Cincinnati Reds: What Can Scott Rolen Contribute If He Returns in 2013?

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 24:  Scott Rolen #27 of the Cincinnati Reds  during the game against the St.Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on August 24, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Scott Rolen has been an important part of the Cincinnati Reds organization for the last three-and-a-half years.

The veteran third baseman is currently mulling over a return and GM Walt Jocketty says that he should have an answer for the situation "in the next week to 10 days."

On the field, Rolen was a big part of the team's NL Central title in 2010, slashing .285/.358/.497 with 20 HR, 34 doubles and 84 RBI. Rolen also contributed Gold Glove defense in 2010 and made the All-Star team for the fifth time in his career.

Though Rolen is one of the greatest fielding third basemen the game has ever seen, evidenced by his eight Gold Glove Awards, those days are now behind him.

The 37-year-old third baseman played just 92 games in 2012 and the team posted a 51-41 record when he was in the lineup, but one can hardly argue that he played a large role in those victories. 

In his 92 games, Rolen slashed .245/.318/.398 with just eight HR and 39 RBI. Rolen struck out 62 times in those 92 games and his K/BB ratio was 2.07, the second-worst mark of his career.

Rolen did bat .290 in his last 51 games of 2012, collecting 28 of his 39 RBI and five of his eight home runs in that same span. 

However, Rolen has become a hindrance to the advancement of Todd Frazier's career. 

Frazier stepped up in a big way while Rolen—and then Joey Votto—went down with injuries. The 26-year-old Frazier slashed .273/.331/.498 last season and contributed 19 HR, 26 doubles and 67 RBI in his 128 games played.

Frazier earned a starting spot on the team with a performance that earned him a third-place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

According to John Fay's blog, it appears that Jocketty is interested in bringing Rolen back, but only if he's willing to accept a role as a bench player.

When asked if he had interest in bringing Rolen back, Jocketty replied,

I think you have to at least consider it. At the end of the season, I told him if he did come back it would be in a different role. But he’s been so important to our success the last couple of years. He’s been an instrumental part of our club. If he wants to play, we have to see if we can work something out to his satisfaction as well as ours.

Jocketty's planned role begs the question, what can Rolen contribute to the club if he's not starting?

First and foremost, Rolen would become one of the best defensive replacements at any position, on any team in the league.

Rolen ranks 13th all-time in fielding percentage among third basemen (see rankings here). Having him come off the bench in the late innings brings an immeasurable amount of support to an already strong defensive team.

The team and some of its key members also view Scott Rolen as a mentor and a leader, and that type of player is tough to find and should be utilized by the Reds.

In an interview with's Mark Sheldon, Joey Votto praised Rolen for his leadership with the Reds.

He should do whatever he wants to do that's best for him and his family. I love playing with him. I learned a lot from him certainly. I have nothing but respect for him. I'm sure he will make the right decision. I got everything I could ask for from playing beside him. I learned a tremendous amount.

Votto then went on to commend Rolen on his role as a mentor.

The two or three years with him were not wasted. He changed my path as a player. He was a shining example of the type of player I want to be because of how quiet he was and how consistently respected he was throughout baseball.

Rolen also has a chance to be a good pinch-hitting option for the Reds. In his 20 at-bats as a pinch-hitter, Rolen has recorded eight hits including four home runs.

Although it's a small sample size, Rolen's .400/.478/1.050 slash line is something every big league manager would love to have coming off their bench.

Additionally, Rolen can serve as a platoon player who could spell Todd Frazier on his off days. Or, if Frazier needs to play first for a game, Rolen is certainly a capable backup.

When he's healthy, Rolen's bat and glove are as potent as any third baseman the game has ever seen—his eight Gold Gloves, 2077 career hits and 316 home runs are evidence enough of that.

The problem, however, is that Rolen's health has been a major issue in the last two seasons. The 37-year-old has played just 157 games over his last two seasons and can no longer be counted on as an everyday starter.