Veteran expected to add versatility to young infield
By Scott Merkin
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The addition of infielder Jimmy Rollins via a Minor League deal and an invitation to big league Spring Training helps the White Sox on a number of different levels.
"First and foremost, it provides us with another quality option for our infield," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn Monday at the team's Camelback Ranch complex Monday. "It provides us with some veteran depth in that area where we previously did not have it.
"And again, it adds to what we feel is a quality mix in the clubhouse as far as a leader. He brings energy and a competitive edge each day. We think he's going to be a good fit in our clubhouse."
ICYMI: The Sox have signed veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins to a MiLB deal with an invite to spring training.https://t.co/r4YRZI1jMm
Rollins, a 37-year-old switch-hitter, will earn $2 million if he breaks camp with the club. There are no contract incentives built in regarding plate appearances, games played or anything of that nature.
There looks to be a good chance for Rollins to be part of the Opening Day roster. He has only played four games outside of shortstop during his 16-year career, but the White Sox look at Rollins as part of their infield versatility that includes Tyler Saladino, Brett Lawrie and Carlos Sanchez also being able to play multiple positions.
This move certainly doesn't knock Saladino from his expected starting job. But it provides Spring Training competition and takes a little pressure off of the young defensive stalwart.
"We certainly believe in Saladino's upside and his defensive ability," Hahn said. "At the same time, no one is given jobs until they earn jobs. So there is certainly the opportunity that Jimmy could find himself playing fairly regularly at short, but he's also going to come in and prepare to be available on more of a utility basis, playing multiple positions depending on how things play out."
"It's an opportunity here for him to learn under a guy that has played a long time at shortstop, can teach him a lot of things," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Saladino, whom he talked to about the move after the signing. "Sally's going to do exactly what he came here to do and that's play hard and play for the White Sox and try to do well. As far as playing time and everything else, we'll see how that goes."
Over 563 plate appearances for the Dodgers in 2015, Rollins hit .224 with 13 homers, 41 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. He won the National League Most Valuable Player in 2007, is a three-time All-Star and earned four Gold Gloves. But the White Sox are looking more at a mentor/contributor at this stage of Rollins' career, working alongside No. 1 prospect and shortstop of the future Tim Anderson during Spring Training.
"[The younger players] might look at him now," Ventura said. "But we want them to do a little research on what Jimmy Rollins has done in his career because it's impressive."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Rollins disappointed fantasy owners by hitting .224 last season, but a .246 BABIP contributed to his struggles. The 37-year-old is unlikely to be a batting average asset, but he could hit .250 with better fortune on balls in play. In a full-time role, Rollins will warrant mixed-league attention because of his ability to hit 10-15 homers and steal 15-20 bases. But because he will first have to win the starting job from Saladino, the native Californian is currently relegated to reserve status in standard formats.