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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