January 2008

What happens in the Distillery District…

Las20vegas_1TORONTO – … stays in the Distillery District. The Jays threw quite the shindig for season-ticket holders tonight, treating them to a Vegas-style partay in Toronto.

There were blackjack tables, Vegas-type showgirls strolling around, plenty of quality food, an open bar (I was working, so, no, I did not partake), and an impressive assortment of prizes for those in attendance to take home (cars, trips to Cuba, memorabilia).

Those in attendance also had an opportunity to mingle with Vernon Wells, Dustin McGowan and Jeremy Accardo. Highlights from their chats with the media were that Wells is feeling 100 percent, McGowan has been throwing off a mound and had been training in Florida for two weeks already, and Accardo has been throwing for months, moving beyond his more laid back winter program of years past.

I squeezed in some of the highlights in an article on bluejays.com, but obviously not everything made the cut. One topic that McGowan and Wells weighed in on was the Mitchell Report, which included Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun’s named. McGowan said he had dinner the other night with Zaun and said talking with the catcher hasn’t been awkward at all. Wells admitted that he was actually looking forward to hearing who was named when the report came out.

Here’s their comments on the Mitchell Report:

"It’s something they had to deal with eventually. Hopefully they can just get it all in order and get the testing set up where it helps in the future. … I just had dinner with Zaun down in Florida. It’s not awkward. He’s my teammate and he’s like family to us. He needs support and we’re here to give it to him."
– McGowan

"I was kind of looking forward to it coming out. I wanted to see what it was all about and see who was going to be in it. You have your thoughts and your suspicions on who’s done it and who hasn’t. It’s part of life and unfortunately it was a part of the game for a while. That’s why we made a concerted effort to rid our sport of things like this and try to get to steroid use and hopefully there will be a test we can come up with for HGH and this wont be a conversation anymore.

"I know in our clubhouse that we’ll probably make a joke out of it and make fun of [Zaun] about it. You make decisions, whether it’s true or false what came out in the report, you can defend yourself and prove your innocence. Unfortunately, in this situation, you’re guilty until proven innocent. You speak out and tell the truth and if people believe you, they do. If not, whatever you did in your personal life, hopefully you made the right decisions.

"It’s unfortunate for the guys who did make good choices and decided not to do things like that. If anybody wants to challenge me on it, I’ll take a lie detector test — it doesn’t matter to me. I’ll be the first one to do it. I’ve got nothing to hide. For me, I know personally this doesn’t bother me one bit."
–Wells

Wells said he finished his rehab last week and began hitting against a pitching week last week as well. He also worked with new hitting coach Gary Denbo in early January. Wells said Denbo had been studying film and the two bounced ideas off each other for the coming season.

Wells had this to say:

"It’s an open relationship. We’re just talking and trying to make me the best hitter that I can be and he’s very passionate about what he does. He was the first to tell me, ‘I don’t care what you’ve done in the past — you can do better.’ I fully believe that."

Wells also weighed in on John McDonald going from the projected starter at short to the bench after the Jays signed David Eckstein:

"You talk to Johnny Mac and he’ll be the first to tell you that he just wants to win and that’s the kind of attitude we need from people on this team. Obviously, I think he played well enough to earn a spot, but when you have an opportunity to go out and  get somebody who’s always been an everyday player and has won championships, which is the biggest thing, he knows how what to do to win ballgames and we need more guys like that."

NEW LOOK: You probably noticed that the blog looks a little different. I figured now’s as good a time as any to usher in a new look for 2008. I’ve also been lazy with the links on the left side of the blog until now. I linked to other good Jays news sites, other MLB writer blogs, and the Web sites that I frequent. I didn’t link to other Jays blogs, but a few of my favorites include Drunk Jays Fans, the Tao of Stieb, the Mockingbird and All Your Base Are Belong to Rios. Also, you can now see my ugly mug, along with the beautiful Mrs. Bastian in the updated photo there on the left.

Goodnight all.

