When the Cincinnati Reds traded Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, Dick Simpson, and Jack Baldschun in December of 1965 because he was “old”, they were likely surprised when he went on to win the Triple Crown in the American League the next season for the Baltimore Orioles. It is a deal that still makes Cincinnati fans nauseous. However, for those who weren’t around then, we have our own version of that deal. It is a deal that rips out the heart of my generation of Reds fans, or, at least, it very well should.
The deal that has made me sick for the last several years was trading away Edwin Encarnacion AND Zach Stewart (who didn’t amount to anything but was a top ten prospect of the club’s at the time of the trade) along with Josh Roenicke (eh…he had a couple of solid seasons as a reliever) for one player – Scott Rolen.
At the time that the trade was made, the Reds were 45-57, 10 games out in the NL Central. They had Rolen under contract through 2012, and, after the 2009 season, Rolen restructured his contract, agreeing to a deferred signing bonus, to give the Reds some financial flexibility for spending. Still, what did they get in the deal?
People who loved the trade will point to the 2010 season. The Reds won the NL Central and lost in the NLDS. Rolen was an All Star, he finished 14th in NL MVP voting, and he won his 8th and final Gold Glove award at third base. His leadership and personality were things that were mentioned often during his time with Cincinnati, and he was beloved by owner Bob Castellini and GM Walt Jocketty, who were both a part of the Cardinals during Rolen’s time in St. Louis.
However, for people who weren’t big fans of the deal – like me, I saw a player getting acquired on the downside of his career, adding payroll to a team that “couldn’t afford to sign” so many other talented players over the years. Then, my fears came true when Rolen played in a total of 157 games the next two seasons, posting a .244/.301/.397 line over 599 plate appearances. For all of the immeasurable positive things that he brought to the clubhouse, he wasn’t bringing it to the field. The Reds regressed immensely in 2011, going 79-83, before seeing Todd Frazier take over in 2012 and put up impressive numbers in his rookie season. Rolen’s career was over.
Which brings me to the biggest problem with this trade – Edwin Encarnacion. Since the trade, this is all that Encarnacion has done:
- 3,772 plate appearances
- .868 OPS
- 210 home runs
- 600 RBI
- wRC+: 134
- Two-time All Star
- Top 15 in AL MVP voting three times
Encarnacion turned 33 this past January. At the time of the trade, he was 26 years old, having come off of a productive season (2008 – 25 home runs and 68 RBI); however, he was struggling mightily in 2009 and had become a liability with the glove at third. Still, at just 26, it didn’t seem like a wise deal, and there was always the opportunity to move him to another position, such as the outfield.
When you add in the types of contracts that Encarnacion has had over the last several years, it stings more. He will have earned all of $48,175,000, including this season, since 2010. Since 2010, the Reds paid guys like Rolen $23,625,000 and Ryan Ludwick $17,000,000. Hindsight is 20/20 but when you acquire and trust aging players during a time that steroids aren’t able to be used due to stricter testing, these are the results.
I absolutely hated dealing Edwin Encarnacion in the deal for Scott Rolen, and I relive that deal each and every day like today – when Encarnacion knocks two homers and drives in five runs while Scott Rolen is retired…not playing baseball…and not helping the Reds become a better team.
Sure, we don’t know if Encarnacion would have blossomed on the Reds, but, if you’re a Reds fan, how nice would he look between Votto and Bruce today?