Even as Albert Pujols prepared to step up to the podium to meet his new fans with the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday afternoon, his old club, the St. Louis Cardinals, began to re-deploy their finances. Almost simultaneously with the Pujols introduction, numerous media sources indicated shortstop Rafael Furcal agreed to terms with the Cardinals on a two-year, $14 million contract.
The 34-year-old free agent had been acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a July 31 trade, solidifying the middle infield and serving as the team’s leadoff hitter. Furcal began slowly, with a .667 OPS in August before posting a strong .819 OPS in the final month of the season. He struggled in the post-season, with a paltry .569 OPS.
Once with 46 stolen bases in a season, Furcal dropped to nine in 2011. His on-base percentage of .316 as a Cardinal was 50 points lower than his .366 mark in Los Angeles the season prior. His career OBP is .348, with the overall trend downward.
Furcal, originally signed by the Atlanta Braves in 1996, made $12 million in 2011. It was the final year of a three-year, $30 million deal the Dominican Republic native signed with the Dodgers following the 2008 season, a club he first joined for the 2006 campaign.
Despite being considered an energetic performer and enthusiastic teammate, Furcal represents a considerable risk to the Cardinals. Because of a long list of recent physical ailments including fairly serious back problems, he has appeared in as many as 100 games just once in the last four seasons. That was back in 2009.
Even before the 2011 regular season had completed, Furcal had expressed a desire to return to St. Louis. The club had mutual interest, but was focused on the Pujols situation until this week. A Type B free agent, Furcal was not offered arbitration by St. Louis. Until the re-signing, the club had only unproven Tyler Greene at the position.
While the Cardinals could have explored a trade to fill their shortstop needs, the only other premier free agent option at the position on the market is Jimmy Rollins. Reports that the former Phillies star may be seeking five-year contract could have turned the Cardinals off.
With Furcal’s re-signing, the Cardinals 40-man roster is now at 38 players. To see the entire system by position and level on a single pace, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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