Three years ago today, July 31st 2009, the Blue Jays sent Scott Rolen and $4 million to the Cincinnati Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart.
At the time of the trade Scott Rolen was 34 years old and in the midst of a typical Rolenesque season. He had a 121 wRC+ and was playing his usual top notch defence at the hot corner. At the time the Blue Jays owed Rolen ~$4 million for the rest of the 2009 season and then $11 million in 2010. Following the trade it was reported that Rolen had asked to be traded for personal reasons.
WAR Since Trade:
Scott Rolen 7.3 fWAR
Edwin Encarnacion 6.9 fWAR
Josh Roenicke 0.0 fWAR
Zach Stewart 0.2 fWAR
At the time of the trade there seemed to be a very mixed reaction to the transaction in its entirety. On one hand the Blue Jays gave up a player in Scott Rolen who was having a nice little season, but on the other hand the Blue Jays were 11.5 games out of a playoff spot and it looked like it was maybe time to sell.
In terms of the return it may not have been exactly what was expected for a player who was performing to Rolen’s level. In Encarnacion the Blue Jays got a “third baseman” who was touted as a player who at 26 had not yet reached his potential. As for the other players in the trade Roenicke and Stewart were two Reds minor leaguers who ranked uniformly on the border of the Reds Top 10 Prospects. Following the trade Roenicke was praised as the closer of the future, but as we now know that didn’t really happen.
As for Stewart he finished the 2009 season in fine fashion and ended up at and I kid you not #1 on the Blue Jays’ 2010 Baseball America Top 10 Prospect List. However that list doesn’t include any of the players from the Halladay deal who would be traded for a couple of weeks after that prospect list was posted. Furthermore despite his #1 ranking Stewart found no spot on the Baseball America 2010 Top 100 Prospects List.
As time moved on Josh Roenicke became somewhat of an afterthought in that trade and he has gone on to become a fringy MLB player. As well despite what fans were told of Encarnacion’s potential it sure didn’t show up in game action between 2010 and 2011. If anything it seemed all of the players that came back in the Rolen trade would never really pan out as expected.
Of course some of that feeling was mitigated when at the 2011 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline the Blue Jays included one of the Rolen pieces, Zach Stewart, in a trade for Edwin Jackson. Edwin Jackson would later be traded for everyone’s favourite Georgian Colby Rasmus.
At the time of the trade it seemed like the Blue Jays were kind of caught in a corner. Rolen wanted to be traded and as is in the world of professional sports when a guy wants to go somewhere else you at least need to look around. Because they “had to” trade him they likely got less than they could have for him.
By FanGraphs WAR measures before the 2012 season the Blue Jays were down a total of 4 wins in that trade. However now that Edwin Encarnacion has become what people projected him to become the trade suddenly looks different.
Not until 2012 has it looked like the trade brought back the Blue Jays players of any particular use. Zach Stewart was a nice prospect who never really panned out…but was useful in the Rasmus trade. Josh Roenicke was a nice prospect, but was an older prospect and it may not have been crazy to expect what has become the outcome of his career.
As for Edwin, in 2012 he has produced at a level far higher than anything he has produced to in his career and it doesn’t seem unsustainable for the future. Not only that, but the 163 wRC+ that Edwin has thus far in 2012 is higher than any weighted runs created plus that Rolen has produced in his entire career.
Now that the Blue Jays have signed Encarnacion for the next three years they will hold him for his age 30 to potentially 33 seasons and an average annual price of $9.7 million. On the other side of things the reds are paying Rolen $6.5 million dollars for 2012, the last year of a two year contract, but are getting Jamey Carroll like hitting production. As of now the Reds have got more production on their side of the trade, but at a higher cost. Going forward the Blue Jays have found a player in EE that will become a mainstay in the lineup with the potential for more.