Prospecting

SniderTORONTO – Just killing some time until I head out tonight to the Jays’ annual Reverse Draw charity event, where Vernon Wells, Jeremy Accardo and Dustin McGowan will be making an appearance (though the crowd may be paying more attention to the magicians and showgirls expected to be in attendance, according to the press release that went out).

Anyway, I stumbled upon some top prospect lists just now and figured I’d relay where some of the Jays up-and-comers fall. The constant on all the lists I’ve seen, and this comes as no surprise, is Travis Snider (pictured right with Class A Lansing).

Baseball Prospectus has Snider ranked No. 7 on a list of their Top 100 prospects. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s the only Blue Jays rep on the list. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox have five and seven players on the list, respectively. On Keith Law’s Top 100 list on ESPN.com, Snider also ranks seventh and left-hander Brett Cecil ranks 63rd.

On MLB.com’s top 50 prospects list, Snider drops to 15th overall and is the only Toronto farmhand on the list. In the Sporting News fantasy preview mag I have in hand at the moment, Snider is 37th on a list of 50 prospects who could have an impact in 2008. In the mag’s Top 10 such prospects for ’09, Snider ranks fifth.

Snider will be in Dunedin with the big leaguers this spring as a non-roster invitee. If he keeps progressing as he has since being drafted, Snider could be a September callup this year. Coming up earlier than that could happen, but is unlikely. In ’09, Snider will probably make a push for a job with the Jays at some point. Maybe a left-field platoon of Adam Lind and Snider will be used at some point in ’09. Time will tell how soon Snider forced Toronto’s hand.

Santana heads to Queens

Johansantana4_1TORONTO – I, for one, will miss seeing Johan Santana pitch a few times a season. Now that he’s heading to the National League, anyone following the Blue Jays won’t be seeing much of the nasty left-hander.

Jays fans can rejoice, though, considering Santana didn’t land in pinstripes in the Bronx or on an already-sick staff in Beantown. No, as became increasingly predictable over the past few weeks, Santana landed with the New York Mets, who sent a package of four prospects and now have a 72-hour window in which to work out an extension with Santana.

Looking at the National League, I’ve got to think that the addition of Santana instantly makes the Metros the team to beat. They have a solid lineup and were in desperate need of another pitcher — enter a two-time Cy Young Award winner. Santana should thrive at Shea and against the lesser lineups in the NL. Santana happens to be 16-4 with a 2.27 ERA in Interleague Play and 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA at Shea. Small sample sizes, sure, but still telling.

OSCARS: Those of you who are regulars to my blog know that I’m a big film buff and I have yet to weigh in on the recent Oscar nominations. For me, I just wish Into the Wild would’ve received more love. I was upset that Enchanted had three nominees for original song, but Eddie Vedder wasn’t a pick for his work with Into the Wild. I was also hoping to see Sean Penn get the nod in the director’s category for the film — not the win, but a nomination. I’d like to see the Coen brothers get best director honors for No Country for Old Men and There WIll be Blood get the win for Best Picture.

For best actor/actress, I’m pulling for Daniel Day-Lewis for TWBB and Julie Christie for Away From Her. I don’t see local fave Ellen Page winning for Juno, but after recently watching the flick, I fully expect Diablo Cody to take home an Oscar for original screenplay. The only other real issue I had with the nominees was seeing Ruby Dee named for American Gangster. I guess that was more of a lifetime achievement-type nomination, considering her role wasn’t major in the movie. Oh, and where was The Simpsons in the best animated movie category?! Just terrible. You can’t tell me Surf’s Up was a better pick. And don’t get me started on seeing Sicko nominated in the documentary category. How a Michael Moore movie can be considered a documentary is beyond me, but I digress…

…back to baseball.

Barajas and other notes

BarajasTORONTO – Plenty of Blue Jays banter to cover today. I’m still waiting on word if we’re going to get Rod Barajas (pictured right) on a conference call today or not. We did get Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, who discussed the club’s latest head-turner.

