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Rolen traded to Cards in five-player deal

Posted: Monday July 29, 2002 5:45 PM
Updated: Tuesday July 30, 2002 8:17 PM
  Scott Rolen's last two seasons in Philadelphia have been marred by turmoil and controversy. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Scott Rolen should be much happier in his new red uniform.

The slugging third baseman was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in a five-player deal on Monday, ending a seven-year tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies that ended miserably.

The Phillies get third baseman Placido Polanco, pitcher Bud Smith and reliever Mike Timlin for the three-time Gold Glove winner, minor league pitcher Doug Nickle and cash.

"We are very pleased and excited to add Scott Rolen to our lineup," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement. "He is an All-Star, a proven run producer and an excellent defensive player."

Rolen, 27, is expected to join the Cardinals for Tuesday night's game at Florida. He becomes part of a powerful lineup that already features Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and J.D. Drew.

Rolen, who made his first All-Star team this season, is batting .259 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs. He goes from the last-place Phillies to the first-place Cardinals, who lead the NL Central by five games over Cincinnati.

Rolen had been the subject of trade rumors since rejecting a 10-year contract extension last November that could've been worth up to $140 million. He signed an $8.6 million, one-year deal in January, but made it clear he wanted to become a free agent after this season. That decision forced the Phillies to make a move or risk losing him for only a pair of picks in next June's amateur draft.

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* Scott Rolen says he is glad to be a Cardinal, but he admits he developed some good friendships in Philadelphia. Start

* Phillies general manager Ed Wade says Scott Rolen was a great player for his club.
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"I regret the outcome," Phillies general manager Ed Wade said. "We were very serious about the offer we made."

Rolen did not sign an extension with the Cardinals, so he remains eligible for free agency. However, he has said that he is interested in signing a longterm deal with St. Louis.

In the last five years, the Cardinals traded for potential free agents Edmonds and Mark McGwire and convinced them to stay in St. Louis longterm.

Polanco, 26, is hitting .284 with five homers and 27 RBIs. He batted .307 last season and .316 in his first full year, in 2000. Wade said he'll play third base and bat second in Philadelphia's lineup.

Smith, who pitched a no-hitter in his rookie season last year, was sent to Class-AAA Memphis on July 20 after going 1-5 with a 6.94 ERA in 11 appearances, including 10 starts. The 22-year-old left-hander was 6-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 16 games last year and will report to Class-AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Timlin is 1-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 42 appearances and is holding righties to a .197 average. The 36-year-old right-hander is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $5.25 million this season.

"We did not replace Scott Rolen with an All-Star, Gold Glove third baseman, but we did replace him with a very good baseball player and we got some other guys who should help us," Wade said.

Nickle, 27, was 3-5 with a 2.97 ERA and seven saves in 34 games -- one of them a start -- at Scranton this season. He appeared in four games -- 4 1/3 innings pitched -- for the Phillies this season and has made 10 career major league appearances.

The right-hander went 9-3 with seven saves and a 1.68 ERA at Scranton last season. He was assigned to Class-AAA Memphis.

 
Verducci Q & A
Cornering the market
The St. Louis Cardinals were already the team to beat in the NL Central, and the addition of Scott Rolen just solidifies that.

Rolen is going to love playing in St. Louis. He's the perfect player for that town. The club is not going to expect him to be its franchise player, and the fans will provide support like he never saw in his Philly days.

Rolen gives the team -- besides an all-out effort every day and a great bat -- great defense at third base, which has been a problem for the Cards. The pitchers are going to love this guy, and so will the fans.

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Rolen was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1997, and averaged 26 homers and 95 RBIs in his first five seasons.

His last two seasons with the Phillies have been marred by turmoil and controversy. He feuded with manager Larry Bowa, mostly because they have opposite personalities, and became a main target for criticism by fans. The low point came when an anonymous teammate allegedly called Rolen a clubhouse "cancer" in June.

Once a fan favorite, Rolen heard boos increasingly as his average dipped this year. After hitting his second homer of the game in an 8-4 win over Montreal on June 1, Rolen wouldn't come out of the dugout to acknowledge a curtain call.

"Maybe we're even," he said.

Rolen considered signing a longterm contract with the Phillies before the 2001 season. But tired of losing, he wanted the team to make a commitment to winning. Rolen figured a higher payroll would be a step in that direction, and wanted a clause in his contract that guaranteed Philadelphia would be among the top teams in that department.

