Out of the Box: Time to buy Furcal

An interesting thought dawned upon me during my Wednesday morning chat while I was helping narrow an owner's search for a middle infielder with strong batting average and/or stolen base skills: Is Rafael Furcal the epitome of the annual early-May buy-low candidate?

Frankly, had I not been engaged in trade discussions for the Dodgers shortstop the past week-plus -- offering Todd Jones and others in a classic saves-for-steals package actually got Furcal's owner thinking -- Furcal's name might not have even dawned upon me. After all, was he not the No. 49 name on the 2006 Player Rater, and the No. 48 player picked overall on average in 2007 drafts? Surely, no one would think about giving up on him yet.

Still, Furcal's stock slipped in late March, as he headed into the season on the disabled list nursing a sprained ankle, and since his return, he has done little to restore his owners' faith, batting .218 with only four extra-base hits, all doubles, and three stolen bases. His critics might say he's struggling with the aftereffects of his ankle injuries, or they might point out that Juan Pierre has diminished Furcal's appeal as Los Angeles' primary table setter.