Furcal Could Be the Cardinals' Answer at Shortstop
The free agent market for this year is extremely slim—and there’s little doubt GM John Mozeliak would rather spend dollars (which they have) than prospects (which they cherish).
Scott Boras, the agent of Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, hinted to Derrick Goold of STLToday.com that his client is interested in the Cardinals. However, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Red Sox will make a qualifying offer to Drew.
Even if Drew doesn’t accept the offer, he may still go for a price and number of years beyond a range the Cardinals would view as reasonable.
With his injury history, three years would be a stretch to give to Drew.
Among the other free agents available are Jhonny Peralta and Brendan Ryan.
Peralta’s 2013 numbers would make him a solid fit, but there’s still a chance the Detroit Tigers could hang on to him as an outfielder, with Peralta telling John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press he'd like to stay with the organization. With that said, such a fit with the Tigers seems unlikely, having traded for Jose Iglesias.
Most likely, he will be looking for a multi-year deal upwards of $6 million. That doesn’t put him out of reach for the Cardinals, but they would likely be reluctant to pick up a player fresh off of a PED suspension.
Brendan Ryan is also available, but they already tried that. Great glove, no bat. In fact, Ryan batted 20 points lower than Pete Kozma.
In the end, the answer could come with a year (or half year) from Furcal. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.
Furcal Will Need a One-Year Deal
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Coming off of a season-ending operation, Furcal will need to prove to teams that he can still play at the level he once did before anyone will even dream of taking a chance on him. Why not let him do that in St. Louis?
When he’s healthy, Furcal is one of the best shortstops in the National League.
During his 171 games as a Cardinal, Furcal batted .262 overall—his career low. While those numbers won’t win a Silver Slugger Award, they are a 45-point increase over Kozma. With a full season’s rest behind him, he should be rejuvenated.
Sure, it’s a gamble, but every signing is a gamble. One year could be a risk worth taking if the right deal doesn’t present itself.
The Price Should Be Very Reasonable
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With the Cardinals having paid Furcal $14 million over the past two seasons, odds are that they could get him for a considerably smaller price.
As it stands, I wouldn’t expect more than a $4 million deal for him. The Cardinals have the money, and if he is, in fact, healthy, the Cardinals could see a huge return for the money. If it goes poorly, they’re only out a small contract for one year.
A Furcal Signing Wouldn’t Cost Any Prospects or Draft Picks
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This is a key advantage for the front office. Signing Drew, for example, would cost the Cardinals a draft pick because he was given a qualifying offer.
Since Furcal is also a free agent, he could be picked up without having to make a trade. Any team the Cardinals want to trade with will obviously be chasing their top-end young pitchers.
While the Cardinals might be willing to make such a move for the right piece, if that piece doesn’t come along this could be a safe route.
This Would Buy Another Year to Wait for a Better Crop of Free Agents
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The free-agent crop for this season is fairly weak at shortstop, but next year is very different.
Following the 2014 season, the list of free-agent shortstops according to Spotrac looks like this: Mike Aviles, Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins.
Not only are most of those big names, the fact that so many will be available means the market should be saturated with shortstops, which is good for management.
While waiting might not be a viable option, if Mozeliak chooses to wait the crop is much more attractive.
He’s Already a Part of This Team
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One advantage to bringing Furcal back is that he’s been an important part of this team for quite some time.
While he wasn’t around as much in 2013, he had a lot to do with the clubhouse's light, jovial atmosphere in 2011.
Since he’s already been around for a while, there’s no concern about bringing in a guy who is a plague to the clubhouse.
As I pointed out earlier, it’s entirely possible this might not be a workable deal to begin with because it hinges on several things: his ability to play shortstop, whether he would be ready for Opening Day and the cost other teams/shortstops are seeking.
It’s not the definitive answer, but it is a possibility. Keep an open mind as the hot stove season gets underway because you never know what could happen.