Jimmy Rollins, the heart of the Phillies for the past several seasons, will continue to provide the pulse: He is returning to Philadelphia on a three-year, $33 million deal, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.
The contract includes a vesting option for a fourth year that is described by one source as easily obtainable that likely will make the entire package worth $44 million.
The Rollins-Phillies deal has been a foregone conclusion in the industry for much of the winter, though the Brewers did inquire and show some interest in prying him away from Philadelphia early. However, once they signed Alex Gonzalez, and with St. Louis re-signing Rafael Furcal last week, there were few teams left looking for shortstops.
Which works well for both the Phillies and Rollins, because given perhaps the best run in Philadelphia baseball history over these past five seasons, the shortstop is back where he belongs.
Though the Phillies have seen some decline since Rollins' sensational 2007 NL MVP season, they also watched him produce a solid bounce-back season in 2011 after he played in only 88 games in 2010 during a season in which a nagging calf injury limited his production.
In 142 games last season, Rollins batted .268/.338/.399 with 16 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.
That's a far better fit for a Philadelphia team primed for another run at the World Series behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and the gang than, say, Freddy Galvis or Wilson Valdez would have been.
At 33 and still in terrific shape, Rollins should be able to play shortstop adequately through the duration of this contract. And despite Chase Utley's injury-checkered past couple of seasons, Rollins and Utley still give the Phillies a very solid -- and often potent -- middle infield.
With Rollins done, Philadelphia's biggest issue heading into 2012 will be at first base, and Ryan Howard's continuing recovery from the torn left Achilles tendon he suffered on the final play in the Phillies' final game last October against the Cardinals.
Howard is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season, given his original diagnosis of a five- to six-month recovery process. The Phillies this winter have traded for Ty Wigginton and signed free agent Jim Thome, and each is expected to help patch the void at first until Howard returns.
It will be a new-look Phillies team in a couple of areas, with free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon and with Wigginton or John Mayberry in left in place of Raul Ibanez. But with Utley, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Carlos Ruiz, Placido Polanco and, now, Rollins in place, the Phillies mostly will look very similar -- and just as potent -- to what we've seen from Charlie Manuel's crew during the past several seasons.