Due to the extremely weak free agent class, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been forced to check in on some less than ideal options this winter. Just last week, the Pirates checked on soon-to-be retired first baseman/designated hitter Lance Berkman, but he doesn’t have much interest in continuing his playing career.
On Monday, Travis Sawchik reported that the Pirates are one of eight teams to check in on veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal. Furcal hasn’t played baseball in quite some time, missing the entire 2013 season after having Tommy John Surgery. Some other options in free agency among shortstops are Stephen Drew and Clint Barmes, but Drew is expected to receive a large contract and Barmes doesn’t bring anything to a team offensively. If I had the choice between two realistic options for the Pirates, Barmes and Furcal, I would choose Barmes because he is very strong defensively and already has a strong connection with the Pirates’ clubhouse.
Furcal, 36, is a career .281/.346/.403 hitter with a MLB average 100 wRC+. His last strong season came in 2010 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he hit .300/.366/.460 slash line with a wRC+ of 126. It was also his last above average defensive season. Furcal, along with decreasing performance, has also had trouble staying healthy. He hasn’t appeared in more than 121 games since 2009.
Jordy Mercer is already in place to be the Pirates’ starting shortstop, so any move to bring in a Furcal or Barmes would be to be used as a bench option. An upgrade over Mercer is certainly a possibility, but it would have to come via trade. There just aren’t many free option shortstops available. The chances of the Pirates actually signing Furcal are very slim, but it is still worth noting that they have interest, especially since it has been a relatively slow offseason for the Bucs so far.