In Daniel Rathman’s Rumor Roundup ($) this morning he stated that Scott Rolen would not be returning to Cincinatti and that the L.A. Dodgers would also not be a fit. The money line, however, comes in the second paragraph:
With the Dodgers and Reds out of the picture, Rolen almost assuredly will be forced to settle for a minor-league pact, and then earn his way onto an Opening Day roster.
Ok, so he’s available and wouldn’t cost anything more than what we’ve already promised to the likes of Shelley Duncan and Jamey Wright. That’s pretty much the Rays M.O. right there, but why would he be a good fit? All offseason I have looked at Rolen as a darkhorse contributor for a few reasons.
1) Rolen would provide above-average defense at 3B in the event that Longoria needs rest or he can’t make a road trip because his baby is sick.
2) James Loney is abysmal against lefties in his career making Scott Rolen a near perfect platoon partner at 1B and if Rolen is above average with the glove at 3B I don’t think it’s a leap to see him as a solid defensive first baseman.
3) The Rays are relying on an equally fragile player in Luke Scott to stay healthy and contribute as some sort of DH/1B type guy. Rolen could add a third head to that monster, but also has the ability to chip in at 3B.
4) Rolen is an easy comparison to Longoria. In his prime, Rolen provided power and walks while displaying a gold glove at 3B. He was also known to be a bit injury prone missing 353 days to the DL since 2005 with assorted other day to day injuries leaving him unavailable on the bench. Any time I can get a former legend around to keep my current one humble I do it.
5) If Rolen starts in Durham he could prove to be a great role model/influence for Wil Myers. It’s not like the Bulls are deep at 3B so he wouldn’t be taking a guys job and he could also get some time at 1B where they are similarly bereft of options and he could get some action to see how he might perform at 1B. I can’t think of a better guy in AAA to share wisdom with the next potential superstar.
6) The hope is that if you manage his playing time and give him ample rest he can fight off nagging or more serious injuries allowing his ability to play up even more than it has in the past few years. His overall lines have been hurt by him being hurt so if you can fix the latter you may be able to solve the former.
7) Enough on his positional flexibility, good clubhouse guy intangibles, and willingness to sign for peanuts. Can the guy hit? Here are some various projections:
If we plug that aggregate wOBA of .304 into the Matchup Tool then we get outputs of .300 expected wOBA against righties and .316 expected against lefties. We can compare this to what was found in my lineup article last week:
Rolen would appear to hit both types of pitchers better than Ryan Roberts while giving a comparable glove at 3B. Of course, Roberts can’t be optioned, provides a solid glove at 2B, and likely has very little trade value. The easy move would be to stand pat, but there is a potential spot for Scott Rolen and it would cost virtually nothing to bring him to camp. After Spring Training maybe he shows that he’s a useful option and the Rays feel it makes sense to send Sean Rodriguez to Durham to start the year to see how the Rolen thing works out. Maybe Rolen shows some ability, but there isn’t room so he starts the year in Durham, collects his $100 grand when the season starts and then either comes up after an injury/ineffectiveness or opts out to try his luck with another team.
The point is there is no way to lose by bringing Rolen to camp. On a minor league deal he would not cost a prospect, a 40-man slot, nor much money. When the Rays biggest issue last year was not being able to cover for an inordinate number of injuries with even Major League replacement players I do not see the downside to bringing in someone that could be even better than that.