Talks broke down, but the Phillies -- despite having the seventh-lowest payroll in the majors on opening day last season -- nearly won the division, finishing just two games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

Playing on a winning team for the first time in his career wasn't enough to keep Rolen smiling, however. He had words with Bowa after the manager criticized his offensive production, and was stung hard by harsh words from Dallas Green, senior adviser to Wade.

Rolen was upset when the Phillies revealed their $140 million offer, and explained his decision by questioning management's commitment to winning, sparking a volatile spring.

Rolen and Bowa had an animated on-field conversation in February and went a period without speaking to each other before the season started.

"I don't think we did anything to necessarily make the player unhappy," Wade said. "We're always trying to do things the right way. We're always trying to make our players comfortable. We're always trying to compensate them fairly. We're always trying to bring teammates around that they are comfortable playing with and gives us a better chance of winning."

The deal was Wade's biggest since he traded Curt Schilling to Arizona for first baseman Travis Lee, and pitchers Vicente Padilla, Omar Daal and Nelson Figueroa in July 2000.

CNNSI.com's Trade Analysis
Cardinals acquire Rolen from Phillies
  CARDINALS GET:
Scott Rolen - 3B
Doug Nickle - RHP
Cash
  PHILLIES GET:
Placido Polanco - 3B
Bud Smith - LHP
Mike Timlin  - RHP
Rolen AVG HR RBI G SB BB K
2002 .259 17 66 100 5 52 68
Career .282 150 559 844 71 426 714
*Nickle W L ERA G IP BB K
2002 3 5 2.97 34 60.2 16 37
2002 W L ERA G IP K BB
Timlin 1 3 2.51 42 61.0 35 7
Smith 1 5 6.94 11 48.0 22 22
2002 AVG HR RBI G SB BB K
Polanco .284 5 27 94 3 12 27
How it helps the Cardinals:   How it helps the Phillies:
This is a huge upgrade for the Cards, who still are being pushed by the Reds in the NL Central. Rolen was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1997, an All-Star starter in 2001 and a three-time Gold Glover. He's averaged 26 homers and 95 RBIs a season in his first five years. Although his batting average is nothing to brag about this season, he'll probably drive in 100 runs, and he's been good in the second half, hitting .302 last season with 17 homers and 55 RBIs after the break. The Cards already had a potent lineup; now it might be the best in the NL. All the Cards had to give up was a young starter who wasn't doing them any good this season (Smith), a solid but unspectacular set-up man (Timlin) and a capable replacement for Rolen (Polanco). And if they like Rolen, and he likes them, there's always the chance they can sign him to a long-term contract after the season.   The Phillies, maybe the most disappointing team in the majors this year, made the best of a bad situation. They were stuck. They wanted to keep their third baseman, offering the would-be free agent $140 million last November. But that was the high point of the relationship. When Rolen turned down the contract, everything turned south. He feuded with manager Larry Bowa and the front office. He cold-shouldered his teammates, who cold-shouldered him back. And, of course, the infamous Philly fans were none too fond of him, either. Placido Polanco is an OK replacement, especially on defense, but he's no All-Star. The same is true for veteran reliever Mike Timlin. The key for the Phils in this deal is lefty Bud Smith, who threw a no-hitter last year for the Cards. If Smith, bothered by a sore shoulder this season, can regain his rookie form, the Phils have at least saved a little face with this deal.
THE BOTTOM LINE by CNNSI.com's John Donovan  
After holding off on trading Rolen, probably for way too long, Philly GM Ed Wade finally decided something was better than nothing. And Smith, the main player in this deal for the Phillies, could be something. A 22-year-old with a mean curve and a knee-buckling change, Smith was 6-3 last year with a 3.83 ERA and a no-hitter. Injuries have pushed back his progress this season, but he's way too young to give up on. He's the only hope for the Phils that this trade pays off in the long run. For St. Louis, this was a for-the-moment trade that could work out in the long run as well. The Cards get help immediately in their bid for the NL Central title, getting a boost from Rolen's glove and his bat. And, if both sides can work the finances, the 27-year-old Rolen may consider signing a long-term deal with the tradition-rich Cards after the season. If he does -- Mark McGwire and Jim Edmonds did -- this could be the start of something really, really special in St. Louis.

Note: Doug Nickle's statistics are for Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

 
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