Last I heard Scott Rolen wasn’t retired, but he wasn’t playing either. The Cincinnati Reds third baseman has had back problems for the last couple of years and at 37 years of age gave off all kinds of signals that he would retire after the 2012 season. Instead of actually doing so, Rolen telegraphed his ambivalence about playing the 2013 season by informing the Reds he wouldn’t show up for spring training.
Rolen is an eight-time Gold Glove winner and a seven-time All-Star. At his best he is darned good. He is not at his best anymore and the Reds gave the starting third base job to Todd Frazier, one of the National League’s top rookies last year, whether or not Rolen wanted to play one last season or not. Rolen has to decide if he wanted to return as a backup instead of a starter.
With all of their injuries, including to third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees have been calling around to any warm body they could think of and whose telephone number they could find, so I wondered if they might reach out to Rolen. As soon as I had the thought, I read something suggesting Rolen might really be on the Yankees’ minds.
If you are Rolen, you’d have to think long and hard about whether or not you wanted to join that sinking ship. At least if you give it one more fling with the Reds, even off the bench, you might end up in a World Series. The Yankees would offer more playing time, but the real issue clouding retirement thoughts anyway is probably based on whether or not he believes his body will still let him play fulltime without breaking down. It would be easy to envision Rolen joining the Yankees, playing for about 10 days and then having to sit out with back pain or some such thing, returning for a week or so and then going on the disabled list.
Rolen has played for 17 seasons, has a lifetime batting average of .281, and hit 316 home runs. He has been a very solid player and in many years far better than solid. It seems more likely that if Rolen wants to play anymore that he would stay with Cincinnati rather than taking a flyer on the Yankees. Still, I’m thinking that if Rolen got healthy over the winter and was physically ready to go he would have reported to spring training.
I think if his body allows it Rolen could be helpful to the Reds. He would be a valuable bench guy as a pinch-hitter and a periodic fill-in with the glove at third. Frazier showed last year when Joey Votto was sidelined with a knee injury that he can play first base. If problems arise and manager Dusty Baker has to shuffle some bodies having Rolen around as insurance could pay dividends.
However, by not reporting to spring training Rolen’s actions indicate he may not be physically able to play, and that is affecting his mental state. It wouldn’t surprise me that if things remain status quo shortly after the season begins Rolen will call a retirement press conference.