Earlier today the news came that free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal had turned down an offer from the Oakland Athletics that is believed to have been a four-year deal worth between $35-$40 million. Considering that the market for Furcal hasn't been all that hot this offseason, I'm beginning to wonder if he might not work out for either of our local teams.
With the Cardinals trading for Khalil Greene earlier this week, the Tigers looking to land a shortstop via trade as well, and the Blue Jays deciding they don't want to spend any more money this winter, the Athletics seemed to be the only team still interested in Furcal. Now we know that the feelings aren't exactly mutual. So why shouldn't Kenny Williams and Jim Hendry talk to his agent next week at the winter meetings?
Let's take a look at some of the things both teams are looking for this offseason. Both teams want a lead-off hitter with speed, which is exactly what Furcal is. Both teams want to improve their defense in the middle of the infield, something that Furcal would do. Also, though he's not the outfielder that Lou Piniella would prefer, Furcal would bring another left-handed bat to the Cubs lineup.
If there's any problem with this idea it's that both the Cubs and Sox are probably more interested in a second baseman than a shortstop, but Furcal can play second base. The overwhelming majority of his time in the Majors has been spent at short, but he's played second base for 36 games in his career, and has a higher fielding percentage (.993 to .966) and zone rating (.885 to .834) there than he does at short. Plus, at 31 years of age, it's not like Rafael is too old and beat up to make the move.
The one area of concern that both teams may have with him is the fact he only played in 36 for the Dodgers last year, but they were a great 36 games. Furcal hit .357 with an OBP of .439 and hit 5 homers while stealing 8 bases in limited action. While I'm not sure he could keep up that pace for an entire 162 games, last season was only the second time Furcal had to miss significant action during a season.
Both teams are still interested in Baltimore's Brian Roberts as well, but considering the Orioles asking price for the second baseman when teams have inquired, it might make more sense for the teams to spend $10 million on Furcal for a few seasons. After all, with the market for him drying up quickly, he'll likely be available at a discount rate and cost the teams less in the long run as they'd get to keep all their prospects.