As much as many of us who follows the Jays didn’t see the David Eckstein signing coming, we REALLY couldn’t have predicted Toronto signing Barajas. Well, we couldv’e predicted it, but would you have believed me? I didn’t believe myself when my brain pondered the possibility earlier this week (see previous post).

To recap briefly: The Jays offered Barajas a two-year, $5.25 million deal last winter and he agreed to sign, then switched agents and tried to re-open negotiations. Not happy, Toronto said no way Jose — or Rod, in this case — and re-signed Gregg Zaun to a two-year deal worth $7.25. Barajas went on to get a one-year, $2.5 mil deal with the Phils, found himself as a third string by the end of 2007 and became a free agent when Philly chose not to pick up his option. Ricciardi acknowledged last winter that he had "more than a handshake" with Barajas and that the Blue Jays would "remember this one."

They remember it, sure, but apparently it isn’t a big deal anymore. And apparently Barajas wasn’t overly upset at Ricciardi’s comments last winter, because he came to the Jays this winter. Ricciardi summarized it as follows: Jays Assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos mentioned to Barajas’ agency that Toronto was looking for a backup catcher and, shortly thereafter, Barajas’ agent contacted the Jays and the rest is history. It’s a $1.2 million deal for 2008 with an option for ’09.

Basically, Barajas is a slight upgrade over Sal Fasano (although I can’t think of anyone who could be an upgrade of Chicago-loving Sal in the clubhouse) and provides some depth for the Jays. Last year, Toronto ran into depth issues behind the plate with Zaun, Jason Phillips and Fasano, thanks to injuries to Zaun and Lyle Overbay at first base.

Barajas can get into the lineup against left-handed pitchers (even though his .233 lifetime average vs. LHP leaves something to be desired) and he can get some added playing time vs. teams who run. Barajas has a career caught-stealing percentage of 33.7, which is nice, but we’ll see how that holds up when he’s working with A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan and Roy Halladay. The guys can pitch, but the runners go wild.

The signing also allows catching prospects Robinzon Diaz and Curtis Thigpen to stay at Triple-A Syrcause. Ricciardi once again noted that perhaps one of those two could "push the envelope" and be ready for The Show by June or July, but adding Barajas means the Jays might not have to turn to a youngin’ prematurely in the case of an injury.

So, on those levels, this move makes sense. Barajas comes cheap, offers solid defense and helps provide more time for the prospects. Could a better catcher have been found? Maybe, but this isn’t a long-term solution. The bigger question is who will be behind the plate next season?

OTHER NOTES:

I chatted with Overbay yesterday (dude’s a Denver Broncos fan it turns out), and he said his recovering right hand is healing nicely. He’s hitting 5-6 times per week, doing light front-toss sessions. He hasn’t fielded grounders or seen live pitching, because he wants to wait to see how his hand (broken in June by a pitch from John Danks) responds, while coaches and trainers are there to watch.

Ricciardi said that the Barajas signing likely wraps up Toronto’s movement this winter: "I think we’re pretty much done now. I know I’ve said that in the past and things have always popped up. But I just don’t see anything that we’ve had our fingers on that is going to really lead to anything. I think this is our club."

As for the fifth starter spot, it looks like Casey Janssen, Jesse Litsch and Gustavo Chacin remain the top three candidates. Ricciardi emphasized that Janssen is being stretched out to compete for the job, but his status hinges on how close B.J. Ryan is to returning to the closer’s role, nothing’s changed there.

Speaking of Ryan, he’s set to throw off a mound on Monday for the first time since his Tommy John surgery in May. This is a good step, and all indications are that Ryan is progressing well and ahead of schedule, but the Jays will be extra cautious with him this spring. Considering TJ recoveries can take more than a year, I don’t see Ryan in the bullpen until May. Prove me wrong, B.J.

Ricciardi also said that Vernon Wells (season-ending surgery on left shoulder in Septemner) has been hitting and running through sessions with new hitting coach Gary Denbo. Wells has full range of motion again with his left shoulder (sound familiar? Scott Rolen, anyone?) and should be OK to go in Spring Training.

