**I'll leave this post up because I don't like to delete posts where people have commented, but obviously this never came true. This all started out because of a story on the Braves site announcing the details of a deal with Furcal on Tuesday. Later that day the story was taken down and it started sounding like the Dodgers were still in the mix. Fast forward to Wednesday and Furcal signed with the Dodgers. Read Will's post on this, but it sounds like we were only leverage. I retract my statements below about Furcal being in the same category as guys like Smoltz and Chipper. Will is right, Furcal has burned his bridge to Atlanta. You'll never see that guy in a Braves uniform again.**
It's (now semi) official: Rafael Furcal is returning to Atlanta. The final details seem to be a three-year contract with an option for 2012 but no there is no final word yet on the monetary value.
After several seasons without a true leadoff man, Furcal's return is most welcome. Does anyone still remember what a stolen base looks like? And I mean one that happens while we're playing offense. If not, be on the lookout this season because Furcal can show you how it's done. Word is that he'll be playing second and KJ will make the move back to left field. This could mean far less playing time for Matt Diaz.
Back to Furcal...word is he took less money than he could have gotten elsewhere in order to return to Atlanta. I've made no secret those guys are my favorites (i.e., Chipper Jones and John Smoltz). I know baseball players have a finite career and have their reasons for choosing money over all else, but I have a soft spot for the ones that want to be with a team so badly they'll take a little less money to make it happen. Although we still don't know the final details of this new deal, we do know that he turned down a reported four-year $40 million offer from Oakland. His three-year deal with the Dodgers he just completed was worth $39 million. I'll post more details on this deal as soon as they're available.
During the past three years with the Dodgers, Furcal has posted .300, .270 and .357 batting averages. You know those stolen bases I was just talking about? Furcal had a career-high 46 in 2005 and followed that up with 37 in 2006 and 25 in 2007 with the Dodgers. Last year, the Braves only had three players break into double digits in stolen bases: Kelly Johnson (11), Gregor Blanco (13) and Josh Anderson (10).
All the stands in the way between Furcal and the Braves now is a pending physical. Furcal did spend a good portion of last year on the disabled list with lower back problems, but had surgery in July to correct the issue. In the 37 games he did play in last season, he batted .357 with 19 extra-base hits, 5 homeruns, 16 RBIs and 8 stolen bases. He played the final week of the season and went 2 for 9 in four games. Hopefully the off-season will give him time to finish healing and get back on track. The good news is there haven't been any reports to suggest that he still has lingering issues with his back.
So, now that the lineup is a little stronger, when are we going to see some improvements in the rotation?
**When I posted this the Braves had an article on their website detailing Furcal's return to Atlanta. However, since then that article has been taken down and a new one saying the Braves are "expecting" to ink a deal with Furcal has taken its place. It seems the Dodgers have suddenly jumped in the game and are trying to pull together a package to outbid the Braves. Speculation still seems to be that Furcal is headed back to Atlanta to Bobby Cox, whom he considers to be a father figure. The Dodgers have only offered Furcal a two-year deal with a vesting option for a third year in past negotiations, while the Braves have offered three with a vesting option for the fourth year. I'll post another update as soon as one is available.