Defending Cincinnati’s Rolen trade

Rolen (Keith Allison)

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.

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  1. Newman4 said...

    “but could have long-term success as a middle of the order hitter at first base or left field.”

    Too bad they never tried him in LF despite having a glaring hole there.

    “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”

    Forget about Edwin. Why would you give up your second best prospect for one year (this year is a waste) of Rolen?

    “but to compete next year, Roenicke and Stewart weren’t going to help”

    Roenicke would have helped THIS YEAR, why wouldn’t he help next year? Stewart is in AAA. Why wouldn’t he help next year? These aren’t A ball pitchers, “major league ready” and “cheap and young” – two pretty desirable commodities.

    “the Reds just positioned themselves as a viable candidate to win the division next year” – Are they suddenly better than the Cubs, Brewers, Cards – with or without Holiday – or the Astros???

  2. Sky Kalkman said...

    “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.”

    I don’t get this.  If his BABIP “should” be .308 and it’s at .370, that means he’s been really lucky.  AVG shouldn’t equal BABIP, it should be a lot lower, because it’s basically BABIP plus some home runs and minus a whole lot of strike outs.

  3. Sky Kalkman said...

    Also, Rolen’s BABIP with the Blue Jays was .341 according to B-Ref, where are you seeing .370?

    If I drop the BABIP from .341 to .308 with Toronto, his AVG drops from .320 to .286.  That means his OBP would drop about .035 points too and his SLG slightly more than that (he’d lose a few doubles).  So instead of an .846 OPS, it “should” be .766. 

    Now, we really don’t have the tools to claim the .308 is exactly what he deserved.  It might really be .340.  It might be somewhere in between.  Or it might be .270.

  4. kevin said...

    Evan’s prediction that the Reds will sign those free agents is ridiculous. The team has shown no propensity to make those kinds of moves. And even if it did, betting on steady play from a bunch of 35-year-olds is crazy. That’s what dumb teams did a few years ago, like the Pirates. If the Reds want to spend money and become real contenders, they should sign high-ceiling Latin teenagers.

  5. Ben said...

    This was a bad move for the Reds on so many levels.  I don’t think anyone is saying that EE is better than Rolen…I don’t think that’s true.  Rolen is the better overall player.  However, even if EE is so bad at 3rd, why could he not be the starting LF for the Reds next season?  His bat still had lots of upside.

    Also, the NL Central is not up for grabs next season.  Yes, the Cards may or may not lose Holliday.  However, they also lose Glaus, Greene, Wellmeyer, and Ankiel.  That’s a ton of money tied in to players who are having bad years, or haven’t played at all.  So the Cards will boslter their team one way or another.  Two, the Cubs are not losing anyone, except maybe Harden next year.  Why would the Reds think they are better than them?  The Cubs have had their injury woes as well this year, and are still far better than the Reds.  Plus, Milwaukee could add Gamel and Escobar to their major league lineup, giving them a much more potent team.  That’s 3 teams that will be better than the Reds next year, unless the Reds spend major money this offseason.

    So, for those reasons, you don’t bring on extra money, and send 2 young arms away, to get a player who won’t be around when you compete again.

  6. Aaron said...

    Could you please explain what makes you think that the Red can compete next year?  The division isn’t particularly strong, but that doesn’t help the Reds who need a major influx of talent—most notably at SS, LF, and the starting rotation.

  7. Evan Brunell said...

    Oh, I think they definitely need help in left field, but there is going to be a fair amount of outfielders available for that. It’s possible they could ink Jason Bay—but in any event, I don’t see a LF standing in their way.

    The rotation is a big question mark, especially without Volquez, but they already have their top three starters. If they can squeeze out a trade or free agent for a productive #4 and then see an emergence of Homer Bailey or at least hold the #5 position steady with the rest of baseball, I can’t see how the Reds can’t make a mini-run.

    As comprised, the Reds would not win the division. But there’s no way the Reds are done making moves.

    Hypothetically, say the Reds do the following:

    Sign Johnny Damon to be their LF, giving them Damon-Taveras (ew)-Bruce with Gomes in reserve.

