Tag:Rafael Furcal
Posted on: April 7, 2009 12:00 am
 

New year, and Dodgers loaded

It's a miniscule sample size, but the snapshot following game one of 162 for the Los Angeles Dodgers is that they should have the best lineup in the NL West this season and, possibly, as good as there is in the National League.

Against San Diego ace Jake Peavy, the first inning played out perfectly. Leadoff man Rafael Furcal punched a single, and second baseman Orlando Furcal followed with another.

So Peavy was staring at two speedsters aboard, none out and Ramirez at the plate.

"That's what we're hoping for at the top of the lineup," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "That they can make the pitchers pitch to Manny.

"Manny didn't get any hits today. But I believe his presence is important."

No kidding. Ramirez didn't do any damage in the inning, popping to center. But two batters later, with two out and Russell Martin at the plate, Furcal and Hudson took off, successfully completing a double steal.

After Martin walked, Loney cracked a two-run single. The Dodgers never came close to trailing after that.

Peavy was impressed, not only with a deep Dodgers lineup in which the six-seven-eight hitters are James Loney, Matt Kemp and Casey Blake, but with the one-two punch of Furcal and Hudson at the top.

"Both can run," Peavy said. "Both are switch-hitters, table-setters, All-Stars. They can run, they can hit-and-run, they can get on base and steal. They can run around the bases, and when you've got Manny up there. ..."

Trouble.

It's a miniscule sample size, but if the Dodgers get some pitching, and if Furcal avoids further back trouble and they stay away from key injuries, then these Dodgers are going to be extremely dangerous.

Likes: Day baseball at this time of year. Nice to watch the Mets-Reds before heading to the park later Monday. And nice to listen to Thom Brennaman and Jeff Brantley on XM radio. I'll tell you, though, when they started talking about Montgomery Inn, it made me wish I was in Cincinnati for opening day this year. Might be the best ribs in America right there. ... Writing out the first lineups of the year on my scoresheets. ... 75 degrees at game-time in San Diego on Monday. ... Spring break. Nice to have my daughter home from school. ... Cruising through the park on my daily run and seeing the rabbits out. Ah, spring. ... My wife's homemade pizza on Saturday night as the NCAA semi-final games were going. I may be one of the more boring guys around, but I'll tell you what: It's still really hard to find a more enjoyable evening than a good ballgame on television at home with pizza.

Dislikes: Longtime New York Times baseball columnist and buddy Jack Curry getting hit by a car while in Philadelphia on Sunday for the Phillies-Braves opener. Thank God he escaped with "only" badly bruised ribs and several scrapes. Get well soon, Jack. ... Ichiro out with an ulcer. ... San Diego's crack media relations gal, Leah Tobin, leaving for a job with the Red Sox. Don't get me wrong, good for Leah and great move for the Red Sox. Personally speaking, I'll miss her. She's good. Congratulations, Leah. ... Michigan State getting clocked in the NCAA title game. And, worse, a lopsided title game.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

With respect and eternal admiration to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who regularly ushered in the new season in his first spring broadcast each year with this:

"For, lo, the winter is past
"The rain is over and gone
"The flowers appear on the earth
"The time of the singing of birds is come
"And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land"

-- Song of Solomon, Solomon 2:11-12.
 

 

Posted on: January 13, 2009 12:35 pm
 

Braves agree to terms with Derek Lowe

On a day when Atlanta legend John Smoltz was being introduced in Boston, the Braves hope they regained their footing by coming to terms with free agent starting pitcher Derek Lowe.

The deal, which is not expected to be finalized until after Lowe undergoes a physical examination on Wednesday, will run four years and pay Lowe $60 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract.

Lowe's marks the third new starting pitcher arrival of the winter for the Braves -- and the second this week -- and will help soothe an unusually rancorous winter for an organization that rarely has dealed in controversy.

Atlanta's made-over rotation now includes Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez (acquired from the Chicago White Sox this winter) and Kenshin Kawakami (a Japanese free agent who will be introduced in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon). The fifth starter likely will come from a group including Jo-Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton and Jorge Campillo.

Heading into the winter, the Braves were determined to add at least two starting pitchers, and they explored several avenues. They worked to acquire Jake Peavy from San Diego for more than six weeks before that ultimately failed. They romanced free agent A.J. Burnett hard before the right-hander took the New York Yankees' money. They failed to re-sign Mike Hampton, watching him depart for Houston.

Meantime, the Braves also took a failed run at free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who wound up re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That, though, came only after a bitter public dispute in which the Braves said they reached a verbal agreement with Furcal, after which Atlanta president John Schuerholz blasted the agent, Paul Kinzer, promising never to do business with his agency and calling it "a disgrace."

Atlanta still would like to add another bat to its lineup, probably an outfielder. But in agreeing to terms with Lowe, 35, the Braves now have solidified their rotation with a right-hander who has worked 200 or more innings in five of the past seven seasons. Lowe has thrown 180 or more innings in all seven of those seasons.

With the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, Lowe went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings. Over his past 10 starts, he was 6-1 with a 1.27 ERA. He helped pitch the Dodgers into the postseason in two of the past three years after helping the Boston Red Sox win a World Series in 2004.

Posted on: December 17, 2008 7:14 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2008 9:21 pm
 

Angry Braves move on from Furcal

On the first day of Christmas, Atlanta failed to land Jake Peavy.

On the second day of Christmas, the Braves missed on A.J. Burnett.

On the third day of Christmas, Atlanta lost out on shortstop Rafael Furcal.

They haven't even gotten to the swans a-swimming or maids a-milking part. The Grinch is having a better holiday season than these guys.

Furcal agreed to return to the Dodgers on Wednesday? Really? After the Braves on Tuesday clearly believed they had an agreement-in-principle with Furcal's people?

