- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
With Rafael Furcal again out of the way, let the Dee Gordon era officially begin, well, again. The Los Angeles Dodgers traded the veteran shortstop to the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor league outfielder on Sunday. That would open up the starting job officially for the 23-year-old, rail-thin rookie. Furcal will start for the Cardinals. Do either of these players have value in ESPN standard leagues?
Well, I'm generally not the one to trust raw rookies, and Gordon seemed awfully overwhelmed at the plate last month. He started quickly when initially promoted but went into a 5-for-39 funk and the return of a healthy Furcal from the disabled list earned Gordon a return trip to Triple-A Albuquerque. It's clear the lefty hitter can steal a lot of bases, but it's far less certain that he can actually reach base enough. Frankly, I don't think investing in Gordon for 2011 is a very good idea. He might steal double digit bases, but he has no power and he's more likely to hurt your batting average than help it.
Furcal is hitting .197 this season, a campaign sullied by a pair of trips to the disabled list, but he has raised his batting average 32 points in the past week, and attempted three stolen bases (he was successful twice). Apparently, Furcal is healthy, which is awesome, but based on his past few seasons likely short-lived. Furcal hit .300 with eight home runs and 22 stolen bases in only 97 games a year ago, so the skills are still there, and let's face it, the Cardinals are desperate for a shortstop. Ryan Theriot has been playing second base, and despite a big game Saturday with four hits hasn't been the prototypical leadoff hitter (.320 OBP). Daniel Descalso has been playing shortstop recently, but he's clearly not a shortstop. Furcal would be an upgrade.
In fact, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa is likely to install Furcal at the top of his lineup, which is a good thing for Furcal's value. The team's middle of the order has been very productive this season, but the team's No. 1 hitters really haven't hit. Cardinals leadoff hitters rank tied for 28th in baseball in runs scored, and feature a .308 OBP. Furcal posted a .366 OBP a year ago.
We can't possibly know if Furcal will stay healthy, but I'd call him a person of interest in ESPN standard leagues right away. That doesn't mean I'd cut any of the 100 percent owned shortstops to get him (there are 13 of them), but I'd part with Ian Desmond, Darwin Barney, Maicer Izturis, Orlando Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, Sean Rodriguez and new teammate Theriot, all of whom are more than 20 percent owned. There is immediate upside here. Furcal is owned in 19.5 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Last season he finished sixth among all shortstops on the ESPN Player Rater. I'm not betting on a return engagement, but the position is weak, and the potential for him to steal and score runs is certainly there.