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Rafael Furcal: Is This The End?

It all started out so promising. Just when it looked like Rafael Furcal‘s career was in jeopardy, he started to turn things around. Furcal got off to a blazing start in 2012, hitting .315/.384/.427 in March and April, and improving that line to .349/.397/.486 in May. People had started to think that the 34-year-old Furcal had found the fountain of youth. It didn’t last, and regression hit pretty hard. If his midseason slump wasn’t bad enough, Furcal injured his elbow at the end of August. The injury kept him out for the rest of the season, including the Cardinals playoff run. Now entering his age-35 season, and coming off an elbow injury, it’s a good time to wonder if Furcal is finished.

Early indications on Furcal’s injury don’t breed confidence. While he’s expected to avoid surgery, it’s not a good sign that the Cardinals have been mentioned in trade talks for Asdrubal Cabrera. Few details have been released regarding Furcal’s rehab schedule. He was supposed to start throwing again in November, but no further plans have been discussed. General manager John Mozeliak has said that if Furcal wasn’t going to be healthy next season, the team would pursue a shortstop, making their interest in Cabrera even more concerning for Furcal’s future.

Furcal didn’t have a lot of room for another poor performance. In the past couple of seasons, his play has slipped. Though he was effective in 2010, hitting .300/.366/.460, injuries held him to just 428 plate appearances. In fact, injuries have become a major issue for Furcal in recent years. Since 2007, Furcal has played in at least 130 games just twice. The last season he experienced good health, 2009, his performance was relatively poor. Furcal might be capable of looking great over a few months, much like he did last season and in 2008, but his performance seems to suffer as the season drags on.

Even if we assume full health for Furcal entering spring training, he’s no more than a late-round flyer in most fantasy leagues. If the Cardinals were to acquire another shortstop, putting Furcal’s playing time in doubt, he may be pushed off the fantasy radar entirely. The same would likely happen if Furcal’s injury concerns cause him to miss time early next season. Even with shortstop being one of the weakest fantasy positions, Furcal probably isn’t going to worth a draft pick in mixed leagues next season.

Furcal had a nice eight year run as a top-10 fantasy option at shortstop. But his performance has slipped, and injuries have started to set in as he’s aged. Last season’s early surge may have have convinced some owners that he was back, but the rigors of the regular season took their toll on Furcal’s body. Over the past two seasons, he’s hit just .251/.314/.347. It’s time to move on to other options. He already had reached a point where he couldn’t be counted on in fantasy, his most recent injury is the final nail in the coffin.