The seven-time All-Star informed the team of his decision on Tuesday, when Reds pitchers and catchers reported for the start of camp. Rolen, who turns 38 on April 4, had been mulling an offer to fill a reserve role with the NL Central champions.
He's been limited each of the last three seasons by chronic problems with his left shoulder and back spasms.
"Right now, I'm simply not ready to make a commitment," Rolen said, in a statement released by the team. "I would like to leave my options open, without closing any doors. I am looking forward to all of the challenges, both personally and professionally, I will face in the future."
Rolen became a free agent after last season, when he batted .245 in 92 games with eight homers and 39 RBI. He missed time with the shoulder and back problems. Todd Frazier is set to take over at third base this season, but the Reds offered Rolen a chance to stay in a reduced role.
"It's tough for me because he's a good guy to talk to every day about third base," Frazier said, after learning of Rolen's decision. "I understand he wants to be with his family or whatever he wants to do. All the best to him. But I'd like him to be here so I could get more knowledge from him, for sure."
Rolen's arrival in Cincinnati coincided with the Reds' resurgence. General manager Walt Jocketty traded for Rolen midway through the 2009, bringing in a veteran leader for a young team. The Reds won the NL Central two of the last three years, with Rolen becoming one of the clubhouse's leaders.
"Scott made significant contributions to our team's recent success, and it isn't a coincidence we made the playoffs in two of his three full seasons here," Jocketty said.
Manager Dusty Baker said Rolen's absence would be felt deeply.
"It would be like losing a member of the family," Baker said. "He was a leader. Whenever you lose a leader like that, someone else comes along to take over. We don't know who that is, but a leader will come out."
Rolen is the only third baseman in major-league history to get at least 2,000 hits, 500 doubles, 300 homers, 1,200 RBI and six Gold Glove awards. His 517 doubles rank 45th on the career list.
He has won eight Gold Glove awards, third-most among third baseman behind Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10). He won his last Gold Glove in 2010, when he played in 134 games. He was limited to fewer than 100 games each of the last two seasons.
"I think he was playing through some pain for most of the time he was out here," reliever Sean Marshall said. "That's the sign of a gamer. He was doing it for 17 years. I've been doing it for seven and it seems like a long time. I can only imagine how much of a toll it takes on your body to play every day for that many years."
Rolen was only the seventh player unanimously picked as the NL rookie of the year in 1997 with the Phillies, who traded him to the Cardinals midway through the 2002 season. He had his best years in St. Louis, teaming with Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds in a formidable lineup. He helped St. Louis reach the World Series in 2004, when he batted .314 with a career-high 34 homers and 124 RBIs. The Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox for the championship.
St. Louis reached the World Series again in 2006, when Rolen batted .296 with 22 homers and 95 RBIs. The Cardinals beat Detroit for the title that time, with Rolen batting .421 during the five-game World Series.
In-between the World Series appearances, Rolen's injuries started taking a toll. He tore the labrum in his left shoulder in 2005, missed much of the 2007 season with more shoulder problems and was traded to Toronto before the 2008 season. He also missed time that season with a sore left shoulder.
The Reds acquired him for three players midway through the 2009 season. Jocketty - a friend of Rolen from their days together in St. Louis - decided he could bring a young Reds team the leadership it lacked.
Rolen had a sensational first half of the season in 2010, getting the Reds in position to win the NL Central. He tailed off in the second half of the season, when stiffness in his shoulder, neck and back robbed him of his power. He made the All-Star team a year later, but spent two stints on the disabled list with shoulder problems. He had surgery to remove bone spurs and fragments from the left shoulder.
The shoulder continued to bother him last season, costing him 34 games. He acknowledged that the shoulder was never going to get back to normal. He also missed 17 games because of back spasms.