ST. LOUIS -- It was the classic challenge trade, and one of the more intriguing deals of the offseason. The Cardinals sent Scott Rolen to Toronto in a one-for-one exchange for Troy Glaus, another former All-Star at the same position.

To some extent, the players were mirror images. Rolen remains an elite defender, at least arguably still the best in the game. But in his increasingly injury-hampered state, Rolen had become a major question mark on offense.

Glaus, on the other hand, was a potent offensive performer even in his last year in Toronto, when a foot injury limited him to 115 games. But his compromised mobility had turned him into a questionable defender.

The conventional wisdom in January has all proved to be true in August, except for one piece. Glaus has shown himself to be an exemplary defensive player. He's at least in contention to join Rolen, Terry Pendleton, Ken Reitz and Ken Boyer on the list of Cardinals Gold Glovers at the hot corner.

"Who's playing better than he is defensively?" manager Tony La Russa asked. "I would think he's the favorite."

For the most part, the scouting report on Glaus was accurate. He's not an acrobat, and he's not exceptionally fast. But he's been extremely sure-handed, he comes in on balls extremely well and he's quick in his reactions.

"To me, playing good defense is making the plays you're supposed to make," Glaus said. "The diving plays, hey, that's great. Everybody loves to see them, they're awesome. Bare-hand plays, things like that, everybody loves those. But at the end of the day, you just try to make the plays you're supposed to make. That's it."

He has assuredly done that. He stands far above everyone in conventional fielding stats, with a .984 fielding percentage that is way better than any other National League third baseman. He's been charged with just five errors this year.

But the more advanced numbers also tell a similar tale. He's second in double plays, tied for fourth in range factor and fifth in zone rating. In revised zone rating, a metric used by The Hardball Times, Glaus is tied for fifth. In The Fielding Bible's plus-minus ratings, he's second in the league behind only the Dodgers' Blake DeWitt, who's been nudged out of a job by trade acquisition Casey Blake.

Gold Glaus?
Troy Glaus' fielding statistics and rankings among National League third basemen:
Fielding Percentage.9841st
Double plays24T-2nd
Range factor2.76T-4th
Zone rating.7935th
Revised zone rating.709T-5th
Fielding Bible plus-minus+82nd

Glaus maintains he hasn't changed a thing. Cardinals infield coach Jose Oquendo says the same, that the club has simply let Glaus be himself.

"We just left him alone," Oquendo said. "Let him take ground balls when he wants to. We didn't try to change him. He's been around. He knows how to play the game. He was a shortstop, so a lot of the moves he does, he does like a shortstop."

For Glaus, the biggest factor this year is health, followed by perhaps a little luck. Plantar fasciitis rendered him all but immobile in 2007, and it was clear to see when he played the field.

"Last year was frustrating because I couldn't really move," he said. "I was fairly stationary, taking what was there. But for the most part, I'm doing what I've always done. Same preparation. Same everything. Maybe just a couple of in-between hops are going in where, maybe in years past they didn't."

With Rolen, a seven-time Gold Glover, gone to the AL, and Ryan Zimmerman enduring an injury-plagued year, the Gold Glove race may well be wide open. Coaches and managers vote on the awards, and they may not vote for their own players.

David Wright is the reigning winner, and he has edges on Glaus in revised zone rating and out-of-zone plays made. By most other metrics, though, Glaus ranks ahead of Wright. Not that the numbers necessarily dictate the winners when it comes to Gold Gloves, but Glaus must at least be in the conversation.

"He can't get my vote," said Oquendo, "but he would be my guy."

Glaus talks about Gold Glove possibilities in the same way he talks about hitting home runs, or virtually any other individual accomplishment or accolade. Sure, it would be nice, but it's not what he's aiming for.

"I'd love to be able to have that on the mantel," he said. "But at this point, that's not the goal. My goal is to play as well as I can and get this team into the playoffs. That's it."