- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
The St. Louis Cardinals are doing everything to win in 2011, and their latest deal might just fly under the radar but end up being a significant deal at the trade deadline. The Cardinals have acquired 33-year-old shortstop Rafael Furcal and cash from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for a minor league outfielder Alex Castellanos. Furcal approved the deal late Saturday evening, something which he had the right to do because of his 10-and-5 rights.
At the time of the deal, Furcal was hitting just .197/.272/.248 with 15 runs scored, four doubles and five stolen bases in eight attempts. However ugly those numbers are, he was just starting to look healthy and his bat speed was coming back. In his last six games for the Dodgers just prior to the trade, he was 8-for-22 and showing signs of getting his feet, legs and strength back. When healthy, he’s an above-average shortstop with above-average range to both sides and a gun for an arm. If he continues to improve, he could become a major factor for the Cardinals in September and in the postseason -- if they get that far.
A healthy Furcal would be a definite defensive improvement range-wise over Ryan Theriot at shortstop, and would also give them the leadoff hitter they’ve been missing. A change of scenery and a pennant race might just be what Furcal needs to get going. Remember, he’s just a year removed from hitting .300 with 22 stolen bases in 97 games for the Dodgers. Furcal has been a one-man disabled list during his career with the Dodgers, and this year has been no different, as he’s been slowed by an oblique and a thumb injury.
Castellanos, 24, is a corner outfielder who is considered a fringe prospect. He was hitting .319/.379/.562 with 21 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs and 62 RBIs for Double-A Springfield of the Texas League. He stands 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, and has some pop against average or below-average fastballs. He has a long swing but does have some speed and power. He has an outside of chance of making the major leagues someday as an extra outfielder. However, he needs to learn the strike zone and improve on his BB/SO ratio.
While slightly reducing their payroll, the Dodgers have now cleared the path for top shortstop prospect Dee Gordon to return to the major leagues so he can continue his development against major league pitching. That’s a move that will benefit the Dodgers in 2012.