As for those contract talks with right fielder Alex Rios, they’re "ongoing," according to Ricciardi. Again, it’s looking like the Jays will settle on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration and then pick up talks on a mulityear contract during the spring. Said Ricciardi: "It’s kind of a two-in-one deal. We do have to get a one-year deal done if we’re hoping to avoid arbitration. The big picture and the smaller picture, we’re trying to grasp at the same time."

That should be enough to tide you over for now. There will be a notebook and story on both Barajas and some of these other items on bluejays.com today, if you want to read more of what was said today by Ricciardi. Who’s counting down to Spring Training? I know I am.

Can you believe it?

TORONTO – I’m heading out for a bit, but I’ve got to toss the latest news on here: The Blue Jays have signed Rod Barajas to be their backup catcher. Yes, the same catcher that backed out of a two-year offer last winter and kind of ticked the Jays off.

I’ll weigh in on this a bit more later, but I am and I am not surprised. Earlier this week, I was looking at available catchers and saw Barajas’ name and thought to myself, "They wouldn’t consider…nooo, who am I kidding? I mean, they liked him last year and he’s available, but…no way. I’m not even going to waste time considering it." Then, the press release lands in my inbox tonight. Gotta love it.

More later…

Down to one…

RiosTORONTO – So the list of arbitration eligible players is down to just one Mr. Alex Rios for the Blue Jays. On Friday, Rios’ camp exchanged salary figures with Toronto.

The Jays offer came to $4.535 million — exactly a $2 million raise over what Rios made in his first year of eligibility in ’07. Rios’ agent, Paul Kinzer, requested a 2008 salary of $5.65 million, representing more than a $1 million gap between the sides.

The Blue Jays are discussing a multiyear extension with Rios, so the exchange of salary figures was merely a procedural move. Any extension Rios garners would likely be of the four-year variety, which would cover his arb years and his first year of free-agency. Since Rios is in the fold through 2010, the Jays don’t need to hurry to reach an agreement with him.

So, the two sides could very well settle on a one-year pact if the negotiation process really starts to drag on. Neither Rios nor the club will want to have talks go into the season, so if a longterm deal is to be had, it’ll have to be settled before the end of Spring Training. Needless to say, there’s plenty of time for the sides to work a contract out.

On Friday, after announcing new deals for Scott Downs, Marco Scutaro, Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet and Gus Chacin, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi had this to say:

"The nice thing is we do have Alex here for the next three years and we are going to talk to him and continue to talk to him about a multiyear deal. We’ll see how it plays out.

"We’ve got all of Spring Training to continue to talk and we’ve got the course of the year to continue to talk," Ricciardi said. "But we don’t like to talk to a player during the year and I’m sure a player doesn’t really want to talk about it during the year.

"We’ve got all of February and all of March to try to work a long-term deal out and, if it doesn’t come to fruition, we’ve got him for the next two years and we can continue to try to work on it. We’re putting our best foot forward."

DOWNS: Good ol’ Scott said he was still in shock and in awe of the three-year, $10 million deal he signed with the Jays. Maybe he should be, considering that handing such a deal to a 31-year-old situational lefty with one really good season on his resume could easily come as a surprise to many people.

Then again, in the current market for pitchers (Brian Fuentes wants $6.5 million!), the deal that Downs agreed to might actually be below market value. Downs decided against being a free agent next winter and will now make $2.25 million in ’08, $3.75 million in ’09 and $4 million in ’10.

Ricciardi noted that there was no language in Downs’ contract about him spending any time as a starter or receiving any potential bonuses for starts. Last year, Downs settled into a late-inning role for the Jays, and thrived after the Jays decided leaving him in the bullpen full-time was the best move.

"I think with them keeping me in the same role for a whole season and not bumping me back and forth to the rotation like they did a couple years prior, I think it allowed me to get comfortable and to know the situation," Downs said.

Said Ricciardi: "I don’t see him as a starter. I think it’s a possibility at some point, but with what we have with [Casey]Janssen, who we’d like to have as a starter at some point, and Chacin and [Jesse] Litsch and some of the kids we have coming behind them, I think we probabably just value him more as that late-inning left-handeded guy, who’s still capable of getting righthanders out."