    Sign Orlando Cabrera or Marco Scutaro to be their starting SS (a very distinct possibility, but even an Adam Everett signing wouldn’t kill them).

    (You’ll notice I’ve excluded Holliday, Bay, Ankiel, Abreu, Dye, Vlad and Miguel Tejada here even though they are also definites: I’m trying to make a point that even minimal cash outlays will have an impact.)

    Sign Doug Davis and Brad Penny.

    (Other options: Erik Bedard, Jon Garland, Rich Harden, Tim Hudson, John Lackey, Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla, Brett Myers, Carl Pavano, Jarrod Washburn, Randy Wolf).

    You telling me that that’s not a club that can contend?

  8. Dan said...


    There is money coming off the books, but you also have to factor in raises that are already committed to for 2010.

    Harang, Arroyo, Taveras (ugh!), Lincoln (ugh!!), and Phillips (I think) all have raises that are committed to, under contract.  I added it up the other day and it was close to $10 million.

    And that doesn’t factor in any arbitration cases.  (I’m not sure who’s arbitration-eligible.)

    This payroll is already up to close to $70 million (I think), without signing ANYONE new.  The plan you mentioned above with Damon, Scutaro, a pitcher, etc…. would add, what, at least $20 million more to the payroll?

    There’s just no way they’ll do that.

    They’ve just improved 3B, of course, but eliminated any payroll flexibility for 2010, and gave the finger to the 2011-15 seasons (when Roenicke and Stewart will be cost-controlled and, possibly, very good).

    I’m a lifelong Reds fan and I can’t STAND the trade.

  9. Aaron said...

    That team could certainly contend. I just don’t think that many of those moves are likely.  All indications are that the Reds’ payroll is going to remain the same, if not decrease.  If they can deal Harang, Arroyo, or Cordero, then they might have the cash.  If they move Harang or Arroyo, though, they will create another spot to fill.  Money seems too tight for Jocketty to make any significant moves.

  10. Evan Brunell said...

    Thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, we can see that they will drop about $10 million after the year. (This is with EdE, not Rolen, so it could be closer to dropping $12.)

    To me, that’s enough to sign Scutaro (10M/2Y?).

    Given Abreu got a $5 mil outlay from the Angels this past year, I feel comfortable projecting Damon at $5M.

    So that takes care of their offense. I think ownership could be sold on outlaying another $8-10 million on one or two starting pitchers. If you deal Arroyo, then you definitely get two starting pitchers out of it.

    I’m not saying it’s a certainty, but I do see the potential there, and it’s potential that wasn’t there without Rolen. Just my two cents.

  11. Dan said...

    Saying that in 2010 Rolen will cost less than what Encarnacion will make is misleading. Even with the money Toronto are sending and Encarnacion’s raise, the Reds payroll will still be $4.25m higher because of this deal.

  12. Aaron said...

    Based on that spreadsheet, I think $10 million seems a tad generous, but they do have more money that I originally thought.  As a Reds fan, I hope you are right and Jocketty can pull the trigger on some of those moves. (I have my doubts, though.)

  13. maguro said...

    “When you have a club that can win, you go for it. And the Reds understand that.”

    I agree that you should go for it when you have a chance, but why would anyone think the Reds have a chance next year? They’re one game ahead of the Pirates.

  14. jim M. said...

    I am hoping they can add Holiday or Bay next year. that would be a HUGE hole that would be filled and they could move Brandon to the #2 spot instead of him batting after Votto, Holiday(OR Bay) and Rolen would be way better protection. PLUS they need to get a decent pitcher to help the rotation like a Rich Harden, Brett Myers or a lefty like Randy Wolfe All this is a plus if they can move Arroyo or Harang.  I want the coaching staff to change too.. Pole isn’t that good as a pitching coach and Mario Soto or rick Peterson could help alot better. also a hitting coach like maybe Kevin Mitchell if he would take the job..
    I also think Rolen was brought in as a starting piece of veteran leadership. Maybe the eyes for Walt to determine who to not bring back. AKA Gonzalez!! etc,,…

  15. Aaron said...

    John Fay seems to think that the Reds are getting $4 million from the Blue Jays for next year, not $2. 

