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2002/06/12

Dolan, Meet Rolen

I’ve been grappling with the notion that the Indians should sign Scott Rolen in the off-season (because I think we both would agree that Shapiro shouldn’t meet the Phillies’ asking price to acquire him mid-season with no guarantee of his long-term presence here). It’s true that he is a fine third baseman, just entering his offensive prime and a Gold Glove caliber defender to boot. A Hoosier at heart, he would presumably prefer to stay close to his midwestern home. Much-hyped prospect Corey Smith has yet to deliver on his promise and the Tribe has little homegrown talent to draw on in the interim.

But here’s the rub: Rolen has already twice turned down $140 million offers from the Phils, both of which were paid over ten years I believe. Is that what it’s going to take to sign this guy? Because while his career compares favorably to Chipper Jones and Gary Sheffield through age 26, both of them had taken their offensive game to a higher level by this point. Rolen has yet to show the development that I think would be implicitly expected in making him such an offer. Even if Dolan would approve an offer half the size, say five years and $70 million, surely that would make the resigning of Jim Thome prohibitively expensive.

There is also the issue of the compensatory draft picks the Indians would give Philadelphia in next year’s draft. Should a team at this stage in the competitive cycle be giving up the opportunity to draft a quality player and keep him under contract below market value until his sixth year of major league service? Provided that the scouting department does their job well, that’s exactly the kind of player the Indians need: young, inexpensive, developing. It’s tempting to spend your way out of a down cycle, but thoughtful and controlled rebuilding is the surest way to bring about the next string of pennants. I’m no fan of fire sales, but it’s worth remembering that the Joe Carter trade was the linchpin to the Indians’ success in the 90’s.

Of course, this may well be moot if the Cubs, Giants or Yankees (Drew Henson returns to the gridiron?) sign Rolen. Any of the three would have the revenues to sign him and are certainly more likely to contend over the life of the contract than Cleveland would be.

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