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July 31, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Furcal Joins the Flock UPDATED

by R.J. Anderson and Kevin Goldstein

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IN THIS ISSUE

National League

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF-R Alex Castellanos from Cardinals for SS-S Rafael Furcal. [7/31]

This is the kind of trade that happens often at this time of year. Furcal has been awful and/or injured and he's no more than a rental, so in return, the Dodgers get the Double-A outfielder with the really good numbers that nobody has ever heard of. Alex Castellanos certainly has the numbers with a .319/.379/.572 line for Double-A Springfield, but the 2008 tenth-round pick isn't nearly as impressive on a scouting level. A 10th-round pick in 2008 out of a North Carolina high school, Castellanos was originally an infielder but never had the hands for the positions, so now he's a 5-foot-10 outfielder. He does have some real power, but he also swings from his heels, swings at everything, and has the kind of peripherals that scream fluke. As he'll likely play next year at Triple-A Albuquerque, more inflated numbers are forecasted for his future with little chance of ever being an everyday player in the big leagues. —Kevin Goldstein

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired SS-S Rafael Furcal from Dodgers for OF-R Alex Castellanos. [7/31]

Every deadline, there is an older player with a poor season in progress that gets moved to a contender with the hope that the player can remind everyone of what made him so good in his younger days. You can never really tell when a player is toast or has something left to offer, if only in random and short spurts, and that’s why these trades make sense (assuming the transaction and opportunity costs are reasonable enough). The Cardinals feel gambling on a Furcal rejuvenation is worth their time, and it’s hard to blame them.

It wouldn’t be a baseball season without Furcal dealing with some kind of injury, and 2011 is no different. He has missed more than 60 games this season with injuries to his oblique, thumb, and wrist, and his performance has left something to be desired when he has managed to play. For some perspective on just how bad Furcal has played, consider that his OPS through 152 plate appearances isn’t too far off from his career slugging percentage (520 versus .407). Yet with Jose Reyes and J.J. Hardy off the trade market, Furcal had the most upside of any shortstop available.

Just last season, Furcal hit .300/.366/.460 in more than 400 plate appearances. It’s not like Furcal is Orlando Cabrera’s age either, as he won’t turn 34 until October. If he can just capture his 2008-2011 line of .281/.348/.410 the Cardinals would have to walk away thrilled. That might not be possible, though, as Furcal has dealt with multiple injuries this season alone, and there are murmurs that his defense has gone downhill in a hurry.

Nevertheless, the Cardinals are in the position to take on an injury risk like Furcal. Should he fail, they could always go back to using Ryan Theriot or Tyler Greene at the position. Lately, Tony LaRussa has even given Daniel Descalso some reps there. It’s not an ideal situation, but mediocre depth is still depth, and the Cardinals can afford to see if Furcal can summon some of his past glory in the midst of a division title race. —R.J. Anderson

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Rafael Furcal

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