January 14, 2008: Cardinals trade Scott Rolen to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus

As a 6-year-old boy growing up in Southern California, Troy Glaus proudly told his mother that he wanted to be the Cardinals’ third baseman. Twenty-five years later, that dream came true, though it required a “very personal” feud between Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and third baseman Scott Rolen to make it happen.

On January 14, 2008, the Cardinals traded Rolen to the Blue Jays for Glaus. Both players had requested trades, though while Glaus had quietly approached Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi during the season about possibly trading him due to the Rogers Centre turf, which he believed was aggravating his foot injury, Rolen’s trade request was public and confrontational.[1]

The Cardinals acquired Rolen just ahead of the 2002 trade deadline after Rolen feuded with Phillies manager Larry Bowa. Rolen quickly established himself as a core piece of the Cardinals’ success, making four consecutive all-star games, winning three Gold Gloves, and placing fourth in the National League MVP voting in 2004. Along the way, he became part of the Cardinals’ vaunted “MV3” alongside Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds.

In 2005, however, Rolen suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with the Dodgers’ Hee-Seop Choi. The Cardinals attempted to repair the injury with arthroscopic surgery and rehabilitation, but the injury lingered and the Cardinals and Rolen disagreed on how to proceed. Rolen’s agents threatened legal action to gain the Cardinals’ consent for reconstructive surgery on the shoulder, finally gaining permission for Dr. Tim Kremchek, the Reds’ medical supervisor, to perform the surgery.

Rolen hit .296 with 22 homers and 95 RBIs in 2006 but was limited late in the season by his shoulder. In the NLDS against the Padres, he hit just .091 (1-for-11) with eight strikeouts. After Rolen went 0-for-3 in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Mets, La Russa started Scott Spiezio at third base in Game 2. The relationship between manager and player didn’t recover, even after Rolen returned to the starting lineup in Game 3. After batting .238 in the NLCS (5-for-21 with a double), Rolen hit .421 (8-for-19) with a home run in the World Series.

The feud continued into the 2007 season, as did Rolen’s shoulder soreness. He shut it down for the season in late August and Kremchek performed a cleanup procedure that September.[2]

“I couldn’t get the bat back where I needed to,” Rolen said. “That was my biggest problem. I was basically just diving at balls and trying to run into stuff. It was a pretty painful four months.”[3]

When La Russa polled the team near the end of the season as to whether he should return the following year, Rolen was the only player to vote no.[4] After the Cardinals gave La Russa a two-year contract extension, Rolen informed general manager John Mozeliak that he would waive his no-trade clause if the Cardinals dealt him to a contender. The Brewers and Cardinals discussed a possible deal, but negotiations broke down and it appeared that Rolen would be back in St. Louis in 2008.[5]

“Speaking for me … there’s absolutely no intention to accommodate Scott,” La Russa said. “I mean, that’s not how you run an organization. The idea is to accommodate the St. Louis Cardinals, our team, our responsibility to our players and to the competition. So, no, I don’t want to accommodate Scott.”[6]

In December, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that La Russa and Rolen had not spoken at length since midway through the season and that La Russa “sent a lengthy letter to Rolen shortly after the season but the correspondence was poorly received.”[7] Sources close to Rolen said he was considering not reporting to spring training until March 1, the mandatory report date, to encourage a trade.[8]

La Russa said he couldn’t remember being bothered this much by a situation with a player.[9]

“It’s very clear that he’s unhappy and I’m making it clear that I don’t know why he’s unhappy,” La Russa said. “I can make a list of 50 respect points that this man has been given by our organization. It’s time for him to give back.”[10]

In the midst of the rift between La Russa and Rolen, however, the Blue Jays saw an opportunity. As part of the trade, Glaus not only waived his no-trade clause but exercised his player option for the 2009 season.

“When Troy was first informed by the club that this was a possibility, he thought upon his approval it was done,” said Glaus’ agent, Mike Nicotera. “For him, it was an easy choice. It didn’t take him long at all to agree to the trade and take his option. It was almost instantaneous.”[11]

After Glaus and Rolen each passed their physicals, the teams needed only to wait upon Major League Baseball approval, since the Blue Jays were sending the Cardinals $1.8 million as part of the deal.[12]

“Everybody in baseball knew there was a problem with the relationship over there,” Ricciardi said. “We were aware of the situation and we were honest. We weren’t looking to trade Troy, but we thought it was a situation that could help both players.”[13]

Like Rolen, Glaus was a four-time all-star. With the Angels in 2000, he led the American League with 47 homers, the first of three consecutive seasons in which he drove in triple-digit RBIs. Glaus suffered a shoulder injury of his own in 2004, limiting him to just 58 games.

A free agent for the first time in his career ahead of the 2005 season, Glaus made a shortlist of teams he was interested in playing for. That list included the Cardinals.

“There were a number of reasons why the Cardinals interested him, even back then and certainly now,” Nicotera said. “All that might sound cliché or convenient because of the recent situation, but for him, the Cardinals have certainly been up there as a place he wanted to play.”[14]

Glaus ultimately signed with the Diamondbacks, where he hit 37 home runs in 2005 before he was traded to the Blue Jays. In Toronto, he hit 38 homers, drove in 104 runs, and was named to the all-star game. In 2007, however, plantar fasciitis limited Glaus to just 115 games.

