Pirates Looking at Rafael Furcal

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking at Rafael Furcal and other shortstop options, although Heyman specified that Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins aren’t included in the other group.

Furcal is definitely the biggest name available after Reyes and Rollins.  He turned 34 last month, and hit for a .231/.298/.348 line in 2011.  Furcal had much better results in the second half with the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting for a .255/.316/.418 line in 196 at-bats.  In his career, Furcal is a .282/.348/.408 hitter, although he’s been up and down the last few years.  He hit for an .826 OPS in 2010, but had a .711 OPS in 2009.  The 2008 season was a career year, with a 1.012 OPS, although it followed a 2007 season where he had a .687 OPS.

At his worst, Furcal is better offensively than someone like Ronny Cedeno or Ramon Santiago, who are the guys that the Pirates have previously been linked to.  Furcal struggled defensively in 2011, with a -9.4 UZR/150, although he had strong numbers the previous two years.  In his career, he’s got a -1.6 UZR/150, so I’m not sure I’d say he’s guaranteed to be a good defensive shortstop.

Furcal made $12 M in 2011 as part of a three year deal that was signed following his career year in 2008.  I wouldn’t expect him to come close to that amount, although with the high prices paid to middle infielders this off-season, I’d expect Furcal to receive at least $6-7 M a year.  He is believed to be seeking a three year deal, and the report yesterday on him was that eight teams were interested, with four looking at him for second base and four looking at him for shortstop.  There are also rumors that Furcal is seeking two years and $8 M per year.

Personally I’m not sure I’d take the risk on Furcal.  Between his age, his inconsistent play over the last few years, and his desire for a multi-year deal, I think there’s a lot of risk.  There’s some upside, specifically that he could put it all together and have a good defensive season, combined with a good offensive season, which would make him a huge value, even at $8 M a year.  Overall I think the risks outweigh the potential benefits.  He’s been very injury prone the last few years, he’s 34 years old, historically he’s more of an offensive shortstop, and his offense hasn’t been very consistent.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Anonymous

    I think a. gonzales Is a better move. Did he get signed? Available? Its just as big a risk as furcal with better upside. He’s coming off what will hopefully be a subpar year in his career.

    Guess I could just go look.

  • Anonymous

    If they could get him for the right price Furcal would be a good veteran get, however I don’t think they could get him for a good price, 8mil a year is too much IMO for a guy that is injury prone and losing range as he gets older, not to mention not hitting for much of an average. He might have been a better hitter in his career than Cedano, but he didn’t hit better last year and he is another year older!
    Cedano’s talent level is every bit of what Furcal’s is, something changes when you get between the ears.

  • Jack Mcelligott

    I would like to know what people think about Jody Mercer being a starter. He certainly appears to have the bat and I read where his defensive skills are adequate. I think between Chase, Jody and Cirraco we have decent alternatives especially if we get a defensive veteran backup. I  would not go back to Cedeno  even if the position is temporarily weakened .

    • Jimmy Coverdale

      I don’t think Mercer’s ready – the power was nice but he’s never had an OBP above .340 in the minors – and was below average overall at AAA last year (.308 wOBA).

  • Jimmy Coverdale

    There’s so many options to fill the gap at short there’s no need for Huntington to overspend like everyone else is – and Furcal at $8m a year isn’t worth the risk. I do think that the best option would be Hiroyuki Nakajima – he’s a risk but if the Bucs win the bidding his annual salary will be a lot less than what Furcal, Barmes and others will be asking for right now – as no one else would be able to negotiate with him.

    It seems like every day there’s a report that the Pirates are looking at a different SS – wonder who’ll be next

    • Jack Mcelligott

      Thanks, I agree.  I just dont want us to go back to Cedeno, he’s got talent but he doesnt play to it.  I was hopeful Chase would do more with the bat to make up for his defense. Love his energy and speed. If we were definite contenders it might be worth to risk Furcal. I suspect they might consider staying in house if they can get the first baseman they want. It will be interesting

  • James S

    Personally I like Ramon Santiago. He’s not a bad hitter, really. As long as he can field well and do the little things right on a consistent basis, I’d put my money on him.

  • Lee Young

    I’m in the minority, but I never wanted to see them release Ronny.

  • Anonymous

    If the Pirates are looking at Furcal and Santiage, then they might as well resign Cedeno. Neither of the aforementioned SS are better defensively then Cedeno and they both are pretty much the same with the stick. In my opinion you could have Cedeno cheaper then either of the other two, and he is solid defensively with a canon for an arm. I know he drives everyone crazy, myself included, with his mental lapses and his inconsistent batting. But, for the money there isn’t a better defensive SS in the league(For the Money!!!!)

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