With 434 plate appearances in 2014, Jimmy Rollins' 2015 option vests and the Phillies will owe him $11 million. It's an underrated storyline heading into a season full of what-ifs.
Only once in his career has Rollins amassed fewer than 434 plate appearances -- in 2010, when he played in just 88 games. Since his cup of coffee in 2000, he's averaged 681 PAs per year.
Rollins' production dipped significantly in 2013 and, while we can't be sure he's completely fallen off a cliff, it's difficult to imagine some power and speed returning for him at age 35.
Rollins hit .252/.318/.387 last season, with just six homers, a year after hitting 23. He did exhibit improved plate discipline and hit 36 doubles, so there was still some offensive value in there, especially for a position that has suffered as much offensively in recent years as shortstop.
But if the Phillies aren't contending in 2014, there is no need for Ryne Sandberg to play him every day. Committing $11 million to Rollins in 2015, no matter how key he's been to the organization for over a decade, would be another short-sighted move. Freddy Galvis has to get an extended opportunity at some point, right?
The other aspect of this is that Rollins could be more effective with reduced playing time. Let's say Sandberg gives him one night off every 8-10 games to keep his legs fresh. That would limit his PAs slightly and theoretically also give him the chance to avoid injuy and rest his legs enough to regain some power and a step on defense.
Sandberg does not at all seem like the type of manager who would yank a player from the lineup for financial or front-office decisions. But you wonder if, at some point, Phillies management will step in if and only if the team is far enough out of the race that Rollins' vesting options becomes a concern.