(KATHY WILLENS ~ Associated Press)
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak believes that with one trade he eliminated a potentially disruptive clubhouse rift and filled one of the team's greatest needs.
The Cardinals this week sent disgruntled third baseman Scott Rolen to Toronto for Troy Glaus in a swap of third basemen. Mozeliak discussed the trade during a news conference Wednesday. Glaus also spoke with the media via conference call.
Rolen approached Mozeliak about a trade soon after the October announcement that manager Tony La Russa agreed to a two-year contract extension. The third baseman and manager have been at odds dating to the 2006 postseason when La Russa benched Rolen, who at the time was struggling due to a shoulder injury.
Even winning the 2006 World Series, when Rolen was among the Cardinals' best hitters in a five-game win over Detroit, failed to heal the wounds. It didn't help that Rolen's lingering shoulder injury limited him to 112 games and eight homers last season.
Mozeliak said he had concerns going into spring training about how the tension between the two could affect the team. But he said he would not have traded Rolen, 32, just for the sake of trading him.
"When you think about what he did as a player and what we were able to see, it wasn't the easiest decision to make, but one that when we really narrowed everything down, we realized it was in the best interest of Scott and the St. Louis Cardinals to go our separate ways," Mozeliak said.
More importantly, he said, the Cardinals acquired one of baseball's most productive third basemen.
"We really feel like we addressed one of the needs we had this offseason, and that was trying to find a right-handed power bat," Mozeliak said.
Rolen is right-handed, too, but persistent shoulder problems have limited his power. He hit only 35 homers combined over the past three seasons. Glaus combined for 75 homers in 2005-06, but was limited to 20 in just 115 games last season due to an injury to his left foot.
Mozeliak said he and La Russa have only begun to start talking about how the 2008 lineup will look. It's still possible the team may make another deal or two, possibly for an outfielder.
But Glaus realizes one of his roles will be to provide protection in the lineup for Albert Pujols. Pujols bats third, and cleanup seems a likely fit for Glaus.
Glaus, 31, said he's excited to come to a city long known for its love of baseball. He recalled that, as a 6-year-old growing up in California, he told his mother he would one day play third base for the Cardinals. He's not even sure why he said it.
"Funny thing is, here it is 25 years later and I get a chance to do that," he said.
Glaus said he looks forward to playing for La Russa, promising to play hard and play to win.
"If that's what Tony wants out of a player, we're going to be all right," he said.
Glaus had surgery in September for a ruptured plantar fascia. He said his recovery is about three weeks ahead of schedule. He has begun running sprints and expects to be 100 percent by the season-opener. Busch Stadium's grass surface is expected to be easier on the foot than the artificial turf in Toronto.
Last year, SI.com reported Glaus received steroids from Signature Pharmacy between September 2003 and May 2004. On Dec. 6, Major League Baseball said it found insufficient evidence to discipline him.
Mozeliak said the team looked into the allegations and found no cause for alarm.
"I'm very comfortable with where this stands," he said.
Glaus declined to elaborate on the steroids investigation.
Glaus has spent nine of his 10 seasons in the American League. He had 37 homers and 97 RBIs with a .258 average for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005. That year he batted .650 (13-for-20) against the Cardinals, including going 7-for-9 in St. Louis.
Rolen has three years and $36 million to go on an eight-year, $90 million deal signed in 2003, while Glaus is due $12 million this year with an $11.5 million player option for 2009.