PHILADELPHIA -- This was a time Jimmy Rollins knew was coming. He walked into the media room at Citizens Bank Park, wearing a black jacket over a black shirt imprinted with a multi-colored lion's head. His 11th, and perhaps final, season with the Phillies ended four days ago at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, but it was time to talk about his future.
And he did. For 21 minutes on Tuesday, Rollins gave the most in-depth glimpse into his impending free agency, believing a deal will get done with the Phillies, even though he adamantly stated he wants a five-year deal.
"I'm looking to get five years, but if it's gonna be shorter, it'll have to be a fifth-year option or something," Rollins said. "My option."
Rollins and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., both expressed a desire for the shortstop to remain in Philadelphia, but understand the business side of negotiations can barricade putting pen to paper. The Phillies have the first crack at signing Rollins. There's a five-day window starting the day after the World Series ends where only the Phillies can negotiate with Rollins. After that, other teams can jump in.
"Jimmy knows exactly where we stand as far as whether we want him back or not," Amaro said. "There's no question about whether we want Jimmy back, and be in our uniform and play shortstop for us for the next several years. Whether that happens depends on whether we can get to the finish line on it."
Said Rollins: "If they made an offer now and it was great for both sides, it'd probably be a no-brainer. It wouldn't be too much to think about just because I've been here and I like it here. It's a great place to play right now."
The biggest hurdle appears to be the length of the contract. The Phillies may be hesitant to re-sign Rollins for five years because of declining offensive numbers since his MVP season in 2007, and stints on the disabled list the last two seasons. Rollins, who appeared in 142 games this year, ranked 15th in batting average (.268) among all shortstops with at least 300 plate appearances, 10th in on-base percentage (.338), and 11th in slugging percentage (.399). In 2010 under the same criteria, Rollins ranked 26th in batting average (.243), 15th in on-base percentage (.320) and 17th in slugging (.374).
He struggled to stay on the field in 2010 because of a strained right calf, and a strained right groin caused him to miss more than three weeks from the end of August through the beginning of September this year. Much of his game, namely baserunning and defensive range, is predicated on the health of his legs, which impacts perhaps Rollins' biggest bargaining chip. His .988 fielding percentage tied for third among all shortstops this past season, behind only Troy Tulowitzki and J.J. Hardy.
Rollins said his gut feeling is there's a good chance a deal will be reached, but cautioned, "gut feelings don't always make good business decisions."
So, what's the number?
For comparison, Derek Jeter signed a three-year, $51 million deal with the Yankees last December with a player option for a fourth year. Jeter was 36 when he signed the contract, while Rollins will turn 33 before Opening Day next season. He said he would consider a shorter contract if he was older, but thinks he has six more years of being a productive player, health permitting.
The Phillies probably won't go that high, but a number in the $40-48 million range seems plausible. But will that be enough? A smart business man wouldn't begrudge Rollins for holding out on inking his name on anything until he sees how the market values him.
"If I was to go somewhere else it would probably be for money and for years and to another good team," Rollins said. "I'm just not gonna go somewhere just because they're giving you a lot of money. It has to be the right circumstance. Team's winning now or winning three months within the season. I can't be waiting too long. I'm not used to losing anymore."
Amaro has pictured a scenario without Rollins in red pinstripes for the first time since he signed with the Phillies in 1996.
"I would say it would be a huge blow for us, but not insurmountable."
The organization appears split on whether Triple-A shortstop Freddy Galvis is ready to be an everyday shortstop for a World Series contender. Galvis, who will turn 22 by Opening Day 2012, was named the Phillies' top offensive Minor Leaguer for 2011 after batting .278. Additionally, his fielding is considered above average.
But make no mistake, seeing Rollins walk would mark the end of one of the greatest runs an athlete has ever had in this city. It was Rollins who proclaimed the Phillies the team to beat in 2007, which started the current five-year run of success the franchise had never seen in 129 years of existence. It was Rollins who helped transcend baseball in South Philadelphia from anguish to nirvana.
Without him, the Phillies lose more than just an everyday shortstop.
Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.