The Reds have been awaiting an official retirement decision from third basemen Scott Rolen all offseason. The 37-year old has been teetering on the fence of a possible return, and the team has already stated that they would be interested in allowing him to come back to serve in some form or fashion. But given Rolen's recent history of injury, coupled with his decline in productivity, would the Reds really benefit from Rolen occupying one of the 25 roster spots?
Count manager Dusty Baker as one who seems to be content with the current roster without Rolen.
“It’s getting late. Life goes on and business goes on. Since we signed Jack Hannahan, it’s getting crowded. Plus, Todd Frazier deserves a chance to play," said the skipper.
Frazier is expected to take over the everyday duties at the hot corner after bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2012. Frazier finished third in National League Rookie of the Year balloting after hitting .273/.331/.498 with 19 homers, 67 RBI, and 26 doubles. Meanwhile, Rolen continued to battle various ailments and sputtered to a .245/.318/.398 slash line with 8 homers and 39 RBI. Needless to say, Frazier is viewed as the future at third.
If Rolen does decide to give it one more try, he will be relegated to a part-time role. This means he would be called upon primarily in pinch-hitting situations and late-inning defensive substitutions. Although he is arguably one of the best fielding third basemen in MLB history (8 Gold Gloves), his range and mobility has greatly diminished with age. With that being said, does Rolen offer a significant upgrade off of the bench? Or would Cincinnati be better served to give his potential roster spot to someone else?
One aspect Rolen does bring to the table which can't be measured is his leadership ability. Baker and GM Walt Jocketty have stated before that Rolen was instrumental in turning the franchise around when he came over from Toronto at the end of 2009. He instilled a culture that was no longer going to accept mediocrity, and that new mindset helped lead Cincinnati to a division title in 2010 -- ending a playoff drought of 15 years. However, the makeup of the roster was quite different back then.
The young talent which was once fresh and inexperienced has now earned some seasoning and pedigree. Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman can no longer be considered players in serious need of mentors. They have now become the veterans of the team and have been given the same task that Rolen successfully completed when the Reds acquired him. That is to continue to guide and mentor the new wave of youngsters such as Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco and an influx of prospects who will be making their way up to the big show soon.
Rolen's time in the Queen City has been marred by injury, and he hasn't been as productive as he would have liked, but his stint has been an admirable one nevertheless. The Reds would do well in retaining him if he wants to return, but probably not as a player. He would make an excellent guy to have in and around the organization, and if the Reds have an opportunity to keep him in such a role, they should. However, it remains to be seen if the reigning National League Division Central champs would benefit from having him on the club as a player.