Searching for more options for Phillies at shortstop
by Scott Butler 12/3/11

Replacing Jimmy Rollins might be a refreshing change to rejuvenate the Phillies roster. But as I mentioned earlier, there are not many good free agent shortstops from which to replace J-Roll. My first list was limited to free agents listed as shortstops in 2011, so I scanned the remaining free agents for players with some previous experience at shortstop. Here are a list of other possible options at shortstop:

Jerry Hairston, Jr.

Jerry Hairston is an attractive “super utility” player, having played at least 80 games at each outfield position, shortstop, second, and third. Offensively, Hairston was extremely close to Rollins last season. Outside of their speed (Rollins had 27 more steals than Hairston), they are nearly identical. See how Hairston compares to Rollins in 2011 in many of the key categories:

Jerry Hairston 120 337 .270 .344 .383 .727
Jimmy Rollins 142 567 .268 .338 .399 .736

Defensively, Hairston has been fine, posting a .974 career fielding percentage at shortstop, although he has only played 146 games at shortstop over his 7 year career. If the Phillies are confident Hairston can hold his own defensively at shortstop over a whole season, they may not lose much offensively. The other perk: Hairston made only $2 million last year and has signed one year contracts in the past. Jimmy will be looking for $8-10 million and at least three years.

Don't bet on Hairston, though. Hairston has not played much shortstop and has been essentially a bench player for a reason. As intriguing as it sounds, there's no way Ruben Amaro will replace his team "captain" for a utility player.

Nick Punto

If Nick Punto can reproduce his 2011 offensive numbers, he would be a fantastic fit for the Phils. Punto hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage in 63 games with the Cardinals last season. Punto's OBP is 110 points higher than his batting average, which is significant considering the average differential between batting average and OBS is 66 points. Better yet, his differential is 98 points over the last three seasons. What that means is that Punto knows how to find a way on base, and the Phillies desperately need that type of player on their roster.

The Phillies cannot bank on Punto replicating his 2011 figures since he only hit .248 over the last three seasons. The obvious other question is his defense. Punto has a .974 fielding percentage in 265 career games at shortstop, but, as with Hairston, it remains to be seen if Punto can play consistently over an entire season. The Phillies may try to grab Punto and he only made $750,000 last year, but I wouldn't expect to see him replacing Jimmy Rollins.

Ramon Santiago

Ramon Santiago has played 438 games at shortstop over his career (27 in 2011) with a career .976 fielding percentage. But Santiago is a downgrade over Rollins offensively, with a .260 average, 5 HR, and 30 RBIs last season with the Tigers. Santiago also had a low on-base percentage (.311), struck out over twice as much as he walked, and had no steals. Vote no on Santiago.

The Verdict

Hairston and Punto are nice players and would come a lot cheaper than Rollins, but they aren't the kind of guys that a World Series contender with cash to spend is likely to trust as their starting shortstops. It looks more and more likely that Ruben Amaro will have to bite the bullet and sign Rollins to a three or four year deal (nobody is gonna give him 5 years) for more money than he wants to spend. Unless he can make a trade, we are probably going to see Rollins in a Phillies uniform for a few more years.

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