SCUTARO: The Jays’ new supersub was given a two-year deal worth $2.65 million. Ricciardi said he likes having a veteran on the bench for the next two years, especially considering David Eckstein is only wrapped up to play shortstop for one season.

"We like the player and it gives us some assurance at that position. Eckstein’s here for one year and we don’t know how that’s going to work out down the road. He gives us a little assurance in that position. I like our bench and I like our depth. I like the security of having a veteran there. We just thought it was a nice fit for us."

OTHERS: Frasor signed a one-year deal worth $1.125 million, Tallet signed a one-year contract worth $640,000 and Chacin — injured for most of the last two seasons — nearly doubled his pay and will make $725,000 next year. Beyond the signings, Ricciardi said he should have a better indication of how the roster will set up by the middle or end of next week. So, perhaps the backup catching situation will be resolved in the next few days.

Stay tuned…

And the winner is…

Rolen_1TORONTO – Upon further review, it’s really obvious who came out on top in the Scott-Rolen-for-Troy Glaus trade: us!

Yes, the true winners of this deal were me and my fellow ink-stained wretches here in Toronto. Nothing against Mr. Glaus, who was more than happy to call out A-Rod after the "Mine!" incident last season, and from what I hear was a standup teammate.

As a go-to guy in the clubhouse, though, Glaus was near the bottom of the list. He was shy with the media and came off as standoffish, but not every player is going to warm up to us vultures. We received only a small taste of Rolen on Tuesday night, but the man had us laughing and wasn’t above poking fun at himself, his family or his history.

So, at first glance, Rolen seems like a great guy and he definitely seemed happy to be in Toronto (who doesn’t look happy during their introductory presser, though?). OK, maybe he just looked happy to be somewhere that wasn’t St. Louis. Whatever the case, he said all the right things and took the spotlight off general manager J.P. Ricciardi for once.

As far as the trade goes, it’s sounding more and more like this was a move to help accomodate two players’ wishes to escape their respective towns and less of a situation where the clubs coveted the others’ third baseman. Ricciardi shed light on the fact that Glaus asked to be traded (he liked Toronto, just wanted to get off the FieldTurf) some time around the All-Star break and, knowing Rolen’s issues in St. Louis, the Jays asked if the Cards would be interested in a one-for-one swap in December.

What Ricciardi said was initially a long process wrapped up rather quickly over the past week. Rolen said he wasn’t even aware of the Jays’ offer until the Cardinals came calling, saying Glaus had waived his no-trade clause. After discussing the matter with his family, who apparently will be very noticeable around the Jays, Rolen decided it was a great opportunity.

Rolen2_1Rolen was cracking wise from the get-go. When asked for an opening comment, he glanced over at Ricciardi and said, "I do have a tie with me, but I didn’t want to show J.P. up." When he was trying on his new Jays jersey, he stopped and grunted, "Ow, my shoulder," gaining the first of many chuckles. Later, when asked about the injury and the subsequent rehab, Rolen grinned wide and spouted, "I can’t believe I passed my physical," to an eruption of laughter.

When asked about the artificial surface at the Rogers Centre, Rolen leaned over and peered down to the field and said, "You guys have turf?" He glared mockingly at Ricciardi when the GM started describing him as a "dirtbag," and later Rolen played on that by saying he had to "play baseball and be a dirtbag" with the Jays.

In picking his number — 33 — Rolen mocked the serious manner in which such a trivial decision is for ballplayers. "We educated baseball players, we have these stories, we have these big things we have to put up with, you know these HUGE decisions, like what number am I going to wear? This is a BIG DEAL for us."

This time around, he said he had his wife put all the available digits on a piece of paper and had his 3-year-old daughter, Raine, decide what number daddy was going to wear. His daughter pointed at ’33’ and said "firty-free. So that’s the number I’m going to wear. I’m going to wear firty-free."