    And I think Rolen simply wanted to get closer to home—he’s from Indiana.  The Reds were a good fit for his family late in his career.

  16. Bob said...

    Evan, Jim U is right.  Rolen costs 11-2=9M.  EdE would’ve cost $4.75M.  You take out the $4.75M and add in the $9M so the Reds payroll actually goes up $4.25M due to the substitution of Rolen for EdE, rather than going down.

  17. Evan Brunell said...


    I was not trying to intimate that the Reds are paying Rolen less than EdE. However, it seems if what I was trying to say got lost in translation, both my original statement and the resulting comments.

    I will try to simplify and clarify the situation:

    The Reds looked at the acquisition of Rolen as a simple additional cost of $4.25 million, not $11 million or $9 million. (Or $2.25 million, if John Fay is correct.)

    People are saying that paying Rolen $11 million to play for them next year is foolhardy. I’m saying that the Reds really only represent $4.25 more to them.

  18. Evan Brunell said...

    Er, typo, last sentence. I’m saying that Rolen really only represents $4.25 (or $2.25) million more to them.

    The number $11 (or $9 million) in my opinion shouldn’t really be used when panning/supporting this trade.

  19. mark said...

    ummmm. . .

    no one in the world thinks that having rolen at 3b is a bad thing.  He improves the team for next year, but in the reds case that may be the most meaningless piece of information ever. 

    1. if the reds are better than they are slightly better and would still project to finish under .500.  So we just traded 2 good prospects and major league level hitter to go from 75 wins to 80 (if we are lucky)

    2. We overpaid.  There is no way that the reds in the position that they are in, can afford to grossly overpay for assets.  Rolen, 34 year old rolen, almost 35 year old rolen is not worth a major league bat and 2 pitching prospects that are a virtual lock to be on the reds roster for many years to come. 

    3. did i mention they overpaid.  I have no idea if the writer of this article pays any attention to who prospects are but ZACH STEWART will be a front of the rotation guy.  Zach Stewart himself was not worth Rolen in the state that the Reds are in.  6 yrs of a front end guy or a year and a half of a guy that may get you to 80 wins next year and maybe just maybe third place in one of the worst divisions in baseball. 

    4. the reds have now committed 70,000,000 for next year without no starting shortstop, no fifth starter and only 1 person on the bench.  They have absolutely no flexibility next year at all.  not 1 dime.  oh wait u said the reds are getting relief.  that should put us at 68,000,000.  …………… much better.

    There is not argument that holds any water for this to make sense for a team in this position with this payroll.  This was a stupid trade of epic proportions.

  20. Ryan said...

    “John Fay seems to think that the Reds are getting $4 million from the Blue Jays for next year, not $2.”

    I’m pretty sure the money Toronto sent over (4M) is to cover Rolen’s salary for the rest of this season.  They are on their own for 2010.

  21. Evan Brunell said...

    Lots of great comments. Bill Pinkham’s is clearly the most engrossing smile

    Not too much I think I should add, but I do want to mention that looking at the spreadsheet outlay for the Reds next year, they are projected to drop $10 million pre-arb, and the arbitration cases don’t have any heavy hitters, so I think they have more flexibility than most may think.

  22. Dan said...

    Evan, are you factoring in the already-agreed-to raises for Arroyo, Harang, Phillips, Taveras, and Lincoln?

  23. Redsfan416 said...

    Bill Pinkham said…
    Reds SUCK now , have SUCKED for a long time, and will continue to SUCK!

    Thanks for adding to the conversation there Bill.  Look everyone, Bill can see the future!  I’m jealous.

  24. Terry said...

    Evan, that $60M estimate doesn’t include the salaries of at least 10 roster spots making league minimum this season nor does it include the difference between Rolen and EE.

