Scott Rolen Rumors
Veteran third baseman Scott Rolen is preparing to retire, though he will delay an official announcement until later in the offseason, reports USA Today's Bob Nightengale (via Twitter). Rolen was non-committal about his future when talking to reporters (including John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer) following the Reds' elimination from the NLDS today, just noting that his contract with the Reds was up and that he was "going to go home and be a dad."
It's a tough ending for Rolen, who struck out in the final at-bat of the series and also made an error in the 10th inning in Game Three that led to the Giants scoring the game-winning run. Rolen hit .245/.318/.398 in 330 plate appearances for Cincinnati this year, with his playing time limited by both injuries and the Reds' desire to fit rookie Todd Frazier into the lineup. Rolen signed a two-year, $13MM extension with the Reds in December 2009 that covered the 2011-12 seasons.
Injuries plagued Rolen throughout the latter years of his career, though his credentials could still end up earning him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Highlights include the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year Award, seven All-Star appearances, a .281/.364/.490 batting line over 17 seasons, 316 homers and a World Series ring with the 2006 Cardinals. Despite his impressive hitting numbers, Rolen may be best remembered as one of the game's great defensive third basemen, as the eight-time Gold Glover trails only Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10) for number of Gold Gloves won at the hot corner.
Much of the recent chatter surrounding the Reds has focused on a possible extension for Brandon Phillips. Here are a few links about Phillips' teammates as Spring Training gets started in Goodyear, Arizona...
- Joey Votto said he prefers to keep contract talk to himself, his agent and the Reds, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “As much as people, players want to say, ‘no, it’s not a distraction.’ It’s exhausting. It’s a lingering issue," he said, before making reference to Prince Fielder 's new deal. Last month I suggested it could cost upwards of $160MM in additional commitments to keep Votto in a Reds uniform through 2020
- Reds closer Ryan Madson told ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick that he remains a Scott Boras client.“I plan on being with Scott for the foreseeable future,” Madson said. “Everything is the same." Madson signed for $8.5MM this offseason -- less than originally anticipated.
- Scott Rolen told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that he’s focused on the upcoming season, not whether he’ll continue playing beyond 2012. The third baseman turns 37 in April and is entering the final year of his contract.
Links for Thursday as we congratulate Jose Bautista and Ichiro Suzuki. Bautista hit his 50th homer of the season in Toronto today and soon afterwards, Ichiro reached the 200-hit plateau for the tenth time in his ten-year career...
- Nationals president Stan Kasten will not return to the team after the season, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter links). Owner Ted Lerner released a statement saying the organization respects Kasten's decision and "will continue to call upon him for his vast knowledge of the game."
- Pirates manager John Russell tells MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch that the Pirates are closer to respectability than some think. Russell, who faces speculation that he could be dismissed, says he isn't worried about his job security.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports admits that his initial assessment of the Scott Rolen trade was off-base. Like many analysts, Morosi questioned the Reds' decision to give up top prospects (Zach Stewart and Josh Roenicke) for a third baseman who appeared to be past his prime.
Links for Sunday, as the celebration continues in Spain....
- Since acquiring Scott Rolen from Toronto roughly one year ago, the Reds are 70-42 when he starts and 12-26 when he doesn't, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Ken Davidoff of Newsday (via Twitter) talked to Yankees catcher Austin Romine, who admitted that a trade of Jesus Montero to the Mariners would have benefited him.
- Looking to improve their NL-worst OBP (.295) and SLG (.348), the Astros have replaced hitting coach Sean Berry with Jeff Bagwell, per a team release. Sean Berry was surprised by his dismissal from the Astros, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
- Last winter, Bob Klapisch of FOX Sports suggested that the Yankees offer Derek Jeter a four-year, $100MM extension. Today, the New York Post's Joel Sherman says that Jeter "hardly looks like a player deserving" of such a contract, except for the fact that he's Derek Jeter. Sherman expects Jeter to be a Yankee past this season, of course, but suggests that the second half of 2010 may be a "salary drive" for the 36-year-old.
- Brian Sabean has no regrets about not promoting Buster Posey or trading Bengie Molina earlier, writes Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thinks the Indians would like to keep Jake Westbrook, so they have at least one veteran starter in their 2011 rotation.
- Noting that Albert Pujols could have his own "Decision" to make next year, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hopes the slugger doesn't do to St. Louis what LeBron James did to Cleveland.
- Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is reluctant to become a seller because he believes his team can contend next year, if not this year, says Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Within the same piece, Shaikin indicates the Dodgers could still be in "payroll limbo" this offseason if the McCourts' divorce goes to trial.
- Minor league free agents have come through this year for the Phillies, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Cincinnati has a long tradition of National League baseball, but the Yonder Alonso situation must make Reds fans wish for the designated hitter rule. Reds manager Dusty Baker and GM Walt Jocketty both spoke about Alonso's future at the team's spring camp in Arizona today, and MLB.com's Mark Sheldon sums up the situation within a larger piece about Alonso's development.
