The job opportunities for Jimmy Rollins were limited this winter, even though his resume includes three All-Star berths, a National League MVP Award and four Gold Gloves.
But because, at 37, his skills have diminished, Rollins had to wait until late February to land a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox. It may end up as a nice fit for both sides.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday that, barring an injury, he expects Rollins, who is not yet on the 40-man roster, to make the Opening Day squad and split playing time at shortstop with Tyler Saladino.
Exactly how much playing time Rollins will get at shortstop remains an open question, reports Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.
Ventura’s public declaration could take some of the scrutiny off of Rollins should he hit poorly in Cactus League play. Rollins posted a .224/.285/.358 slash line, all career lows, for the Dodgers last season.
The White Sox want to see what they have in Saladino, who posted a subpar .267 OBP in 68 games after being called up last July. In his defense, Saladino played only 11 games at shortstop, his natural position. Should he emerge as a productive hitter, Rollins could also end up as trade bait in July.
Waiting in the wings at shortstop is top prospect Tim Anderson, who is likely to open the season at Triple-A Charlotte.
Here are more rumors making the rounds on Thursday:
Jose Altuve: Earlier this week, we discussed the ripple effect of the contract extension the Royals gave Salvador Perez. The catcher is a close friend of Altuve, the 2014 AL batting champion and a three-time All-Star who will earn $3.5 million with the Astros this season. His deal includes club options in 2018 and '19 worth a combined $12.5 million. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports there have been no talks between Altuve and the Astros on a new deal. That may be OK with Altuve, since he will reach free agency at age 29 and could end up with more money on the open market.
Edwin Encarnacion: The Blue Jays and the representatives for the pending free-agent slugger held a preliminary meeting regarding a contract extension on Wednesday, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The 33-year-old Encarnacion, who has a .919 OPS with 151 homers over the last four seasons, is completing a long-term deal that will pay him $10 million this season. Encarnacion is one of 10 pending Blue Jays free agents, a list that includes Jose Bautista.
Michael Brantley: The Indians' outfielder is making "steady progress" in his return from November surgery on his right shoulder and could be in the lineup ahead of the initial projection of late April or early May, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The favorable news regarding Brantley would make it less likely the Indians shop for another outfielder such as free agent Austin Jackson. The Tribe also will begin the season without center fielder Abraham Almonte, who failed a drug test and was suspended 80 games.
Alejandro De Aza: The New York Mets signed De Aza as a free agent before Yoenis Cespedes decided to remain in Queens, leading to a surplus of outfielders. Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that the Mets have not received calls on De Aza and are not shopping him at this point. That, of course, could change as we get closer to the regular season.
Robert Stephenson: A first-round pick in 2011, Stephenson has a “great opportunity” to land one of the three open spots in the Reds’ rotation, manager Bryan Price told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. The 23-year-old right-hander threw two scoreless innings against the Indians on Wednesday with one hit, one walk and two strikeouts. Price has not ruled out a relief role for Stephenson if he does not make the rotation.