“He went through the season trying to manage it every day and then it just got to a point where it had to be addressed,” Nicotera said.[15]

Shortly before Glaus had season-ending surgery on his foot, an SI.com report alleged he had steroids shipped to his home from September 2003 to May 2004. Glaus met with Major League Baseball investigators and in December the commissioner released a statement that there was insufficient evidence to take disciplinary action against him. The Cardinals felt satisfied with the results of the investigation and their own discussions with Glaus.[16]

“When you look at them player by player, at the end of the day what breaks the tie is a happy player vs. an unhappy player,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “There’s no doubt when you look at what Troy brings to the table he has off-the-chart power, and we’re looking for someone who will give Albert protection in our lineup. Who better to do that?”[17]

“St. Louis is a city that I’ve dreamed about playing in since I was a kid,” said Glaus. “Given that opportunity, I felt that it was something I couldn’t pass up.”[18]

Glaus played two seasons in St. Louis. In 2008, he hit 27 homers and drove in 99 runs, but in January 2009 he required arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. Though the Cardinals initially expected him to return around the start of the season, he didn’t make his return until September.

For the 2010 season, he signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Braves. In 128 games, he hit 16 home runs and 71 RBIs. He retired after the season, ending a 13-season major league career that included 320 home runs and 950 RBIs.

In Toronto, Rolen got a fresh start, free from his tension with La Russa. At his introductory press conference, Rolen removed his coat at the press conference and jokingly said, “Oh, my shoulder.”[19]

He said he didn’t plan to discuss his issues with La Russa, nor would he use the conflict for motivation moving forward.

“To go out and try to prove to somebody else, whatever your motives, I’m not sure if that’s healthy,” Rolen said. “I want to focus all my attention and my competition on the field. Too many times the last year, year-and-a-half, some of the focus was off the field instead of on the field, where it should stay.”[20]

David Eckstein, who played alongside Rolen each of the past three seasons, had just signed a free-agent contract with the Blue Jays in December.

“I think it is going to be a good move for both clubs,” he said. “St. Louis was looking for someone to back Albert up, that power bat, and Troy definitely fits that. And this will be a good thing for Scott. We know the situation with Scott, and this is his fresh start.”[21]

For his part, Rolen said his shoulder felt as good as it had since his collision with Choi.

“I feel as good and as strong as I’ve been in the last three years, by far,” he said. “I feel right now that I’m back where I wanted to be before all the destruction. I don’t have any restrictions right now.”[22]

Rolen lost some of that momentum when he broke a finger in spring training and missed the opening weeks of the season. During the summer, his shoulder required another stint on the disabled list. In 115 games, he hit .262 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs.

In 2009, he looked to regain some of his old form, batting .320 with eight homers and 42 RBIs in 88 games. At the trading deadline, the Blue Jays sent him to Cincinnati for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart.

Rolen played the final 3 ½ years of his career in Cincinnati. In 2010, he hit 20 home runs and drove in 83. He was selected for the all-star game and won the Gold Glove. He was named to the seventh and final all-star game of his career in 2011.

Rolen retired following the 2012 season with a .281 career batting average, 316 home runs, and 1,287 RBIs. Along the way, he won the Rookie of the Year Award, a Silver Slugger, and eight Gold Gloves. In 2019, he was named to the Cardinals Hall of Fame.


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[1] Derrick Goold, “Rolen relishes ‘fresh start,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 16, 2008.

[2] Joe Strauss, “La Russa: Now, it’s personal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2007.

[3] Associated Press, “Trade gives Rolen opportunity to put La Russa feud behind him,” The Pantagraph, January 15, 2008.

[4] Joe Strauss, “La Russa: Now, it’s personal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2007.

[5] Joe Strauss, “La Russa: Now, it’s personal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2007.

[6] Joe Strauss, “La Russa: Now, it’s personal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2007.

[7] Joe Strauss, “La Russa: Now, it’s personal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2007.

[8] Derrick Goold, “Rolen relishes ‘fresh start,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 16, 2008.

[9] Joe Strauss, “La Russa: Now, it’s personal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2007.

[10] Joe Strauss, “La Russa: Now, it’s personal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2007.

[11] Derrick Goold, “Hot corner zen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 15, 2008.

[12] Derrick Goold, “Slick pick at third?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 17, 2008.

[13] Derrick Goold, “Rolen relishes ‘fresh start,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 16, 2008.

[14] Derrick Goold, “Hot corner zen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 15, 2008.

[15] Derrick Goold, “Option for ’09 is key to trade,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 14, 2008.

[16] Derrick Goold, “Slick pick at third?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 17, 2008.

[17] Derrick Goold, “Slick pick at third?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 17, 2008.

[18] Derrick Goold, “Slick pick at third?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 17, 2008.

[19] Derrick Goold, “Rolen relishes ‘fresh start,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 16, 2008.

[20] Associated Press, “Trade gives Rolen opportunity to put La Russa feud behind him,” The Pantagraph, January 15, 2008.

[21] Derrick Goold, “Hot corner zen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 15, 2008.

[22] Associated Press, “Trade gives Rolen opportunity to put La Russa feud behind him,” The Pantagraph, January 15, 2008.

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