If you didn't read this, it's from Tyler Hissey from "Around The Majors":
July 31, 2009
Reds Whiff In Scott Rolen Trade
By Tyler Hissey
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I like Scott Rolen as a player. I really do.
Rolen is an outstanding defensive third baseman, even at age 34, and has rebounded a great deal as a hitter after putting his injury issues behind him. He has indeed produced a real nice season so far for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009, batting .320/.370/.476 with a 123 OPS+. While he is not quite the same fielder that he was during his prime, he is still quite good on the other end of the ball as well; he has put up a healthy 4.8 UZR and 7.9. UZR/150. When factoring in batting, fielding and positional considerations, he has produced an outstanding 3.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which ranks seventh in the game among qualifying major league third baseman.
Through the past decade, Rolen has battled some ups and downs, from fighting with Tony LaRussa to getting sidetracked with consistent injuries. He has remained a valuable defensive asset and gotten through the adversity, though, and is still a tremendously valuable player for a guy his age. I have always liked him and thought he got a bad rap in Philadelphia and St. Louis.
With that said, I dislike the trade that sent Rolen to the Cincinnati Reds as much as I like him as a player. It just does not make sense to me.
As I wrote last week, the Reds have no chance of contending. Instead of moving some contracts to free up some payroll, though, the club sent third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, reliever Josh Roenicke and top pitching prospect Zach Stewart to the Blue Jays in exchange for the All-Star third sacker.
While the club wisely did not part ways with slugging first base prospect Yonder Alonso, I still just do not get it. Assuming that Cincinnati made the trade to compete in 2010, it is still questionable considering the steep price in prospects and payroll that were forced to incur.
True, Rolen represents a major defensive upgrade over Encarnacion, who has been worth -36.1 runs below an average third baseman with his glove during his career. This will help in the short term and for 2010, when the Reds could perhaps make a realistic run in the National League Central. Also, moving to Great American Ball Park should help his power output; his Isolated Power (IsoP) is down to .157, well below his .216 career average, and he has hit just eight home runs.
Assuming that Rolen stays healthy--and given his track record, that is a pretty big if, increasing the risk--he will likely net at least two-win upgrade over Encarnacion with his defensive value alone. He is still going to be 35, though, and is due to make $11-M in base salary with a $4-M bonus in '10, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. While he will earn his paycheck in terms of WAR if he puts up another 3.5-win campaign, the difference between his salary and production will be fairly slim. The opportunity of cost of where the team could have allocated that payroll to build for the future, as a result, is fairly high.
Plus, a lot of Rolen's offensive value in '09 is the result of his .320 batting average. His walk rate is down to 7.1%, down from a 11.2% career average. However, the BA is misleading and has been aided by an unsustainable .347 batting average on balls in play (BABIP); his career BABIP is .314. Again, I think that Rolen is a great, great player, but, for where Cincinnati finds itself as an organization, the move does not make a whole lot of sense.
The Blue Jays botched the Roy Halladay situation, from where I am standing, wasting an opportunity to cash in on their asset with his value at its peak. However, I like what Toronto, who said that Rolen asked to be moved for "personal reasons," did here. General manager J.P. Riccardi picked up two solid minor league pieces and an all-hit, no-field infielder who has value going forward in Encarnacion
I wrote about Encarnacion last week:
Encarnacion's value is at a real low point. He's getting up there in years, at 26, and has still yet to live up the hype that has surrounded him for nearly a decade. He missed much of the first few months due to injury and has really struggled when he has been on the field. Despite a strong return, he's currently batting only .209/.341/.365 with an 85 OPS+. While he's always been a plus bat and his numbers should improve (ZiPS projects him to post an .808 OPS the rest of the season), though, his value also suffers because of his well below-average defense at the hot corner. Indeed, he has been worth -35.4 runs below an average third baseman during his career and has produced a -5.4 UZR and stunningly terrible -25.0 UZR/150 this year. All factors considered, he has produced -0.1 WAR. He still has talent and potential, especially if his bat improves and he moves out of the infield, but he's not going to bring back any solid chips, profiling as a 2.0-win player at best.
It will be interesting to see if Encarnacion will be moved to the outfield in Toronto, something that has been speculated in Cincinnati. Ricciardi has built several teams founded on strong defenses, especially in the infield, to support a ground-ball pitching staff. Adding the rangeless butcher will hurt there, but his bat will be a welcome addition to the lineup despite his poor performance to date.
According to Reds minor league expert Doug Gray, the one prospect who it really hurts to lose as far as Cincy is concerned is Stewart. Gray, who ranked him as the eighth-best prospect in the organization in the offseason, said that he would not trade the 22-year-old right-hander for Rolen straight up.
Stewart has shot up three levels already, excelling at each stop along the way from High-A Sarasota to Triple-A Louisville. He began the spring in the Florida State League, where he posted a 2.13 ERA, 2.77 FIP and rates of 6.80 K/9, 1.70 BB/9 and 0.21 HR/9 in 37.0 innings pitched over seven starts. The Reds then promoted him to Double-A Chattanooga, and he continued to shine. He improved his strikeout rate (7.54 K/9) while registering a 1.46 ERA and 2.77 FIP in 37.0 innings pitched over seven starts. Cincinnati moved him to the bullpen to limit his innings upon a promotion to the International League. Although he was a reliever during an inconsistent career at Texas Tech, however, his future is clearly a starter. Like any other pitcher, his stuff plays up in the late innings and he was effective in that role in nine appearances for the Bats, striking out 16 in 12.1 innings pitched.
Along with the impressive numbers, the scouting reports on Stewart are excellent as well. He has good command over a heavy, sinking fastball that sits in the 92-to-96 MPH range. The pitch is a real worm burner, helping him to generate a ton of ground ball outs. He also mixes in a plus slider, which he can consistently locate, and an average-but-improving change-up.
The kid is real good. Indeed, according to Gray, he would be the number two prospect in the Cincinnati farm system today had he not switched organizations. Giving up that many years of his services will sting down the road.
To top it off, Roenicke is a nice relief asset as well. Relievers are the easiest position to find cheap production--take a failed starting prospect, stick him in the bullpen--and have a minimal upside, which hurts his prospect status for that reason. However, the results are what you want to see. He misses a ton of bats using a big mid-90s fastball (avg. velocity 94.6 MPH in the majors), low-80s slider and upper-80s cutter. His minor league K rates are excellent, and, while he has had a difficult time on a control and command front in the past, he is a nice-looking, cheap relief asset who was just an added bonus in a great pick-up for Toronto.
It will be nice to see Rolen in a Cincy uniform, and he gets to reunite with general manager Walt Jocketty. The trade is nearly as puzzling as batting Corey Patterson leadoff, though, and could come back to haunt the club when Stewart is mowing down hitters in the majors well into the next decade.
Color me confused.