Ruben Amaro is prone to pouncing quickly on players he wants.
He inked Jonathan Papelbon for more than $50 million a week before any other free agent closer signed.
He locked up Ryan Howard in early 2010 when the writing was on the wall that Howard was set to be the third-best free agent first baseman in the winter of 2011.
In Dec. 2008 Amaro gave a 36-year-old Raul Ibanez three years and $31.5 million two months before the patient Nationals signed 29-year-old Adam Dunn, then an outfielder, for two years and $20 million. Bobby Abreu, coming off a superb season, signed a one-year, $5 million deal that winter. Heck, Milton Bradley, six years younger and coming off three superb seasons, signed for $1.5 million less than Ibanez.
These were all situations in which Amaro’s impatience led to immediate criticism and, in the second and third cases, rather frustrating contracts.
But when it came to the polarizing case of Jimmy Rollins this winter, Amaro exhibited enough patience to turn an easily over-payable situation into a team-friendly deal for a valuable shortstop.
As Rollins continued to push his demands for a five-year contract this winter, his looked like a scenario that could have been resolved with a three-year, $39-42 million deal and a mutual or vesting option. The Brewers, who needed both an offensive boost with Prince Fielder gone and a shortstop with Yuniesky Betancourt being Yuniesky Betancourt, looked like a natural fit. For a while it appeared that Milwaukee was in position to offer Rollins something like four years, $50 million. Based on Rollins’ comments after re-signing Saturday, it is possible the Brewers did offer something in that contractual vicinity.
But Amaro refrained from swooping in and fearfully topping Milwaukee’s offer. He waited it out, knowing that it would take an above-and-beyond offer to pry Rollins away… the kind of offer Doug Collins feared Thaddeus Young might find.
By taking it slow and eventually signing Rollins to a three-year deal worth $33 million (and a fourth-year option worth another $11 million), Amaro paid the right price for an important player when all signs pointed toward an overpay.
To put Rollins’ deal into better context, let’s look at some of the other shortstop deals given in recent years.
Jose Reyes – six years, $106 million ($17.67 million per year)
Derek Jeter – three years, $51 million ($17 million per year)
J.J. Hardy – three years, $22.25 million $7.4 million per year)
Rafael Furcal – two years, $14 million ($7 million per year)
Marco Scutaro – three years, $17 million ($5.7 million per year)
Jason Bartlett – two years, $11 million ($5.5 million per year)
Alex Gonzalez – one year, $4.25 million (two years, $8.25 million if option vests)
Rollins’ per-year terms fit in between the deals of Scutaro/Bartlett and Jeter/Reyes, and the total value of his pact is much closer to Hardy’s deal than to Jeter’s.
Remember that, for a time, $12 million per year for Rollins seemed like a certainty. After Reyes signed, $14 million began to look reasonable because it was hard to label Reyes $6 million better per year than Rollins.
But as Amaro continued to wait and the market continued to shrink, every number involved in a deal for Rollins dropped, until the Phillies found a price they were willing to pay.
And now a team that had major work to do this off-season finally has a clear picture for 2012. Plugging the holes of a 102-win team while avoiding crippling deals and saving dollars for future contracts is no small task.
Amaro’s patience made it work.
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