Given that this is the time of year when rumors are as thick as the humidity up here, I thought “what the heck” and decided to throw out an idea not broached so far in the deluge: Why not take a chance on Rafael Furcal?
Given, Furcal’s season thus far has been a train wreck. While trying to battle through an assortment of injuries including a broken thumb and an oblique strain, he’s hit only .195 with an OPS of .508 in only 147 plate appearances. But as recently as last year he hit .300 with an OPS of .826. For his career he’s at .283/.756. He’s also stolen 298 bases, including 22 last year. Scouts say the talent is still there, both at the plate and in the field. While he’s not the same player he was in his first go-round in Atlanta, talent-wise I’m not sure he’s much different than the player the Braves thought they had signed in 2008 before the Dodgers swooped in at the last minute (remember John Schuerholz famous “we’ll never do business with them again” pronouncement (you can read it here if you like).
Granted, at 33 years old, Furcal now seems to be an injury waiting to happen, but I think the risk is somewhat mitigated by the fact that some of his recent maladies are either very common and can and do happen to anyone from time-to-time (oblique), making him no more prone to them than many other players or unlikely to recur (broken thumb). Furcal, though, would bring the kind of energy this team is often lacking. He would bring speed that’s just not there now. And it is extremely likely that he would bring offense back to the shortstop position. Plus, he’s a natural lead-off hitter who also has occasional spurts of power, kind of like the power we hoped Alex Gonzalez would bring.
It is believed that the Dodgers would pick up a large portion of the $4.8 million owed Furcal over the balance of the season, as they have an heir-apparent (Dee Gordon) ready to step into the position. Furcal also has a $12 million option for 2012 that vests at 600 PA, which cannot happen. However, there is a strong likelihood that Furcal would take a “lean deal” as a one year contract for 2012, allowing him to rehabilitate his image for the free agent market in 2013. That part of the equation is “win-win” for the Braves, as they either cut a sweet deal for 2012 if the rest of 2011 goes well (allowing Tyler Pastornicky to play a year at AAA before moving up to Atlanta), or cut ties and focus on Tyler Pastornicky’s rapid development for 2012 if it doesn’t.
My take is that the Braves can do this deal with very little budget impact and without giving up a major prospect. Heck, doing this deal wouldn’t even impact their ability to trade for an OF bat. Worst case, the Braves bench has Furcal on it instead of Julio Lugo; how can that be a bad thing?
So that’s my take on an out-of-the-box idea. My guess is that there are a bunch of you with opinions of your own on this. Let us hear your take!