And the winner is…
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.
Rolen 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.