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.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.