A few weeks back, as I sat in the first-base dugout at Veterans Stadium, Phillies GM Ed Wade swore to me that it was not a fait accompli that he was going to trade Scott Rolen this season.
Sure, the Phils were dead last in the NL East. And sure, the first thing Rolen said to me when I asked if I could get some time to interview him for a Magazine story was, "I'd love for you to have to make a road trip to do it," meaning, I want to get the heck out of here as soon as possible.
Well, maybe time has changed things a bit. Wade told the Philadelphia Daily News last week that he's given the go-ahead to his pro scouts to start mentioning "certain names" on the Phils' available list. And whereas in June he clung to the hope that the Phillies could put together a five or six-game winning streak that "could get us into second place, where we all know anything can happen," Wade now seems to see that the July 31 trade deadline is getting closer and the Phillies, well, aren't.
So, we can safely assume that Rolen is squarely on the block.
What we cannot assume is that the Phillies will be able to move him. It has nothing to do with Rolen's .245 batting average, either, says manager Larry Bowa. It has to do with the uncertain future of baseball, as the owners and players prepare for another collective bargaining stalemate.
"If a team wants Scotty, it's not going to matter if he's hitting .220 or .320," says Bowa. "People know he's a great player. All they have to do is look at the back of his baseball card to know he's gonna hit. But the labor situation could keep him from getting traded. I don't think teams can look themselves in the mirror and give the Phillies a big league player and their No. 1 prospect for Scott Rolen when they don't even know for sure if there's going to be playoffs and World Series this year. The other thing is, these teams know, at the end of the year, they can go after Scotty and not lose their player and their top prospect."
In other words, renting Rolen (who's made it clear that it's not the money, but the right to be a free agent at the end of the season that drove him to turn down the Phillies big money offers), might just be too risky.
"He's going to be the free agent out there, I think," says Bowa. "The top one. That's my opinion. I still think he's a foundation player, unfortunately it's not going to be with the Phillies. He's earned the right to go out and get courted by every team in baseball. There's nothing wrong with that. The fact that he ruled us out early might have tarnished his image a little bit in this town, but that's life."
Just as it's life for Rolen that the "lame duck" tag may be his for another three months. "If we make the determination that the best thing for the Phillies to do is have Scott play out the season, he'll play it out," says Wade. "I've told him that. His expectation has to be that he's going to be here the rest of the year."
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