Friday, January 18, 2008

Quite the Challenge

The St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays have pulled off my favorite type of trade: the challenge trade. There hasn't been one of these in baseball since...well, since the Twins and Rays swapped Delmon Young and others for Matt Garza and others. The trade is Scott Rolen to the Blue Jays in exchange for Troy Glaus. The challenge in this trade is a bit different than the Minnestoa/Tampa Bay deal. This isn't a challenge of whether someone will meet their ceiling as a prospect, but who can stay healthier the longest.

I'm going to hold off on writing reports one each player as I did for the Nick Swisher deal, as these are two established Major League veterans.

My first take on this trade was that it was a slight win for St. Louis due to the contract situation. Troy Glaus is under contract through 2008 with a player option for 2009 at a clip of $11.25 million per season. A condition for this deal to go through was that the Cardinals were assured Glaus would pick up his option for 2009. Scott Rolen has 3 years left on his contract at the rate of $12 million per season. So Toronto is forced to assume an extra year of an injury prone 3rd Baseman, while St. Louis gets a power bat to put behind Albert Pujols for slightly less per year and one less year to pay.

In terms of how each of them play, it's been tough to tell the last couple of years as both have missed extensive time due to injury. Rolen has a chronic shoulder injury, and while he does provide a polished right handed hitter to a lefty heavy lineup in Toronto, there is a drop-off in terms of power and OBP. In addition to his ability to hit lefties much better than Glaus, one of Rolen's biggest attributes is his defensive ability. His addition to the Jays infield gives their groundball producing staff, a Gold Glove caliber defender, and possibly the best defensive infield in baseball if they opt to go with John McDonald at Shortstop. As I mentioned, Glaus gives the Cardinals, and Albert Pujols a bit of protection, as he provides the type of power production that Rolen could not. Glaus' injury woes have been in foot, and he recently underwent a surgery to take care of a ruptured plantar fascia, but the surgery isn't one that is recommended often, as it doesn't necessarily solve the problem. However, he is expected to be healthy a bit more often due to the switch from the Rogers Centre's hard turf to the new Busch Stadium's grass surface.

So it seems as though this trade would be fairly even, and possibly even in the Jays favor were we to assume complete health over the life of these contracts...but both these players have proven that that would be a foolhardy assumption to make. If Rolen is able to stay healthy, and return to his defensive prowess, the pendulum might swing toward the Toronto, but in all likelihood both players will miss time, and Glaus' injury has been one he could play through more often than not. Additionally, the contract situation is a clear win for St. Louis, and given those two factors, this makes the deal a win for the Cardinals, who once again should be contenders in baseball's worst division, while Toronto is taking one last shot at running with the big boys in (arguably) baseball's toughest.

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