(BaseballStL) -- At 35 years old, Cardinals SS Rafael Furcal is anything but the perfect picture of health. An elbow injury last season forced the Redbirds into the very unfortunate situation of relying on Pete Kozma for the stretch run.
Sure, Kozma performed admirably most of the time. But he's not exactly someone the team views as long term solution at the shortstop position.
What should the Cards do at shortstop Share your thoughts.
And what do the Cards project as their shortstop tandem for 2013? As of now, yep, it's Furcal and Kozma.
Look, I do believe Kozma has earned himself the opportunity to get a little bit of playing time next year. His performance in the stretch run of the regular season (.333 avg with a .383 on-base percentage) absolutely dictates it.
But that would make the most sense if there was stability among the starter. That's just not the case here though.
Rafael Furcal has averaged, get this, barely over 100 games played a year for the last three seasons. Barely over 100. That's more than a third of the year that he's been unavailable every season since 2010.
And that's not including playing in just 36 games two years prior to that in 2008.
GM John Mozeliak told SiriusXM radio this week that Furcal's elbow injury has completely healed as shown by the MRI he got. I believe him. I have little doubt in my mind that the Dominican Republic native will show up to spring training in February with a clean bill of health.
But this man is not getting any younger. At 35, the laws of physics say he should be breaking down even faster than he was just a few years ago.
So taking into context the fact that for the last three seasons he's played in just over 100 games a year, that's quite a risk these Cardinals are taking that he'll be able to play a full season in 2013. Furcal hasn't been able to do that since 2009 with the Dodgers when he played in 150 games and received 613 at-bats.
And if he goes down...what then? Is it Pete Kozma all over again?
I understand the Cards gave Furcal a two year guaranteed deal last offseason in large part because they had just lost Albert Pujols to the Angels and needed a veteran presence at shortstop. So you've committed to paying him $7.5 million for the upcoming season.
But there's got to be more of a backup plan this time around. Even if they've got to shell out a little bit more money for a bench player than they'd prefer that might be the only option here.