Rolen said if there’s an RV sitting out by any of the ballparks the Jays are visitiing, it’s just his parents, who take in 81 home games and hit the road for more. Meanwhile, he said "me and my family, we’re going to tear this place up." So, probably a good thing the Jays have expanded the home clubhouse.

Rolen did steer away from a question about his falling out with Cards manager Tony La Russa ("Huh. I didn’t think that was going to come up. That’s surprising.). But that didn’t stop him from saying there might be plenty of time to "cast stones" down the road. As for Jays skipper John Gibbons, Rolen talked to him on the phone during his physical: "I’m thinking he might be from the South?"

Rolen said he had exchanged text messages with former Jay and current Card Chris Carpenter earlier in the day on Tuesday. The big advice he received was to take his dogs west of the city, because it’d be better than downtown. As for teaming up with David Eckstein again: "He has the little engine that could mentality and rightly so. … It was great playing with David for the two or three years that we got to play together and to win a world championship with him. It’ll be nice to stay together and have a familiar face right away."

Of course, the biggest question going forward is about Rolen’s left surgery, which he’s had three operations on over the past three years. This last one in September was more of a cleanup procedure to clear out some scar tissue. Rolen said his range of motion is back and he’s started hitting and fielding with no problems.

Dr. Steve Mirabello examined Rolen and said he was "thrilled to death. He told me I had a completely normal physical, which I haven’t had for the last two or three years." Mirabello and Jays head trainer George Poulis are also very familiar with Rolen’s personal trainer, Hap Hudson. So, if there was any hint from any party that Rolen was still hurting, Toronto wouldn’t have gone forward with this trade.

Rolen admitted that he’s not the best judge of his health status, though. He said he feels as strong and healthy as he has in the last three or fours years, but he also told people he was "ready to go" last year while playing injured for four months. He said he’ll defer to any orders from the training staff, but is ready to suit up for the first Spring Training game, if allowed.

"I’ve rehabbed with [Hudson] unfortunately too often on that shoulder. I guess it’d be best for him to say [if I’m healthy]. I sit here all the time and say, ‘I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go.’ The reality is last year I played four months hurt and kept telling people I was ready to go. So I may not know what the **** I’m talking about."

Rolen said that the main problem last season was in the load of his swing. The limited range of motion, caused by the injury, didn’t allow him to bring his hands back as far during the load, leading to the diminished power production. I’m sure we’ll be keeping an eye on his hands this spring to see if he can find some of those home runs he’s missed out on in recent years.

So, with that, it’s still going to take time to see if this trade benefits the Cards or Jays more. One thing it does is solve Toronto’s need for a third baseman in light of Glaus’ trade request. The Jays understood that Glaus probably wouldn’t exercise his ’09 player option next winter, when the free-agent crop for the hot corner is thin. Obtaining Rolen gives Toronto a few years to hopefully get prospect Kevin Ahrens close to being big-league ready.

OTHER NOTES: Ricciardi indicated that the Jays still have a few more minor things in the works to potentially upgrade the bench. Basically, it sounds like Toronto is still exploring the trade market to obtain a backup catcher. Ricciardi said talks are ongoing with Alex Rios on a multiyear extension and Toronto is close on a few of its arb-eligible players (Rios, Scutaro, Downs, Frasor, Tallet, Chacin). Teams exchange salary figures with their arb guys on Friday and the hearings, if needed, are from Feb. 1-20.

It's official

TORONTO – I don’t know if they accidentally examined Troy Glaus’ shoulder and Scott Rolen’s foot, but the pair of third basemen have passed their respective medical exams and are switching cities.

Monday night, the Blue Jays and Cardinals officially announced that the trade that’s sending Glaus to St. Louis and Rolen to Toronto was complete. Now, time will tell whether or not Glaus (left foot surgery in Sept.) and Rolen (left shoulder surgery in Sept.) can bounce back from their injuries and be the All-Stars they once were.

