With the 2011 Major League Baseball trade deadline just hours away, the St. Louis Cardinals bolstered their infield depth by acquiring veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal from the Los Angeles Dodgers for a minor league prospect.
Furcal is in the third and final year of a three-year, $30 million deal. He is still owed a little more than $4 million this season with a $12 million club option for 2012.
Furcal, 33, is having a career-worst year in 2011, posting a .197/.272/.248 triple slash line through 137 at-bats. He has struggled mightily since making his season debut on May 22, when he was activated from the Disabled List due to a thumb injury. He injured his left oblique several weeks later, resulting in another stint on the 15-day DL.
His peformance in the last ten games, however, offers great reason for optimism in St. Louis. Over that span, Furcal has hit .303 and generated an outstanding .425 on-base percentage. He is likely ticketed for the leadoff spot in the Cardinal lineup, where manager Tony LaRussa hopes he can serve as a consistent table-setter for the powerful middle portion of the lineup.
Furcal's arrival at Busch Stadium spells trouble for starting shortstop Ryan Theriot, who started at second base on Saturday night for the first time this season. Theriot has had a dreadful month of July, hitting .167/.189/.250 at the top of the St. Louis order. Following a win over the Cubs on Friday night, Theriot stated that he has been playing with an injured shoulder, which has also effected his range and accuracy at shortstop. Furcal will be an immediate upgrade in the field, particularly in terms of range.
In return for Furcal, the Dodgers will reportedly receive minor league outfielder Alex Castellanos. Castellanos, 24, is currently hitting .319/.379/.562 with 19 home runs at Double-A Springfield. In four minor league seasons, Castellanos is hitting .283/.347/.480 with a .827 OPS. He wasn't ranked among the top players in the organization prior to the start of the season according to Baseball America.
The Cardinals now possess a glut of middle infielders, with Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, and Nick Punto joining the aformentioned Furcal and Theriot. It's possible that LaRussa goes with a "committee" approach, shuffling players around based on matchups and health. From a fantasy perspective, it is difficult to gauge who will receive the greatest amount of playing time, so avoiding all four until further notice is probably the safest option.
The Dodgers will now turn everyday shortstop duties over to prospect Dee Gordon. Gordon, 23, is top-prospect for the Dodgers who filled in for Furcal during his various injuries. Gordon hit .232/.250/.280 with nine stolen bases in 22 games for the Dodgers this season. At Triple-A Albuquerque, Gordon hit .333/.373/.410 with 30 stolen bases in 70 games. With Jamey Carroll likely staying in Los Angeles, his role will expand with Furcal's departure.
Gordon has value in NL-only leagues at the moment. His speed is his biggest asset, but he'll need to get on base to make owning him worth it.
Jonathan Fendler and Reggie Yinger contributed to this article.