On-Base Perception

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Mets reach out to Rafael Furcal -- but why?

Rafael Furcal is hit by a pitch with

Rafael Furcal is hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. (Oct. 28, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

The Mets have reportedly checked in with free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Which raises the question: Why?

Furcal was a good player from 2000-2010, generally posting solid-to-above-average fielding and offensive numbers. He was worth about 2-4 Wins Above Replacement each year (or more).

But the past three seasons, Furcal has been replacement level – or he hasn’t even been capable of taking the field.

He played in 87 games with the Dodgers and Cardinals in 2011 and 121 games with the Cards in 2012. During those two years combined he was worth 1.8 WAR (based on Baseball-Reference's figures). Even if you’re not someone who likes or trusts advanced stats, his traditional numbers during those seasons were also pedestrian: A .251 batting average, .314 on-base percentage and 13 home runs.

Furcal didn’t play at all in 2013 after requiring Tommy John surgery.

Is Furcal, 36, really an upgrade over Ruben Tejada? The 24-year-old appeared to fall out of favor with Mets decision makers last season, spending a prolonged stint at Triple-A, but he’s still been more valuable than Furcal during the past three years, worth 3.9 WAR (via Baseball-Reference again). His traditional totals during that time: A .269 average, .327 on-base percentage and one home run (though 53 doubles). He also played solid defense at shortstop.

True, Tejada broke his right fibula in a freak September collision, ending his season early. He's expected to be ready for Spring Training, but if the Mets are looking at Furcal on a non-guaranteed deal or extremely cheap one-year option with the understanding that he would back-up a healthy Tejada, then the move could make some sense. Anything else, and it's a lateral move -- at best.

If the Mets go out and bring in a clearly superior option, a free agent such as Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta, it’s difficult to argue with the decision. But calling on Furcal seems to be more a case of trying to change for change’s sake, rather than making a move purely to upgrade.

Is an oft-injured 36-year-old really a better bet than a young, cheap shortstop that still possesses upside?

Here's how Furcal and Tejada have compared during the previous three seasons (Yes, Furcal didn't play last year -- but that's a fair issue to grade him on):

  Ruben Tejada Rafael Furcal
Batting average .269 .251
On-base percentage .327 .314
Slugging percentage .327 .347
Home runs 1 13
Wins Above Replacement 3.9 1.8
Plate appearances 1,104 900
Stolen bases 11 21

Tags: Rafael Furcal , Mets , Ruben Tejada , free agent scouting report , free agent

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