It’s rare that a player under contract can leave a team out to dry by being a no show, but somehow Rafael Furcal has pulled it off. With the announcement Sunday that Furcal has been shutdown from all on-field activities, the Caridinals are placed in a position to scramble for answers at shortstop for the long-term, yet in the moment.
Furcal, who had his season end last August after tearing an elbow ligament, had not been able to take to the field to perform in the field yet all at, due to not being able to make throws yet. Hitting had been something he was able to undertake lightly until this weekend, when the elbow degraded to a level where ever that was out of the question. That’s when the decision to shutdown Furcal completely was inevitable, and a search for answers hit high alert.
One answer that is out of the question is Furcal himself. With a nearly non-existent free agent market at shortstop was coupled with a high-stakes trade market to upgrade at the position, the team was backed into taking Furcal at his word regarding his progress in regards to his rehab. Furcal twice refused surgery to repair the ligament, both when the injury initially occurred and again shortly after the postseason ended. In December, he stated it was much stronger and he would be ready to play. This eased organizational concerns, and they scaled back efforts to acquire a potential full-time replacement, and instead focused on fortifying the position with role players. However, that decision came back on the club with yesterday’s development, and now the team will be faced with a major question mark in it’s everyday equation.
So with Furcal headed to Alabama to see Dr. James Andrews instead of St. Louis to see active play, where do the Cardinals turn now? Unfortunately, the despite the depth of the talent pool at virtually every other position within the organization, the team doesn’t have a particularly promising youngster at shortstop or a veteran in need of a place to fit in. There will be a definite step down in caliber at shortstop for the immediate future, and picking the correct player to fill in at shortstop will be a likely ever-changing scene.
The options on the current roster are full of question marks. The clear competition comes down to a call between Pete Kozma and Ronnie Cedeno, who was acquired to be the “in case of emergency” option in case of injury occurring. He has been a marginal full-time player over his career, which plays into the hand of Kozma opening in the capacity he finished 2012, as an everyday starter. The .385 average he’s carrying this spring won’t hurt his candidacy either. Outside of those two, the only other options would be Ryan Jackson or Greg Garcia, but trips back to Memphis and Springfield, respectively, are likely guaranteed. A potential move of Daniel Descalso over to the other side of the infield occasionally could be an option as well. Regardless, as things stand now, it will be a job that requires more than one man’s attention.
That may have to suffice, as the shortstop open market isn’t that thrilling of a vision to look on. The highlights (relatively speaking) of currently homeless middle infielders is highlighted by ex-Cardinal Ryan Theriot and former Ray and Padre Jason Bartlett, making the internal options look that much stronger. The trade waters could prove to be even more difficult for the team to look into. The facts are simple: clubs know the Cardinals are in a vice grip of a situation, and will hold them under the gun with any move they discuss. They know there’s treasure chest of prospects to dip into, and there are not many teams in need of a salvation dump due to an expiring contract on their current shortstop. Basically, the Cardinals hand will be forced if an external option is sought after, which is by far the best option. John Mozeliak, who has stated he is committed to keeping the organization’s prime prospects in house, could be pressed very far to see how dedicated he is to that mission.