After being released by the Chicago White Sox on June 15, Philadelphia Phillies all-time hits leader Jimmy Rollins sat out the rest of the 2016 season. It's not clear if Rollins had any opportunities to play in a utility role for a contender, but it seems hard to believe that he didn't.
Regardless of what happened, Rollins sat out the rest of the season. He made a few guest appearances on FS1's MLB coverage in the summer and then joined TBS for their coverage of the American League playoffs. Rollins seemed to thrive on television, a role that he may actually end up being even better at than baseball, so many thought that Rollins would retire and join a television network full-time. Heck, I even suggested that the Phillies consider him to replace new hitting coach Matt Stairs in the announcing booth, a role that eventually was filled by John Kruk.
Instead, Rollins decided to accept life as a utility man and signed a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training with the San Francisco Giants. Rollins explained his decision to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area earlier this week:
"I've been told to make them take the uniform off your back. So I didn't get to wear it for a long time last year, but it hadn't been taken off my back yet. The Giants came and offered an opportunity to play, so I'm here."
From Rollins' perspective, if he still wants to play and there's mutual interest, or at least intrigue, from teams in the league, there's no reason he shouldn't play as long as he wants. He won't be short of time to pursue a career as an analyst, color commentator or whatever he chooses to do after the uniform is officially taken off his back.
The Giants aren't exactly a great fit for Rollins. Brandon Crawford is one of the best shortstops in the league and rarely takes days off. Eduardo Nunez is locked in at third, but could also play short or second if there was an injury and Conor Gillaspie could take over at third. Joe Panik had a bad season in his first full season as starter at second in 2016, but is still just 26 and the Giants will give him months to stick at second before considering a change. Even Kelby Tomlinson, who theoretically would be the odd man out if Rollins made the major league roster, batted .292 in 2016.
Rollins' drop-off in the field over the past two seasons may someone be negated by the fact that he's now attempting to be a utility man and not just strictly a shortstop, but you get the sense that he's facing an uphill battle to make the Giants. After slashing .224/.285/.358 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015, he continued to show decline with the White Sox last year, slashing .221/.295/.329 in 41 games in 2016. He'll probably have to hit at an extremely high clip in Spring Training to convince the Giants to keep him on the major league roster.
There is a scenario where Rollins has a pretty strong spring but doesn't make the Giants because of a lack of roster space. If that happens, perhaps another contender will pick him up to serve a similar role. If Rollins doesn't make the Giants and is left without an immediate place to play, it seems hard to imagine the former National League MVP attempting to play at the Triple-A level, whether it is with the Giants organization or another.