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Rollins' Minors pact could have major impact

Veteran shortstop in position to leave lasting impression on White Sox
MLB.com @philgrogers

The best player moves pay dividends for years, long after the terms have been fulfilled and the final check issued. The White Sox addition of Jimmy Rollins could be one of those moves.

Signing the Hall of Fame hopeful to a Minor League deal was the right way for the White Sox to handle their shortstop situation. It was better than giving up a Draft pick to sign Ian Desmond, and it certainly was better than simply writing Tyler Saladino's name into the lineup until the organization's No. 1-ranked prospect, Tim Anderson, is ready.

The best player moves pay dividends for years, long after the terms have been fulfilled and the final check issued. The White Sox addition of Jimmy Rollins could be one of those moves.

Signing the Hall of Fame hopeful to a Minor League deal was the right way for the White Sox to handle their shortstop situation. It was better than giving up a Draft pick to sign Ian Desmond, and it certainly was better than simply writing Tyler Saladino's name into the lineup until the organization's No. 1-ranked prospect, Tim Anderson, is ready.

White Sox sign Rollins to Minor League deal

Rollins, the 2007 National League MVP Award winner, will play at age 37. He's still a solid shortstop. Rollins started 2015 slow, but by the end of his season with the Dodgers, he showed he still has some life in his bat. He could help make the White Sox a serious September contender, though he doesn't really have to for the move to be worthwhile.

Consider the White Sox trade for David Wells after a 95-win season in 2000.

Wells was a one-year rental acquired to help a team that had just lost in the Division Series get deeper in the postseason the next year. The deal was a complete bust in that regard, as Wells' back went out on him and the Sox missed the playoffs.

But a 22-year-old Mark Buehrle sat next to Wells on the bench all season, seemingly learning something new every week. Buehrle would draw on those insights to become a 214-game winner, and he filled the Wells role when Chris Sale arrived a decade later -- in a small way, keeping Wells' South Side legacy alive.

Video: LAD@SD: Rollins makes a nice over-the-shoulder catch

Don't be surprised if years from now, Anderson tells reporters how much he learned from Rollins in 2016. Saladino should be all ears, too, as there's really no one better for a player to learn from than a seasoned professional.

Like Rollins in his younger years, Anderson is an ultra-athletic burner (49 stolen bases last year) with a quick bat. He didn't have as much of a background for baseball as Rollins at the start of his career, and he can look to him to learn about approaching at-bats and surviving the grind of a 162-game season. Rollins has played 16 seasons and made six trips to the postseason. He won a World Series ring with the 2008 Phillies and got back to the Fall Classic in '09. The switch-hitter has won four Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award, and like fellow newcomers Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie, Rollins will give Robin Ventura's team swagger that has been badly lacking.

Rollins will be as happy as anyone to be in Ventura's lineup for Opening Night in Oakland in April, as he needs the White Sox as much as they need him. He'll be playing his first game for an American League team and doing it in his hometown, as the Phillies took him in the second round of the 1996 Draft from Encinal High in nearby Alameda.

Rollins has played at least 137 games in all but one of the past 15 seasons, making 2,159 career starts as a shortstop. Only seven players have played more games at short than Rollins, and six of them are in the Hall of Fame.

According to reports, Rollins turned down at least two Major League deals with teams who wanted him to transition into a super-utility role. He remained patient until the White Sox had ended their considerations elsewhere to offer him a Minor League deal. It looks like the wait is going to pay off, with a chance for Rollins to extend his legacy.

Video: ARI@LAD: Rollins bunts for a single in the 8th

Saladino, an organizational favorite who climbed through the ranks to land a spot when the Sox pulled the plug on third baseman Conor Gillaspie last year, and Anderson will join Rollins in playing a lot this spring. Saladino seems set to make the 25-man roster, while Anderson (a .301 career hitter in the Minors, who hit .312 last year in Double-A) will head to Charlotte for some final polishing before inheriting the job that has belonged to Alexei Ramirez the last eight seasons.

Saladino not concerned about move to short

Rollins and Saladino give Ventura more infield depth than he's had before, and Rollins helps balance the lineup. He's had amazingly even platoon splits throughout his career, with pop from both sides of the plate. Rollins' .643 OPS last season was a career low, but he still had 13 home runs and 12 stolen bases. He was a useful player, if not a powder keg of talent like Corey Seager, who pushed him to the curb in September.

Rollins knows he's put himself into a similar situation with the 22-year-old Anderson. But he's not so selfish that he won't share his experience. All Anderson and Saladino have to do is ask, and they'd be crazy to keep their questions to themselves.

This is a good fit for everyone involved.

Phil Rogers is a reporter for MLB.com.

Chicago White Sox, Jimmy Rollins