Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Defending Cincinnati’s Rolen tradePosted by Evan Brunell
Despite the frantic trading deadline already just about a week over, people continue to express their bafflement at the Cincinnati Reds' trade of 3B Edwin Encarnacion and minor league hurlers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to the Toronto Blue Jays for 3B Scott Rolen.
Oh sure, the Reds gave up a sizeable chunk of assets that can help them down the road: Roenicke has a great chance to morph into a closer while Stewart would rank the Reds' second best prospect if he was still with the club. As for EdE, he is a butcher in third base but could have long-term success as a middle of the order hitter at first base or left field.
However, the Reds simply had to move EdE if they wanted Rolen: EdE is making $2 million this year and this spikes up to $4.75 million next year. The Reds even got cash as part of the deal, so all of a sudden, Rolen's $11 million contract next year doesn't look all that bad: subtract $4.75 million from that deal and guess that the Jays sent over $2 million, and Rolen costs $4.25 million, less than what Encarnacion makes.
All of a sudden, that trade starts looking better from the Reds' perspective. Now, let's turn to how the Reds feel Rolen can help.
Rolen is an absolute wizard at third base, which should have a major, major impact on the Reds' UZR/150, which is already sixth-best in the bigs. Where the boost will come from is helping their ranking in errors: 21st. Rolen has made only five errors on the year while the Reds as a whole check in at 15 all told at third.
Rolen also can help with the stick: moving to Great American Ball Park will see some of his hits fly out of the park more often. People are quoting his unsustainable .370 BABIP as a reason to think his .320 average with the Blue Jays will come down, but we know that measuring BABIP for batters is foolish. Using the simple xBABIP calculator, we find that his xBABIP is .308, meaning his .320 batting average is not insanely lucky -- it's only slightly lucky.
If I had to pick between Rolen and Encarnacion for the rest of the year and even for 2010, I'm picking Rolen, especially with Encarnacion needing to move off of third.
What the Reds did was take a commodity that wasn't helping them and turn it into someone who can actually contribute and push the Reds to contend. Losing Edison Volquez to Tommy John surgery was a major blow, but to compete next year, Roenicke and Stewart weren't going to help.
With the Cardinals potentially losing Matt Holliday, the NL Central next year is up for grabs, and the Reds just positioned themselves as a viable candidate to win the division next year. Some of you may think that they should have held off on the trade to try to win in the future, but there is never any guarantee for that. When you have a club that can win, you go for it. And the Reds understand that.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.