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Rafael Furcal’s Looming Decision

Going by the frequency of rumors, it seems that Rafael Furcal might be on the verge of signing his likely last big payday. Since we haven’t yet done it here at FanGraphs, let’s go through what he should be worth.

2008 was obviously injury-shortened, leaving just 36 games worth of data, so projecting Furcal forward not only has to deal with a limited sample size in recent times, but also needs to account for his raised injury concerns. Marcel projects Furcal for just 310 at bats next season, roughly half a year’s worth of performance. It is also highly skeptical of his 2008 batting lines, painting him with just a .336 wOBA, giving him 1.2 runs above average, or about 2.5 over a full season.

Shortstops get 7.5 runs for their defensive position so if we want to be optimistic and give Furcal credit for a full season at shortstop, we have him so far at 10 runs above average. Looking at his past UZR’s, it seems clear that UZR rates him between 0 and -5 runs on average. Split the difference and we get those 2.5 runs back from his bat. In other words, Furcal grades out as exactly average when you combine his bat and his glove and what we are left with is how much time he is able to log at shortstop.

Therefore, we have Furcal projected at roughly 28 runs above replacement (splitting the difference between 10 and 10.5 runs per win) per 700 PAs for 2009. Assuming $5 million per win on the free market, that would make Furcal, over 700 PA, worth about $13.5 million on a one-year deal if you think he can play a full season. Marcel would have him worth half of that.

Furcal seems destined to ink a four-year deal, so we’re looking at roughly $12 million a year if you think he’s healthy enough to be a full time starter. Current rumors have the Athletics leading the bidding at $10 million per year over those four years with other teams potentially interested. If I were to guess, I’d put money on a four-year deal in the range of about $44 million for Furcal, which prorating against the $48 million 700 PAs would command means that the signing team would need Furcal to produce exactly league average offense and defense for 640 PAs a year to break even on value.

Of course there are other factors. If healthy, Furcal’s bat might be worth a lot more as it was in 2005 and 2006. His defense, which other metrics love, might be a lot better. His health might be fine. Of course, there’s the flip side to all of those as well. In the end, it looks like Furcal’s market value is coming in right around the projections, but with full health, a common occurrence that we see in baseball; GMs are rare to properly account for injury concerns.