Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera? That’s the question I would be asking myself if I was in Bill Smith’s shoes this off-season. One of the Twins needs this winter is a shortstop. Yes, Nick Punto will likely be back with the Twins next season, but is he really the answer at shortstop? Both Furcal and Cabrera are impending free agents this winter. Both were in the playoffs this year, something the Twins need veteran leadership to get them there. It’s just a matter of which one of those two you want on your squad.
Furcal will be the more intriguing guy to go after this winter as he fits the Twins offense better with his speed. Despite coming off a season in which he only played in 36 games, he managed to hit .357 along with five homeruns and 16 runs batted in. Now, I’m not saying he would have kept that average up all year, but playing on Field-Turf sure would have helped. Before arriving in Los Angeles prior to the 2006 season, he was a member of the Atlanta Braves since arriving in the league in 2000. If Furcal is able to return to full health, he could add even more speed to one of the quickest teams in baseball. Prior to the 2008 season, he averaged about 31 stolen bases. For a soon to be 32 year old, that would be a fairly good amount. Add Gomez and Span to that and you would have a dangerous base running team.
Cabrera is the type of guy who would bring experience in the playoffs to the Twins clubhouse. He was a member of the 2004 World Series champion, Boston Red Sox. So he knows what it takes to get to the World Series. He is a career .274 hitter and would help the Twins fill the hole at short stop. Another plus with Cabrera is the fact that he has faced the Twins many times as a member of the American League (Boston, LA Angels, and Chicago), so he knows how to adjust to the Field-Turf. He also wouldn’t need any time to adjust to the American League pitchers, something Furcal would have to do. Cabrera has a very solid glove at short. He has one two Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. The first came in 2001 as a member of the Montreal Expos and the second came just last season when he was with the Los Angeles Angels. With question marks at third, we need someone that we can put at short and know he will be able to get those tougher grounders.
Of course when we talk about these two, we also need to discuss the money issue. The Twins are typically very quiet in the off-season when it comes to signing free agents. Cabrera would likely cost anywhere from 20-25 million over 3 years to get him to come to Minneapolis. Furcal on the other hand would cost a little bit more. He would probably cost anywhere from 30-35 million over 3 years. However, both the White Sox and Dodgers will be working hard to keep these two on their respective teams. If I had to choose one of the two to join the Twins, I would pick Rafael Furcal. He is two years younger and has a bit more speed. He will be the more expensive of the two, but in my opinion he would be worth the money. But hey, maybe Punto will have a monster year. Wouldn’t that be something?