The basic problem is that Alonso, the top prospect in Cincinnati's system, is blocked at his natural first base position by the Reds' best player, Joey Votto. As John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out, Alonso will be out of options after the 2011 season since he signed a major league contract for five years and worth $4.55MM after being taken seventh overall in the 2008 June Amateur Draft.
At one point it seemed as if Votto, who has some experience playing in left, would move back to the outfield when Alonso was ready for the majors. But as Fay notes, Votto "doesn’t want to move and he’s worked hard at first base." Fangraphs lists Votto as having an above-average 3.8 UZR/150 rating at first base, though it's taken from a sample size of just 291 games.
As Sheldon and Fay both report, Alonso has been worked out this spring as a corner outfielder and at third base, where he would presumably serve as the heir apparent to Scott Rolen if all things worked out perfectly for the Reds. There has even been some talk of trying out Alonso at catcher.
Provided that Alonso doesn't sink to Incaviglia-esque depths in left or right field, he should be able to handle life away from first. But if the position switch doesn't take or, even worse, affects Alonso's bat, then the Reds have a real issue on their hands. Alonso's name popped up in the Rolen trade talks with Toronto last summer, and there would be no shortage of teams that would be interested in acquiring the young slugger if he were put on the market.
The other alternative, albeit the more unlikely one, is that Votto would be traded. Votto is eligible for arbitration after 2010 and is under team control through 2013; combine that with his proven major league production and the Reds could net a gold mine of players and prospects in a deal. But, Votto's big league track record is exactly the reason why it's far more probable that Cincinnati would hold onto him and move Alonso if it came to a choice between the two.
Links for Friday...
- Chad Jennings of The Journal News reports that Marcus Thames can opt out of his contract with the Yankees if he doesn't make the team out of Spring Training. Thames signed a minor league deal earlier this month that would pay him $900K in the big leagues.
- Alyson Footer, the Astros' Sr. Director of Social Media, tweets that the team has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with infielder Tommy Manzella worth $400K. He's expected to be the team's regular shortstop in 2010, and he has less than a month's worth of service time.
- Mike Aviles and Anthony Lerew agreed to terms with the Royals according to a team press release. Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star tweets that both deals are expected to be worth less than $500K. Both players are not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Meanwhile, the Marlins also agreed to terms with six of their pre-arbitration eligible players, reports MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.
- Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun reports that Orioles' lefty Brian Matusz has changed agents, and is now represented by CAA Sports. He had a 4.63 ERA in 44.2 innings last year, and is widely considered to be one of the two or three best pitching prospects in the game.
- Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo spoke about the Livan Hernandez signing to MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, and said that the righty isn't guaranteed a rotation spot.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports polled nearly 20 baseball people about Carl Crawford's next contract. Many of the agents and executives expect Crawford to command a five-year deal worth $12-16MM per season, but some think the left fielder could make as much as $18MM per year when he hits the open market, probably after 2010.
- Scott Rolen was happy to restructure his contract so the Reds could "free up some money to go out and be more competitive," according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Nationals pitcher Rafael Martin tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he agreed to his deal on February 8th (Twitter link).
- Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd told Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports that he wants his players to be driven by "more than money." O'Dowd also told Ringolsby that he did not shop Brad Hawpe this winter.
- The Mets are still looking at lefty and righty relievers, according to Newsday's Ken Davidoff (via Twitter).
- Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt tells Scott Lauber of the News Journal that he expects Placido Polanco to make a smooth transition to third base.
- Marlon Byrd tells USA Today's Bob Nightengale that he's uncomfortable being compared to friend and former teammate Milton Bradley.
- Big market clubs sent $433MM to small market clubs last year, according to Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball.
- The Red Sox don't generally use insurance on their long-term deals. Principal owner John Henry tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that "it isn't always easy to get paid," even once players are injured.
- Jose Julio Ruiz may be close to signing, but it won't be with the Nationals, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
- Astros owner Drayton McLane, who has "a huge amount of confidence" in GM Ed Wade, would consider selling his team for $600MM or more, according to Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle.
On this date in 1990, the Tigers signed free agent Cecil Fielder after he hit 38 homers as a member of the Hanshin Tigers the year before. Fielder went on to lead the league with 130 HR and 389 RBI over the next three years, landing a five-year, $36MM contract that made him the then-second-highest paid player in baseball history behind Barry Bonds. Believe it or not, Prince is already more than halfway to his father's career total of 319 homers despite having fewer than half as many plate appearances.
Let's see what's being written around the baseball blogosphere...
- The Phrontiersman goes back in time to see how things would have played out for the Phillies if Scott Rolen signed a contract extension and was never traded away.
- DRays Bay wonders if Matt Sweeney could take over first base for the Rays if Carlos Pena leaves as a free agent after 2010. Sweeney was acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade.
- Fack Youk compares Vladimir Guerrero to Hideki Matsui to Nick Johnson, the three biggest DH signings of the offseason.
