|Wednesday, September 25
Updated: September 27, 7:48 PM ET
Rolen, Cardinals agree to an eight-year contract
ST. LOUIS -- Scott Rolen could have been a free agent after the season.
"I did very well in this contract, I'm not going to say I didn't,'' Rolen said at a news conference. "But the thing about this is it wasn't a chase for the last dollar. It was a chase for happiness.''
Rolen, 27, rejected an extension with the Phillies in November that could have been worth up to $140 million over 10 years. In spring training, he questioned the Phillies' commitment to winning.
The Cardinals acquired him in July and he quickly embraced his new setting, instructing his agents to work out a deal. Rolen helped the Cardinals win the NL Central, hitting .265 with 30 homers and 108 RBI through Thursday.
Manager Tony La Russa has been every bit as impressed with Rolen's defensive prowess. He considers Rolen, who made dazzling plays for the first and last out of the Cardinals' division-clinching victory a week ago, the best third baseman he's ever seen.
"I told him once, my happiest day would be if there's a game where 27 groundballs get to third base,'' La Russa said. "The way he plays that position, the way he runs the bases, the way he takes his at-bats, he is a complete player.''
The deal continues the Cardinals' recent history of trading for stars and quickly negotiating long-term extensions. In July 1997, the Cardinals acquired McGwire from Oakland and six weeks later general manager Walt Jocketty signed the power-hitting first baseman to a $28.5 million, three-year extension. Two years ago, St. Louis obtained Edmonds from Anaheim and within two months signed him to a $57 million, six-year extension through 2006.
"As Mark McGwire liked to say, Walt does a great job of bringing the best ballplayers to St. Louis and the fans keep them here,'' team chairman Bill DeWitt said. "I think we have another example of that here.''
In his last two years, Rolen often clashed with manager Larry Bowa and became a target for fans at Veterans Stadium. Now, there are no distractions.
"My name has been related to this contract issue, and that's the last thing I wanted,'' Rolen said. "For me, this is a sigh of relief. This is done, this is behind me, and I'm as happy as I can be.''
The All-Star third baseman's contract includes a $5 million signing bonus and a no-trade clause that runs for the length of the deal. Of the $90 million, $10 million will be deferred, and DeWitt said the structure of the contract should enable the Cardinals to re-sign many of their free agents and increase payroll past this year's $75 million.
"I look forward to that happening,'' DeWitt said.
Rolen is guaranteed to make at least $108.8 million in baseball by the time he turns 37. He is earning $8,650,000 million this season on a one-year contract he signed with Philadelphia last winter following a $10 million, four-year deal. He also made $175,000 as a rookie in 1997.
The 1997 NL Rookie of the Year averaged 26 homers and 95 RBI in his first five seasons.
Rolen made the All-Star team for the first time this year. About three weeks after starting for the NL, the three-time Gold Glove winner was traded with a minor league pitcher and cash to the Phillies for third baseman Placido Polanco and pitchers Bud Smith and Mike Timlin.
The trade was a dream come true for Rolen, who grew up in Jasper, Ind., and watched Cardinals games from the upper deck occasionally as a youngster. His parents and wife, Niki, attended the news conference.
"I don't think I can put a time frame on falling in love with St. Louis,'' Rolen said. "I fell in love with St. Louis probably when I was 7 years old and Mom and Dad brought us here to a ballgame and I got to watch Tommy Herr and Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee and everybody like that.''