What does Jimmy Rollins mean?

Jimmy Rollins is a minor league signing.

He gets $2 million if he makes the major league roster out of camp and we can discuss about how likely that is to happen, but he's a minor league signing at an extremely vulnerable position for the organization. There's no real risk, and the opportunity for much-needed help for someone whose ceiling was, at one point, NL MVP, and was a very good full-time shortstop as recently as 2014 (102 wRC+ with well-reviewed defense), and was projected by FanGraphs readers to be in line for an $7-8 million deal at the beginning of the season.

There's nothing about the deal itself that isn't positive.

All of the White Sox offseason moves could be portrayed as savvy bargain hunting on their own merits. The plucked Brett Lawrie from a motivated seller, signed both their catchers after years where they were squeezed out of playing time, worked a Todd Frazier trade for weeks and miraculously kept their top prospects out of the deal, signed Mat Latos after he wore out his welcome in multiple towns and pitched poorly, and now they're bringing in Rollins after a down year, at an age long past where anyone just trusts him to bounce back due to his pedigree, and not until after players began streaming into camp and it was clear another chance to start was not coming along. Buying low to fill all these roster spots lend the Sox a lot of flexibility for this year and beyond, but when it's the only type of deal they're willing to make into late-February, are they preserving flexibility, or is this the only level they can shop at?

I have always suspected it's the former, since they've addressed the less pressing anxieties of their roster--end of rotation depth, insurance if Saladino flops--with small, unobtrusive additions and left the gaping maw in right field unaddressed. If they're not blindly committed to letting Erik Johnson and Tyler Saladino start on a contending team, they're surely not ignorant to the risk of leaving Avisail Garcia and Adam LaRoche to their own devices. But while I suspect it's the former, they are doing everything possible to raise reasonable doubt.

Then there's the whole question of implementation. It's been overtly reported that Rollins came to Chicago for the chance to start. That doesn't bode well for Saladino, and not just for the obvious reasons of a superior player competing with him for playing time. A glove-first, no-hit option like Saladino needs the commitment of the organization to the idea that his play has value beyond the measurable ugliness of his bat. Compared alongside Rollins, who even at his nadir last season, significantly outhit him (80 wRC+ to 61 wRC+), it will be hard to Saladino to force his way into the lineup with tangible production and his frequent 0-3, 1-4 with a single days will be hard to stick with during a teamwide offensive slump.

A passable defender everywhere, and solidly above-average at third, a bench role is well-suited to Saladino, but what of Carlos Sanchez? If the Sox are willing to entertain an offensive upgrade at short at the possible cost of diminished defense, where is Sanchez's hat in the ring? Likely drowned out; Rollins is just a minor league deal, but he's not just another dude in camp, he's a decorated veteran who has been as superstar and a champion in this league. Unless he's completely toast and unrosterable, he stands out from two other candidates who are both likely not able to significantly outplay Rollins, and cannot hope to match his plaudits for leadership and veteran presence, etc. Like Latos, Rollins is an insurance policy with a very direct path toward pushing out who he was meant to insure.

And as with Latos, Rollins shows that the White Sox are very interested in avoiding being stuck with black holes that are allowed to fester through mid-season and doom their playoff hopes, but doesn't represent the clear upgrade that shows the Sox are taking their push for the playoffs in 2016 with the necessary seriousness. It would be surprising if Rollins even dented the Sox win projections, and thoroughly unsurprising if he's just 150 futile plate appearances stalling Tim Anderson's rapid ascent. But he clearly suggests the Sox care about not wasting their chance to compete in 2016, so when will they finally move beyond suggestion and prove it?