, however, that could stop Oakland or any team, from getting Rollins or Utley. Both infielders are lifetime Phillies and have more than 1o years of Major league experience giving them 10-5 rights, meaning that since they have spent ten years in the league and at least five of those years with the same team they now have the right to veto any proposed trade out of Philadelphia.
In the past both Utley and Rollins, who made a spectacle of saying he wouldn’t waive his 10-5 rights back in March, have expressed their desire to remain in Philly. However, more recently both have left the door open to being traded to a contender. Rollins left his door open a bit wider than Utley. In June after passing Mike Schmidt as the Phillies’ all-time hits leader Rollins softened his stance on the possibility of a trade telling reporters,
“If that time does come, and it’s time to go … people move on.”
With that door open coming to the East Bay Area would look good to Rollins. The Athletics are obvious contenders and will make the postseason one way or another. He was also born and raised in Oakland, attending Encinal High School in Alameda before being drafted in the second round of the 1996 amateur draft by Philadelphia. Rollins was an A’s fan in his youth and there has always been speculation that he would end up finishing his career in Oakland.
Sounds like a perfect match to me. Will it happen? It’s looking doubtful seeing that the trade deadline is a little over 24-hours away but you never know. In baseball anything can happen.