As the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, St. Louis has completed its second aggressive, win-now move in less than a week. Three days after acquiring four players from the Blue Jays to shore up their bullpen and starting rotation, the Cardinals have acquired shortstop Rafael Furcal from the Dodgers. In return Los Angeles will receive Double-A outfielder Alex Castellanos. The Cardinals will pay about $1.38 million of the remaining $4.8 million of Furcal's salary.
Furcal had the right to veto any trade as the result of his having 10 years' Major League service time, including the past five with the same team. As a result of that right, a 24-hour waiting period was required before the deal could be officially completed.
For a team with significant questions looming this offseason, an opportunity to win in 2011 is extremely compelling. Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman are among the key Cardinals who are eligible for free agency in the coming winter. St. Louis may not even be done, with reports swirling Sunday that the club is still in talks with the Padres regarding reliever Heath Bell and the Mariners regarding left-handed starter Erik Bedard.
The non-waiver Trade Deadline is at 3 p.m. CT Sunday.
"Whenever the organization is this committed, it is exciting," Berkman said. "We still have to do it on the field. They've certainly tried to help us, and now it's up to us."
Furcal, a two-time All-Star, would shore up one of the few positions in the Cardinals lineup that has lacked for production. He entered Saturday batting .197 with a .272 on-base percentage in 37 games, but the switch-hitting speedster has been slowed by injury for much of the year, and in recent weeks, he has been much more effective.
For his career, Furcal is a .283 hitter with a .349 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage. He put up a .300/.366/.460 line for Los Angeles in 2010.
"We feel that Furcal will give us added veteran experience when it comes to a pennant race," said Cardinals' general manager John Mozeliak. "Rafael has been an excellent top of the order hitter and he brings plenty of athleticism and defense."
Furcal has been an average to above-average defensive shortstop for the bulk of his career, representing a needed upgrade in that regard as well. St. Louis fields a groundball-oriented pitching staff in front of a defense that has at times been too porous.
"He's a great guy," said former Dodger and current Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot, who had four hits in his first start at second base with the Redbirds in Saturday's 13-5 win over the Cubs. "Just was with him for about a month and a half, I guess, two months -- but a great guy. His track record speaks for itself. I was able to learn a lot from him. He's a winner, plays hard, plays the game the right way."
Theriot expressed no wariness of the Cards' pursuit of the veteran shortstop.
"Of course," he said, when asked if he's on board with the potential deal. "And if I wasn't, I have no choice. Look, when my name's in the lineup, I'm going to go out there and play hard."
The Furcal addition follows an eight-player deal with the Jays on Wednesday. In that trade, St. Louis acquired starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel, and outfielder Corey Patterson, while dealing away outfielder Colby Rasmus and three relievers. That move was made very much with the club's 2011 chances in mind, much like the Furcal deal.
Furcal is in the final year of a three-year deal that contains a club option for 2012. The option is worth $12 million, with no buyout. That is, if the club declines the option, it owes the player no additional money beyond the 2011 salary.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.