The Jays are flying Rolen to Toronto for a press conference on Tuesday. Once we’re all done interviewing him, us Toronto scribes can swarm GM J.P. Ricciardi and get back to backup catcher watch. I’ll be bringing play-by-play manana. Later all.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 9:44 p.m. – Coverage of the Scott Rolen presser should be on MLB.com before too long. I’ll blog some of the stuff I didn’t include in the story later on. For now, I need to hit the gym. In short, Rolen seems like a great guy, had the rooming in stitches at some points, and Ricciardi said the club has a few minor things still in the works to upgrade the bench. More to come…

Near completion…

RolenglausTORONTO – All that is holding up the Scott Rolen-for-Troy Glaus trade is those pesky physicals, which are set for Monday. So, barring any lingering red flags in Rolen’s left shoulder or Glaus’ left foot, an official announcement should come on Monday or Tuesday.

It also appears as though this is a straight-up one-for-one swap with no additional money besides the contracts being exchanged. If that’s indeed the case, the Commissioner’s Office doesn’t need to put the ol’ stamp of approval on the deal to get it done.

So, Toronto and St. Louis exchanged risks. I don’t see this being a move that’s overwhelmingly good or bad for either club, but more of a win-win situation for the players. Glaus, while happy in Toronto, gets to move to a grass playing field in St. Louis. Rolen gets away from his escalating feud with Cards skipper Tony La Russa.

The money is about the same tied to each player, though Rolen has three years left to Glaus’ two. Word is that the Cards would only do the deal when Glaus agreed to kick in his 2009 player option. St. Louis gets a potentially powerful bat to slide behind Albert Pujols in the lineup and Toronto gets a slick glove and versatile bat to add to its lineup.

When healthy (man, I’m tired of writing that with this team), Rolen might be the best fielding third baseman in the game. He and second baseman Aaron Hill should help mask anything Toronto might’ve lost on defense by making the switch to David Eckstein from John McDonald.

Offensively, Rolen hasn’t launched as many homers as Glaus annually, but he’s performed better in virtually every other category:

Rolen, 32 — .283 AVG, .372 OBP, .507 SLG, 28 HR and 109 RBI per 162 games
Glaus, 31 — .254 AVG, .358 OBP, .500 SLG, 36 HR and 101 RBI per 162 games

I may have said it in my last post, but I, for one, am a fan of this trade. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Frank Thomas and Troy Glaus hit back-to-back in the lineup, solely because when both are on base it really limits what the Jays can do on the basepaths. Too many times last year, Toronto’s lack of speed made them a station-to-station offense.

As much as injuries took a toll on the lineup, this was a part of the problem, too. Rolen brings a little more speed to the group. I’m thinking a lineup consisting of Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Thomas, Lyle Overbay, Rolen and Hill in the Nos. 2-7 spots (maybe not necessarily in that order) should bode better for run production. Time will tell.

There’s always the outside chance that those medicals could derail this whole thing. Or, maybe the physicals will be fine, but the injuries might still be an issue during the year. Who knows? You saw how trying to hit with a bum left shoulder affected Wells last season.

Hot Corner Swap

Scott_rolen_25TORONTO – The Jays and Cards are discussing a trade that would swap third basemen Troy Glaus and Scott Rolen. According to sources, the sides are close to a deal, pending physicals and some financial details.

I like this move for the Jays. Rolen is an upgrade on defense and can provide a solid bat. He’s coming off left shoulder surgery, but he had a strong year after a similar operation in ’05. This is the second surgery on the shoulder, and he’s expected to be OK for this season.

Glaus, meanwhile, is coming off left foot surgery and I think he’s a bigger risk playing on the turf in Toronto. He’s had leg issues ever since he came north and he didn’t look good in the field last year. I was surprised at how well he manned third in ’06, but he didn’t fare as well in ’07. Glaus also makes the media wait eons to get a few questions in, but that’s a whole other issue…

Money wise, Rolen is on the books for $12 million in each of the next three years. Glaus is slated to make $12.75 in ’08 and another $11.25 in ’09 through a player option. As part of the deal, St. Louis would probably have to send some cash Toronto’s way. Both players would also have to waive their no-trade clauses, which won’t be an issue in this case.

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