Cardinals Add Furcal to Mix

In an effort to sure up their interior defense, the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, bringing Rafael Furcal back east in exchange for Double-A outfielder Alex Castellanos. The trade was first reported last night, but could not be made official until Furcal – a 10/5 player – waived his no-trade clause to complete the transaction.

For the Dodgers – who open up for business today 12.5 games out in the National League West – trading Furcal provides the team with some financial relief and opens up a spot for top prospect Dee Gordon at the major-league level. The Dodgers are reportedly picking up $2.5 million on the balance of Furcal’s $6 million salary, but still save over $1 million with the move.

Los Angeles also receives the 24-year-old Castellanos – the owner of a .408 wOBA at the Double-A level this season. Despite his lack of size (listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds) Castellanos has displayed good power, progressing though the Cardinals organization, but relatively poor plate discipline. In addition to the power, he flashes speed on the base paths and could be a serviceable fourth outfielder or the right-handed piece of a platoon.

As mentioned, the Dodgers now have a home for Dee Gordon who was vanquished back to Triple-A earlier in the month. Although Gordon struggled in his initial call up (.245 wOBA in 85 plate appearances), he should get another chance to prove he can handle major-league pitching with Furcal out of the way.

Speaking of Furcal, the 33-year-old has had trouble staying healthy for the third time in four years. In 2011, he has suffered through a broken left thumb and more recently battled with a strained oblique. Furcal’s struggles to stay on the field have leaked in to his play on it. In just 37 games this season, he is hitting .197/.272/.248 with a .241 wOBA. At the same time, the small sample size issue along with injuries and inconsistent playing time because of those injuries render the results almost useless. Furcal is likely much closer to a league average hitter than his current 48 wRC+ suggests.

Getting production from Furcal’s bat would be a nice boon for St. Louis; however, this move should do much more to improve the Cardinals defense than their offense. Ryan Theriot has started 85 games at shortstop for the Cardinals this season. While he has been an average defender in the past, Theriot has cost the team about 10 runs on defense this season with limited range. For a team that relies on groundballs (48.2% team GB rate is second highest in MLB), an average-to-slightly average shortstop like Furcal is a huge asset to have.

Unlike the Giants acquisition of Orlando Cabrera, the Cardinals addition of Furcal should provide ancillary benefits down the stretch. A healthy Furcal is capable of providing sufficient offensive production while upgrading the team’s defense at a key position. At the cost of a fringe prospect and a little over a million dollars, the move is a solid one for St. Louis as they chase the Milwaukee Brewers in a tight NL Central race.

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Tommy Rancel also writes for Bloomberg Sports and Follow on twitter @TRancel

18 Responses to “Cardinals Add Furcal to Mix”

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  1. CFIC says:

    Cards have seriously upgraded their team over the last week. I now like their playoff chances. before it would have been just them making it to the playoffs, and probably losing in 3 or 4 games

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  2. Winsome says:

    Rafael Furcal: average defensive shortstop, or merely a “slightly average” defensive shortstop? You be the judge. At any rate, these fine-grained distinctions are the reason we all love fangraphs.

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  3. CircleChange11 says:

    Not that anything can be undone now, but StL allowing emotion to trump rational thinking is what bothers me.

    Why not just keep the best defensive shortstop in the NL (B.Ryan) in the 1st place? Especially on a GB pitching staff? It’s hard to imagine that it’s the same organization that defended paying Ozzie Smith the salary that a “100 RBI guy” would get because he takes away “100 runs a year” (as Herzog would say).

    He’s already been worth 2.1 WAR, because his defense has remained the same (above average) and his BABIP regressed to career norm. He’s been worth 2 more WAR than Theriot and Rafael Furcal (missed a lot of games).

    “If” healthy, Furcal helps, but Ryan’s “annoying” was worth tolerating, and his bat was due some big regression. In the same yeat that Ryan was so intolerable, Schumaker put up a full season of below replacement level. I guess his BABIP regression expectation was acceptable.

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    • Jason says:

      Local rumors in the STL area said that Rasmus and Ryan hung out together and spent their nights out in the clubs partying it up. Hangovers were a majority of the reasons Ryan was always tardy to team meetings, late for bp, and generally forgetful.

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      • Oliver says:

        And yet neither had a DUI like their skipper and number one detractor.

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      • Bob says:

        So, this is the real reason that the Cardinals traded for Furcal – because he fits into the team’s ethos with his 2000 and 2004 DUIs.

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  4. Antonio Bananas says:

    I heard a joke about LaRussa. When he dies, the Cardinals are going to take him to a taxidermist and buy his stuffed body tickets next to the opponents dugout to scare away whatever young talent they have.

    But seriously I think Mozeliak is awful. Is a 35 year old SS who will either be a free agent or get paid 15M, a streaky “good” pitcher who is a fre agent at the end of the year, and some relievers (which are usually the most fickle players there are) REALLY that good of a deal? Especially in a mid market team with a lot of free agents and no really good players under 28; with no farm system to back them up. A year ago they had a super talented young centerfielder and a young defensive wizard, but old man LaRussa just had to kick him off his lawn.

    My prediction is that the Cardinals don’t make the playoffs this year and won’t for the next 5 years. Then again when I make a prediction usually something miraculous happens, like Jon Jay will turn into Jose Bautista.

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    • Oliver says:

      One glimmer of hope. Pomeranz apparently is the PTBNL in the Jimenez deal because he is not eligible to be traded until he has been in the org for a full season. Any chance the minor leaguers yet to be named will make us forget that Corey Patterson and Octavio Dotel portion of this deal?

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  5. KDL says:

    Sure his defense is a little better than Theriot’s. But does he run out his ground balls hard? We wouldn’t want another Rasmus in in the clubhouse.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I was thinking, with Furcal’s arm LaRussa may just use him out of the pen. A flame throwing (apparently 95mph in his prime) righty? Could be a good ROOGY for when LaRussa decides to use 3 pitchers in the 7th inning of a 5-2 game.

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  6. Chris says:

    Say all you want about La Russa, he’s won more games than all of you combined. He knows what he’s doing.

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