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01/14/08 2:07 PM ET

Mailbag: Why deal Rolen for Glaus?

Beat reporter Matthew Leach answers Cards fans' questions

The Cardinals were quiet early in the winter, but they've been busy lately, leaving lots of moves to talk about in the weekly mailbag.

As always, if you have a question, use the link below to submit it -- and please be sure to include your first name, last initial and hometown. If you send a regular e-mail, rather than using the form, be certain to use the word "mailbag" in the subject header -- otherwise your mail may be directed to the spam folder or possibly be ignored in an unbecoming manner. Also, please understand that literally hundreds of e-mails arrive every week, so they can't all be used in the mailbag or receive personal responses.

Why would the Cardinals think of trading Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus? Sure, Rolen has had a few bad years at the plate, but Glaus isn't much better. Rolen has one advantage over Glaus -- he is one of the best defensive third basemen in the league. Also, he may come back off surgery with a strong bat for the next season, a most likely possibility.
-- Justin D., Bloomington, Ill.

Obviously since the details of this trade became public, it took over as the No. 1 topic in the mailbag. So let's break it down -- even though, as I write this, it's not quite officially announced as final.

The Cardinals evidently felt they were in a pretty untenable spot with Rolen, given his level of discontent with his manager. Once Tony La Russa called him out in Nashville in December, conventional wisdom was that they had no chance but to trade Rolen somewhere.

So why Glaus? Well, first, let's take some issue with one of Justin's assertions. By most measures, Glaus has indeed been a much better hitter than Rolen the past three years. He hits for tremendous power and he gets on base, which are the two most valuable things a hitter can do. Rolen's power has dropped off drastically since he began having these shoulder troubles, and there's no being sure he will regain it.

Indisputably, Rolen is a better defender -- he's a better defender than pretty much any third baseman since Mike Schmidt. But on total value, they really are pretty close to equal. So if you accept that the Cards had to deal Rolen -- and that's the real question, isn't it? -- then it seems they did a good job of getting pretty close to full value on the dollar. And there's the added benefit that they're getting a guy a year and a half younger.

To my eye, it's not a clear win, but it's not a loss. And once they decided they had to trade Rolen, anything that's not a loss is an accomplishment.

With all of this, though, it's worth noting that Rolen at his best is a wonderful player, a special player, the kind of guy you buy a ticket to see play. I hope he regains that form. I wish him well; he was a delight to watch play, and a terrific guy to cover as well.

I saw today that we signed Josh Phelps. He seems to handle the bat pretty well, so what are the plans for him if he were to make the team out of Spring Training? Would he back up Albert Pujols at first or be a backup to our backup catcher?
-- Jamie S., Vancouver, Wash.

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It's going to be tough for Phelps to make the team out of camp, just because of the number of infielders who will be around. But if he does, it will be as a guy who plays a lot of places. He won't make it as only a backup first baseman, no matter how well he hits. He'd be an emergency catcher, and he'd probably have to show some ability to hold his own at third base and/or in the outfield.

But the more likely scenario, to my eye, appears to be that he'll go to Memphis to start the year, and he'll be ready if needed. Think of Ryan Ludwick last year.

With Jim Edmonds being traded, it looks like Rick Ankiel may end up with the starting spot in center. Has Ankiel been working on his hitting and fielding in any Fall/Winter Leagues or is he getting normal rest in the offseason anticipating an everyday spot in the outfield this season?
-- Travis C., Springfield, Mo.

Ankiel did not play any fall or winter ball this year. His knee has been a bit troublesome at times and in need of occasional maintenance, so the rest does him good. Don't forget that, although he played a lot of right in St. Louis, he played a good deal of center in the Minors. So it's not as though he'd be playing a position he's never seen before.

Spring Training question: Do most of the players have vacation homes in Florida or do they rent/lease for the duration? And what about their families, especially those with kids in school?
-- Norm A., Powder Springs, Ga.

I would say that most rent during the spring, though some guys have homes in the area. Most have their families come down for some, but not all, of the spring -- a couple of weeks or so.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.