After initially saying that he was going to retire earlier this offseason, former Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen has done an about-face, and now wants to play in 2013. Rolen is apparently seeking a salary similar to the $6.5 million he made in 2012. The Reds would be hard-pressed to fit him in their payroll, let alone finding playing time for him with 2012 rookie standout Todd Frazier penciled in at third base in 2013. But would any other team be wise to pursue Rolen for this upcoming season?
With Rolen, it really all comes down to one thing: health. He logged over 500 plate appearances in 2009 and 2010, and put together four win seasons in each. Over the last two seasons, he combined for just 599 plate appearances and was worth a total of 2.4 fWAR, obviously a substantial dropoff compared to the two prior years. A lot of Rolen's value comes from his defense (as it always has), but Rolen's 1.1 UZR in 2012 was a career-worst (but still above average), and his 0 DRS was his lowest in a season since 2003. Other defensive metrics show an increasingly trend of a loss in range for Rolen, but that's the thing: a defensively-slipping Scott Rolen is still better than a lot of players in the league with the glove.
On the other hand, Rolen's bat is also slipping. Over the last two years, he posted a wRC+ of less than 100 (which is league average) in back to back seasons for the first time ever in his career. In fact, he had done in just twice in his entire career before the last two years, showing how good of a hitter he had been in his prime. And while his power has dropped off from his career norms, his .155 and .153 ISO marks from the last two years aren't disastrous considering the adequacy of his glove.
Rolen isn't worth $6.5 million in 2013. He's not worth a starting spot with the Reds. He is however, a better option at third base for several teams than what they're currently going with (including the Phillies, who originally drafted Rolen in 1993), and if his often troublesome shoulder is finally healthy this year, he could be the steal of the winter. But that is a big "if", and I'm not sure if Rolen would be willing to accept a lesser salary in 2013, let alone a lesser role on a team.