Rafael Furcal and the San Francisco Giants: Now with Indentations, Bulletpoints, and Whathaveyou

The hottest Giant-on-free-agent-action rumor has to do with Rafael Furcal. He’s a player who:

  • is pretty good when healthy
  • plays a position that, before Manny Burriss’s September hot streak, was a top priority for the Giants

That sounds…not horrible. It beats the yearly migration of center fielders swimming upstream to mate and expire in McCovey Cove. But allow me to join Lefty and wonder what in the heck sense does Furcal make for the Giants. My guess on possible outcomes of a long-term deal:

  • 5% chance that Furcal's will stay healthy and perform at a high level for the duration of the contract
  • 53% chance that Furcal will do OK at first, but he'll struggle through injuries and eventually become ineffective. (In scouting parlance: a durhaming)
  • 42% chance that Furcal will stink right away, whether through injury or aging. (In scouting parlance: an alfonzotion)

Now, you can live with the middle option if you’re sure that your team can contend. If, say, the Red Sox didn’t have anyone but Julio Lugo, they would be justified in throwing away pieces of the 2011 budget to get a return on 2009. The Giants just might contend next season, but they probably won’t. They probably won’t for at least two seasons, and that’s being generous. So the Giants are hoping that either

  1. Furcal, along with one additional free agent and a spontaneous improvement from the rest of the offense, will make the Giants contenders in 2009
  2. Furcal will stay healthy and effective for the length of the deal, and help the Giants whenever they start winning more games than they lose

If the Giants were to sign Furcal, it wouldn’t be the end of the world because he plays one of the two thinnest positions in the organization. As much as I’m rooting for Burriss, I’d love to see him get 500 at-bats in AAA before anointing him the starter at short or second, and if Burriss fails, there is absolutely no backup plan. So a shortstop free agent makes sense. But both "1" and "2" above are different shades of delusional.

Another thing that isn’t really part of the discussion: Furcal’s 2007 was kind of miserable. Sure, after Furcal’s back injury, he had 143 good at-bats last year. But when you have three data points – a bad year, followed by a back injury, followed by a small sample of at-bats – it wouldn’t make sense to focus on the one that makes you feel all fuzzy.

If the Giants sign Furcal, I’ll feel the same way I feel when they signed Zito and Rowand. Gee, I hope it works out. Gee, he seems like a modest improvement, all things being equal. Golly, that is a big contract with about a 5% chance of being a good deal. The worst part is that 95% of the time, I’m right every time.

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