LOS ANGELES - After Jimmy Rollins learned he was headed from Philadelphia to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the longtime Phillies shortstop had to wait more than a week for the clubs to complete the deal.
In his first day out of limbo, Rollins was eager to get to work chasing a championship back home in California.
“I don’t feel I have to re-prove myself at all,” Rollins said. “It’s sort of a fresh start. It’s hard to (get) a fresh start going into your 15th season.”
The Dodgers finalized their trade for the All-Star shortstop on Friday, sending right-hander Zach Eflin and left-hander Tim Windle to the Phillies for Rollins and $1 million to cover part of his $11 million salary in 2015. Los Angeles had to wait to unveil its acquisition until Matt Kemp’s trade to the San Diego Padres was finished Thursday.
After his 14-year tenure in Philadelphia wound down this year, the 36-year-old Rollins agreed to waive his no-trade clause. He said the Dodgers were his top trade destination — for reasons both fanciful and practical.
“I’ve always loved the color blue,” Rollins said. “That’s my favorite color. I think I just naturally love wearing that uniform because of that color.
“But the most important thing is they’re winning right this very moment,” he added. “Playing against them, I get a sense of what they have going on in the clubhouse by seeing the bench. It reminds me of what we used to have in Philadelphia, just
the joy of playing and being around each other, so that’s attractive. And then they happen to have some pretty good guys on their team. I think you guys know the MVP, Cy Young dude. He makes you want to play behind him any time he takes the mound, so I’ll get that opportunity now.”
Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers’ vaunted rotation are just one advantage of playing in Chavez Ravine for Rollins, who has an indirect connection to the team’s biggest rivalry: The Oakland native grew up rooting for the Athletics and disliking the San Francisco Giants across the Bay.
Rollins, a three-time All-Star, hit .243 last season with 11 homers, 55 RBIs and 28 steals. The 2007 NL MVP had started 14 consecutive openers for the Phillies, helping Philadelphia win the 2008 World Series title.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ new president of baseball operations, targeted Rollins to replace free-agent departure Hanley Ramirez at shortstop.
“Jimmy fits us incredibly well,” Friedman said. “He really brings some grit to our team and is obviously very experienced at playing baseball in October. He still has a lot of life in his body. Switch-hitter, good defender, and he adds that element of speed to our lineup that we were looking for.”
Speaking from his offseason home in Tampa, Florida, Rollins said the finality of his departure from Philadelphia is still sinking in after watching countless teammates leave town during an entire career in one city.
“It’s business,” Rollins said. “I shed my tears for the very first time when the Phillies traded Bobby Abreu (in July 2006). That tore a piece of my heart out, but it also brought home the realization that this is a business, and things are going
to happen and you can’t be emotional about them. You have to understand what this is and take it in stride and go on about your business.”
Rollins said he is printing a “love letter” to Philadelphia fans in the Inquirer newspaper this weekend, thanking them for their support since 2000.
Rollins will take over as the Dodgers’ everyday shortstop alongside new second baseman Howie Kendrick, another thirtysomething major leaguer who had spent his entire career with one team, the Angels. Rollins had a revolving cast of second basemen in Philadelphia before Chase Utley’s rise, so he isn’t worried about the transition.
“I’ve seen him play, and I’ve actually become a fan of his,” Rollins said of Kendrick. “As long as we can go out there and really spend that time getting to know each other, after about 10 days or two weeks, we should be in pretty good shape.”
Eflin was 10-7 with a 3.80 ERA last season in 24 starts for Class A Lake Elsinore. Windle was a second-round draft pick in 2013 who went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 25 starts and one relief appearance for Class A Rancho Cucamonga.