- Lookout Landing says the Mariners did just fine to acquire Casey Kotchman, even though Adam LaRoche agreed to a relatively cheap deal yesterday.
- Meanwhile, Jorge Says No! thinks the Mets may have made a mistake by not signing LaRoche.
- Nick's Twins Blog wonders if Michael Cuddyer or Joe Nathan could be expendable as Minnesota's estimated payroll will approach nine-figures in 2011.
- AdamAdkins.net thinks the Tigers will regret signing Jose Valverde.
- Pinstripes Published takes a look at the market for Johnny Damon, or lack thereof.
- TurnTwo looks at all the movement going on with the Giants' defensive alignment.
If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds and Scott Rolen have restructured the third baseman's contract, which will keep him in Cincinnati for two additional seasons. The new contract will pay Rolen $23.625MM through 2012, including a $5MM signing bonus deferred without interest over the next three years.
Rolen's original contract called for an $11MM salary in 2010, however under the new agreement he'll earn $6MM next year, and $6.5MM in both 2011 and 2012. The Reds gain about $5MM in payroll flexibility this offseason with the move, something they sorely need.
The 34-year-old Rolen hit .270/.364/.401 with the Reds after coming over from Toronto at the trade deadline. His defense at third remains outstanding according to UZR. Baseball America recently named third baseman Juan Francisco the team's fifth best prospect, so he might end up moving to another position or becoming trade bait.
To put it mildly, this has been a rough year for Reds fans. Edinson Volquez had the Cincinnati faithful buzzing after posting a 3.21 ERA with 9.5 K/9 in his first full season in 2008. After logging just nine starts in the 2009 campaign, Volquez needed surgery to repair damage in his right elbow. The Reds faded fast as their depleted staff wasn't getting much of a lift from their sagging offense. Injuries to Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion (prior to being dealt to Toronto) certainly didn't do them any favors.
However, if the team's recent performance is any indication of what lies ahead, Reds fans might have something to cheer about in 2010. Dusty Baker's squad has gone 19-11 since September 1st, thanks in part to stronger pitching (3.39 team ERA) and the return of Jay Bruce, who missed two months with a broken wrist.
Buster Olney, Baseball Prospectus and the ESPN Insider staff compiled a glance at this past season and what to expect next year in Cincy. An ESPN Insider account is needed to read the article, but here are the brass tacks for those without:
- It's no secret that the Reds don't have a top-flight budget. They opened this season with a payroll of $73MM and owner Bob Castellini isn't going to "go all Steinbrenner" and tack-on much more.
- Further exacerbating their financial woes are their pricey commitments to Bronson Arroyo, Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang and Scott Rolen. Combined, these four players are owed $46.5 million next season.
- Olney says that considering their lack of flexibility this offseason, Homer Bailey might be their best chance for improvement as he recorded a 2.41 ERA in September. The velocity that made Bailey such a highly-coveted prospect has returned, with his fastball being clocked at an average of 94.5 MPH this year. This is a big step-up from his previous big league work and could spell an even bigger jump in 2010.
- Baseball Prospectus says that their "acceptable" rate of 4.5 runs allowed per game is due in part to their much-improved defense. It will be interesting to see if defensive-minded yet weak-hitting shortstop Paul Janish will be the Reds' starter next season. Manager Dusty Baker said on Friday that a "definitive decision" hasn't been made yet.
- Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus notes that the combined efforts of all Reds batting in the top two lineup spots resulted in a slash line of .245/.301/.354. When Willy Taveras hit the DL in August, Dusty Baker put rookie Drew Stubbs and the aforementioned Janish at the top of the order. The team has gone 27-15 since then, but Jaffe attributes most of the credit for that to the improved performance of the pitching staff.
- The "Rumor Central" portion of the piece encourages Reds fans that are anxious to see the team acquire a big bat to consider what the offense is capable of if they are healthy. Injury-free seasons from Bruce and Votto should give Cincinnati a major boost.
- The report says to expect the Reds to tender Jonny Gomes an offer as he is arbitration-eligible. This should come as no surprise as Gomes has belted 20 HRs in 311 plate appearances while posting .266/.338/.540.
- Jaffe says that Jocketty could deal Arroyo or Harang to give the team room to make a mid-level signing this winter. He adds, "...It's difficult to envision this team breaking out of the middle of the pack without keen vision and bold steps."
A few more links for your Saturday afternoon viewing pleasure...
- Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun expects the Orioles to call up infielder Justin Turner, outfielder Joey Gathright and catcher Robby Hammock when rosters expand on September 1. The O's might also want to add some bullpen depth.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer takes a look back, and a look forward, at the Reds' trade for Scott Rolen. "There's no question Rolen is a big upgrade over Edwin Encarnacion," Fay writes. "But the Reds gave up young pitching in the deal, and Rolen's salary really hamstrings the club as far as payroll flexibility."
- Marc Hulet of Fangraphs reviews the career of "under-hyped" outfielder Julio Borbon, who has been on fire since his promotion to the Rangers on August 7. Can he maintain the pace?