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I'm Rolen; Hey Norman, Was it Thrown With a Broken Arm?

Wow (and not just the Soul Coughing reference I slipped into the title). I was just talking to my brother today about how quiet things were on the Jays front, and I bike home from band rehearsal only to see that the Jays and Cards appear to have swapped Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen .

The trade seems to be more about what the two teams are getting rid of rather than what they're getting. This is evidenced by the fact that both players will have to waive their no-trade clauses for the deal to go down. Rolen has been an outstanding hitter and fielder throughout his career, but lately he has struggled with shoulder injuries and has worn out his welcome in two cities already. Glaus has a prodigous power bat but has struggled with plantar fascitis which required nerve decompression at the end of last season after causing a host of troubles for Troy. Some believe that the turf at the RC exacerbated Glaus' condition and that Troy would be better off elsewhere.

Troy and Scott are about the same age (31/32) and have similar contracts - Rolen with 3 years and $36 million to go, Glaus with 2 years and $24 (assuming he exercises a player option he is due at the end of this sesaon). Rolen is a better defender than Glaus - though Glaus appears to have been just fine (despite seeming statuesque at times), Rolen has better numbers and a Gold Glove pedigree.

While both Rolen and Glaus appear to be in decline, Glaus' decline so far has been shallower offensively, at least, when he's been able to play - his OPS+ numbers over the last 3 seasons are all at least 120 (126-122-120). Rolen, on the other hand, has bounced around to the tune of 157 - 84 - 126 - 89.

I suppose that the difference, though, is that Glaus' body appears to be breaking down, for whatever reason. It's likely that his health issues will persist. In Rolen's case, he originally injured his shoulder in a nasty collision with Korean slugger Hee Sop Choi in 2005. He had surgery in 2005 but it just didn't take, and he just hasn't been able to maintain consistency or stay on the field - it's really his power that has suffered and has dragged his overall numbers down, to the point of slugging under .400 last season. Rolen required surgery again in 2007 to try to finish the job. Assuming that the most recent surgery was successful and the issue is cleared up, Rolen could be a better bet than Troy going forward. I guess the question is how much the Jays would be able to discern from what will surely be an interesting pre-trade physical.

I wonder if the Cards will pick up any salary, since Rolen has an extra season on his deal. Considering that the Jays don't have anyone coming up the pipeline at 3rd at all, if Rolen is healthy the extra year could actually be a good thing. Even if he can't maintain his health, if the Cards are paying for the last year (in one way or another), it would be a good gamble. And of course if Troy has a good and healthy season, he will opt out of his contract (decline his player option) and then the Jays would really be in a bind next season at 3rd.

It's unfortunate that Rolen doesn't bat lefthanded, but he does hit righties better than Glaus and his defense should be a plus considering the Jays plethora of groundballers.

It seemed clear to me that the Jays wanted to dump Glaus. Of course, the Cards were even more anxious to dump Rolen. The trade really comes down to who is healthier, which sort of amounts to who has the better doctors, in terms of what they know about their own player's condition and what they can discern about the other player. Based on my very limited medical knowledge, the shoulder is very risky and it's very very hard to get it back once it's seriously damaged. Of course, Glaus is no stranger to shoulder issues either.

For interest, ZIPS predicts Rolen's SLG will be a horrid .398 (his total last season - they have Glaus at .469) while Bill James has his SLG at .475. I've never wanted Bill James to be right so badly.

The deal, I assume, comes down to a few things: 1) JP loves him some defense. Rolen makes what was the best defense in the league last year even better (perhaps making up for Eckstein?); 2) The Jays huge organizational hole at 3rd base - assuming Rolen can take the field, the Jays went from having Glaus for 1 season, maybe 2 (though likely only if Glaus was too hurt to play much, which doesn't really help) to having Rolen at a not ridiculous salary for 3 seasons. The contra to this is that Glaus may have brought some nice draft picks (assuming he retained type A status) and that Rolen is no guarantee of health either; and 3) JP felt he had to improve the Jays versus righties. Rolen has been a better hitter against righties throught his career than Glaus. Even last season, where Rolen struggled mightily, he put up a .770 OPS versus righties, while Glaus put up at .728 OPS.

Assuming the Jays doctors do their jobs, this isn't a terrible move, is it?