Scott Rolen was a 7-time All-Star third baseman who played for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Cincinnati Reds. He compiled exactly 70 Wins Above Replacement (WAR, according to baseball-reference) in his 17-year career. He was a rare player who both hit for power (career .855 OPS) and played outstanding defense (career +145 runs above average according to TotalZone). Defensive Runs Saved, which started in 2003, sees him as being worth 114 runs above average from 2003-2012, and UZR agrees that he’s been worth about 13 runs above average since 2003. The metrics, fans, and writers (who voted him for seven Gold Gloves) all agree that he’s one of the best defensive third basemen that baseball has ever seen.
Rolen was also involved in three major deals in his career. First, he was dealt by the Phillies to the Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin. Only Polanco would be much use to them (7.2 WAR in his first stint with the Phillies). Rolen would be worth 25.8 WAR over 6 seasons with St. Louis and won a World Series with them in 2006.
The second deal was a challenge trade with the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. Rolen and Glaus each dealt with injury issues in 2007. At first, the deal looked good for the Cardinals, who got a 4-win season out of Glaus in 2008, while Rolen would only see 203 games with the Blue Jays between 2008 and 2009 due to more injuries. However, in limited playing time, he was still worth 5.4 WAR in those games, making him a still above-average starter because of his strong defense.
Mid-season 2009, Rolen was hitting quite well and the Blue Jays decided to flip him to the contending Cincinnati Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart. While the pitchers didn’t work out, Encarnacion went from a bust for the Reds to three years later becoming a hitting star with the Blue Jays. Rolen played decently in the final 40 games of the season for the Reds and signed an affordable three-year deal to remain with the team. While he missed some time during 2010, Rolen put up a fine season and won a Gold Glove. 2011 went well until he got hurt again, and 2012 was also another lost year for him before he decided to retire.
There’s a good chance that Rolen will become a Baseball Hall-of-Famer one day. He’s the best third baseman of his generation, although Adrian Beltre’s late-career surge may have allowed him to take that title. Rolen was consistently excellent throughout his career and playing well even in injury-plagued seasons. He’s a solid player whose contributions to his teams, especially the Cardinals, should be fondly remembered.