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MLB trade rumor: Phillies asking for a lot in exchange for Jimmy Rollins

The Yankees were rebuffed and baseball fans had jokes. It's not quite that simple, though.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It's okay to laugh at the Phillies. It's required, even. If you follow baseball closely, you've watched the Phillies morph from World Series champs into pennant winners into NLDS winners into division winners into a .500 team into lousy team, which is their current state. The toboggan ride into the abyss has been largely supervised by Ruben Amaro, Jr., the GM who is still making decisions. It's more than okay to laugh at the Phillies.

When there's a reason, that is. Usually that reason is simple, like "Amaro said words" or "the Phillies made a transaction" or "Hey, there's a Phillies game today." Today's reason to laugh at Amaro and the Phillies is the rumor from Jayson Stark that the Yankees asked about Jimmy Rollins, but the high asking price made them run away screaming. The Phillies, who are going to be horrible and have little need for a 36-year-old shortstop during this transitional period, are hilarious for asking for so much.

Except ...

This is going to cover some of the same ground as an earlier post on Cole Hamels, but there are enough differences between the two players to make it worth reframing. When you consider that every team is three years away from the pennant, it's not inconceivable that Hamels will still be around to help the next good Phillies team. Rollins, though, is a longest of longshots to still be around for the next Phillies team. He's much more likely to help in a casino-greeter capacity than as a good player on a good Phillies team.

Here's the part that got most people tittering:

First, we fact-check. Is Rollins one of the best shortstops in baseball? To the WAR machine!

Rank Player 2014 WAR
1 Jhonny Peralta 5.8
2 Troy Tulowitzki 5.5
3 Erick Aybar 3.9
4 Jimmy Rollins 3.9
5 Ian Desmond 3.8
6 Hanley Ramirez 3.5
7 Andrelton Simmons 3.5
8 J.J. Hardy 3.4
9 Brandon Crawford 3.2
10 Jose Reyes 3.1
11 Alexei Ramirez 3
12 Jordy Mercer 2.8
13 Alcides Escobar 2.4
14 Zack Cozart 2.4
15 Starlin Castro 2

Standard disclaimer of "WAR is an imperfect stat" aside, this statement is easy to agree with. Rollins outplayed a guy who just signed an $88 million contract, another who won the Gold Glove, and just about everyone in the American League. He'll be 36, which makes him young for a Yankees shortstop, but he's coming off his best year since the Phillies won the World Series. He isn't a guy worth giving up for free.

That written, exactly what would the Yankees want to trade for him? He's a pending free agent making $11 million, and while that's nifty company he's keeping up there, he's 36, and he's coming off a suspiciously productive season. It was Rollins's best season out of his last six -- a total red flag when combined with his age. Assuming he's more of a two-win shortstop puts him closer to guys like Jordy Mercer, Zack Cozart, and Chris Owings. Fine players, all, and perhaps players the Yankees would pay $11 million for a season if they had the chance. But no one you'd want for a year and $11 million and at the cost of a top prospect.

Ah, so the Phillies are asking for too much. Except, what should they be asking for? Should they be asking for salary relief and nothing else? Not really. Rollins is still good, and he's still a fan favorite in Philadelphia, where he's played for 15 seasons.

A token prospect? I'm not sure why. Rollins has more value as a legacy player for the Phillies than a raffle ticket walking five guys for every nine innings in Class-A would. There are players and potential deals that call for a token prospect, usually because the veteran player has absolutely zero value to the rebuilding team. That's not the case with Rollins, who certainly has some value, both on and off the field, for the Phillies.

A decent prospect? Getting warmer, but there's no reason for the Phillies to settle, not yet. It's never a bad idea to look for the next Scott Hairston; it's usually a bad idea to trade in one of your last remaining chips on a prospect who might be that guy. Don't forget, the Phillies will still have July 31 to play with. There's still leverage, assuming Rollins doesn't completely disintegrate in the first half.

A really good prospect? Yes, the Phillies could use some of those. This is the part, though, where the flow chart has a big ol' arrow pointing back to what the Yankees want to give up for Rollins. They don't want to give up a top prospect, even if the Phillies pay some of the salary. It doesn't seem like a good fit, not unless the Phillies are willing to accept a B- prospect, just to make sure they get something for their veteran shortstop.

Which they still might want to do. But I'd wager there's more value in a commercial with "Come watch Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies take on the Braves" and the related jersey sales than there is in the five-percent chance that Random Prospect X turns into a regular. That isn't to say familiar, longstanding veterans should never be dealt, but they shouldn't be handed over just because another team asks "Uh, are you gonna eat that?"

Laugh at the Phillies for other things -- like the time Amaro heard the Phillies needed to "get younger," so he signed Michael and Delmon -- but asking for a good return for a good player isn't one of them. Considering they actually got decent prospects for Roberto Hernandez, who isn't so hot at pitching, perhaps Amaro knows a little bit more about what he's doing than we might think.