    Without raising payroll, the Reds look to have somewhere significantly south of $5M to spend on free agents this off season.

  25. Evan Brunell said...

    That’s true, I guess I’m just too optimistic that Castellini will untie Jocketty’s hands. I think that the Rolen move was a bit of an indicator of that.

  26. House said...

    Are you at least going to take back the “not insanely lucky—it’s only slightly lucky” comment?

  27. Evan Brunell said...

    Based on his .320 average, sure, I can do that. Based on his current .314 average, however, I think that statement holds.

  28. Aaron said...


    It has been confirmed that the Blue Jays are sending money to the Reds for Rolen’s 2010 contract.  The amount, however, is not certain.

  29. JTodd said...

    I realize the Reds are terrible right now; but when 9 of the 40-man roster sit on the DL, it’s difficult to be good. Plus, pick the fat which will fall from the Reds for next year, including EE. While I don’t like losing Zach Stewart, Rolen has obvious benefits. Assuming the Reds are half as healthy next year as they are this year, there is no reason to think this club can’t be competitive, especially if they make another good move to land a bat or even lefty starter.

  30. H said...

    This trade is terrible for the Reds without even considering the young pitchers they traded.

    Evan, your math is wrong.  According to Cot’s, the Reds save money if they don’t pick up the options on Hernandez, Gonzalez and Weathers, but all but about $5M of that goes to increases to Harang, Phillips and Rolen – EdE.  The freed up money will be even further reduced after the inevitable increases to Votto and the other young players.  Therefore, if their payroll is going to be unchanged in 2010, they have about $5M to address two SP’s, a set-up RP to replace Weathers, a C, a SS and an OF plus bench depth.

  31. Chuck McDaniel said...

    H: Hanigan will be the starting catcher next season…they will probably have an inexpensive backup from the minors…Phillips may move to ss and Frazier may be at second base(another cheap option)…Taveras will be with the Reds and hopefully he and Dickerson will platoon in center with Bruce in right and possibly Stubbs in left? or heisey?

    They have options to fill in Weathers spot from the minors…Bray will be back though i don’t know that you can count on him either…remember also that Burton will be back also hopefully he will return to previous years form…so they do have cheap options to fill in at spots…

      those are alot of if’s to think the Reds would compete with these options alot would have to fall right for them to compete for the division and they would have to be right on the majority of those moves if they keep everybody and don’t expand payroll

  32. Terry said...


    The Reds money the Reds are going to drop gets mostly eaten up by money they’ll spend on raises.

    The only way they can sign FA’s is essentially by raising payroll.

    I guess whether they do that or not is the “million dollar” question.

  33. Jayfe said...

    Are you guys serious on these comments, I mean seriously.  You think Holliday, Bay, or Damon would even consider playing in a Reds uniform next year.  The Yankee’s are going to re-sign Damon and same w/ the Sox w/ Bay and will recieve way more money than the Reds can afford and on top of that the Cardinals will re-sign Holliday, I mean c’mon even if one of these didn’t resign the Mets would be the first to go after them and many other teams that have a lot more money and recent history of winning.  Damon a red, ha!!!!

    I guess it’s ok to dream but be realistic.

  34. Stock said...


    Maybe you should take another look at the spreadsheet.

    Your spreadsheet has EdE in there instead of Rolen.


    You have 8 players listed here who will play in the majors next year.  7 if you exclude Lincoln.  That leaves at least 17 roster spots to fill.  Assume each of these remaining 17 players make 0.4 million.  ,4 x 17 = 6.8.

    66.1 + 6.8 =72.9 which is more than 1.4 million above last years payroll.  From what I have heard the Reds are cutting back on payroll.

    Just a guess but I doubt Bay, Scutaro or anyone else you suggest will be willing to sign for $0.4 million this winter.

  35. H said...

    Chuck McDaniel, I don’t disagree with you at all on the potential fill-ins from the minor league system.  I was just disputing Evan Brunell’s point that the Reds will be able to sign Damon, Orlando Cabrera, Penny and Doug Davis without increasing payroll from this year to next.

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