Scott Rolen is a good man. When his nagging shoulder injury got to be too much, he told the Reds, “I’m hurting. I’m in pain. I’m not healthy right now. As much as I want to help the team, I’m hurting the team.” You can’t ask for much more from a teammate, unless you’re asking for some offensive production. But let’s face it, the Reds have been rolling the dice with Scott Rolen since they acquired him in 2009 (more on that in a second).The injury-shortened seasons, the declining average, the lessened power. The Reds got one heckuva season out of him in 2010 (66 runs, 20 HR, 83 RBI, .285 AVG, .358 OBP). To expect anything more out of a guy who is over 35, has played almost 2,000 games, and has stepped up to the plate more than 7,000 times is just silly.
So here we are. No proven third basemen. But lo, there is a Cincinnatian in the east, sayeth Doc in today’s column. Coming off his own DL stint. Itching to return home. That’s right: Kevin Youkilis. It would be a great story. Bring back one of Cincinnati’s own when the team could use another bat. I’m not even from this city, and I’d go to see Youkilis at third.
The problem is, it would be a terrible baseball decision. First, Youkilis is only young when compared to Rolen. He’s 33. His numbers have been in decline since 2009. That’s four seasons ago. Four seasons ago, Bryce Harper was getting his driver’s license. The real tragedy in getting Youkilis—and Doc touches on this in his column—is that the Reds would have to trade a prospect to do it.
Bad idea. The Reds have done, in my mind, a remarkable job of identifying young talent. Here’s a list of guys brought up in the Reds own system: Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Logan Ondrusek, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Zack Cozart, Ryan Hanigan, and Drew Stubbs. In other words, every single bright spot in this season (except for BP’s backhanded throws) is a result of the Reds’ ability to spot and bring up young players. To get Scott Rolen the Reds traded Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart. Encarnacion is now 29, a consistently so-so power hitter, and is off to one of the hottest starts in baseball this year. Stewart and Roenicke, both pitchers, have yet to pan out. And Scott Rolen, in return, gave the Reds just one good year. Other trades have been worse (see: Hamilton, Joshua for Volquez, Edinson). Others are too early to tell (Latos seems to be doing well).
The point is, Youk is a short-term fix at best. Yes, I want to see the Reds win. But I also want the team to be competitive throughout Joey Votto’s tenure. And that means being smart, taking the long view, and not throwing away the guys—like Todd Frazier—who can help us get there. Just sit tight, Walt. Let’s give the young guys some time.