Since when did an economy in tatters cause a decline in the value of agents' words?

Wait. Don't answer that (unless you've got a really witty one-liner). Paul Kinzer has some explaining to do. What does he use for negotiations, toilet paper?

"My take is, it's very difficult to do business in this game when you don't have confidence in the other people you're dealing with," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "A deal's a deal.

"After reaching an agreement on all of the different terms Monday night, we were asked to give them a term sheet. We delivered on Tuesday morning a signed term sheet by fax, at their request.

"I've been in the game for 30-some years, and when you're done with a deal you do a term sheet. I can't imagine how we could have (misunderstood) anything."

Paul Kinzer, Furcal's agent, did not respond to multiple voice-mail messages left on Wednesday. Earlier in the day in New York, Kinzer disputed the notion that Furcal and the Braves had a "verbal agreement."

Among the things you expect to see in this game is incompetence from the Padres, penny-pinching from the Twins and general malaise from the Pirates.

You don't expect one of baseball's proudest franchises to become embroiled in some of the winter's most soapiest of stories.

Flush with more cash than they've had in years, the Braves came into this off-season both with a plan and élan. Granted, this is baseball in the crazy-money era, so nothing ever works out exactly like you draw it up.

Still, how difficult could it be to land two starting pitchers and maybe improve their offense?

In Atlanta, the answer has been Advil-inducing.

The Braves went from scheduling a physical examination Wednesday so Furcal's contract could be completed to watching the Dodgers cut in on their dance.

Things were set. At least, they were on Monday night, in Atlanta's view. The Braves had offered three years for $30 million, with a vesting option for a fourth year. Furcal would play second base in 2009 and lead off. Yunel Escobar would remain at shortstop. Kelly Johnson would move to left field.

"We looked at our club (envisioning) different scenarios," Wren said. "Not necessarily with a power outfield bat. We thought if we landed a dynamic leadoff hitter like Furcal, it would change our offensive club in a different way.

"We would have improved our overall team speed and if we moved Kelly Johnson to left field, which he was amenable to doing, we would be keeping a solid offensive player with speed. We would have improved the club in two different areas."

Instead, by Wednesday, Furcal's people -- he's represented by Kinzer and Arn Tellem -- were engaged in serious discussions with the Dodgers.

Wren said late in the day Wednesday that the Braves still hadn't been told by Furcal's people that they would not accept Atlanta's offer, but "we've pretty much turned the page," Wren said. "I think it would be difficult at this point to re-engage them."

Or, how about, re-engage them on anybody, ever again? The Braves believe that part of the issue is that Kinzer was negotiating with them and Tellem, who is based in Los Angeles, was talking to the Dodgers. There were folks in baseball Wednesday night suggesting that the Braves may never sign a Tellem/Kinzer player again.

So, to review, Atlanta spent six weeks and two days negotiating a Peavy trade in October and November. The Braves thought they were moving close to a deal, but the Padres kept changing names on them.

They thought they had a deal with Furcal, only to have that blow up amid what appear to be highly questionable -- and likely unethical -- circumstances.

"It makes it difficult to do your business when a lot of times in this game you're dealing with people who either won't make a deal or can't make a deal," Wren said.

They did acquire starting pitcher Javier Vazquez from the White Sox earlier early this month.

"Thank goodness for Kenny Williams," Wren quipped, referring to Chicago's GM.

Oh, and they lost out on Burnett after offering a reported five years and $80 million. The Yankees offered five years and $82 million.

At least the dealing on that one was straight forward.

"That was geography," Wren said. "We just weren't close enough to his Maryland home for him and his family. We had all of the other ingredients. Logistically, it just didn't work for his family."

So now the Braves move forward, still searching for another starting pitcher and more team speed.

"We're not done yet," Wren said. "We started right back up again today, making calls, talking to clubs, talking to free agents. ...

"You learn in this game, you have disappointments, things happen on a daily basis. During the season, you wake up in the morning and immediately have to start getting ready for your next game. Now, you get up in the morning and get ready for your next challenge."


Posted on: December 10, 2008 2:23 pm
 

Orioles close on Izturis

LAS VEGAS -- The Baltimore Orioles are on the verge of landing their shortstop: They've all but finalized a one-year deal with Cesar Izturis, according to sources.

Izturis, 28, hit .263 with a .319 on-base percentage and 24 steals last season for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Orioles had inquired on several other shortstops, including discussing Khalil Greene in trade with San Diego before Greene was shipped to the Cardinals this winter. With Detroit having signed Adam Everett this week, the shortstop market was beginning to dwindle.

Rafael Furcal, who continues talking with Oakland, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City, remains unsigned, as does Orlando Cabrera.

Posted on: December 1, 2008 4:13 pm
 

Furcal talks likely to drag into winter meetings

Don't hold your breath waiting for free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal to break the current lull in player movement this week.

The Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants and other interested clubs shouldn't, either.

Agent Paul Kinzer told CBSSports.com on Monday that he is scheduled to fly to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday and won't return until the winter meetings, which are scheduled to begin Dec. 8 in Las Vegas.

"We're still in discussion with a few teams," Kinzer said. "But it doesn't look like anything will be finalized until the winter meetings."

The Athletics are widely believed to be the leader in pursuing Furcal. The shortstop and his agent visited the Bay Area last week and toured the Oakland Coliseum, among other things. Kinzer said last week that Furcal has a four-year offer on the table but declined to name the team. It is believed that Oakland may have a three-year offer to Furcal with a vesting option for a fourth year.

The Giants, Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs also are believed to have expressed interest, although the Braves' seriousness likely is tied directly to whether they trade shortstop Yunel Escobar. He was one of the pieces of a framework of a deal when the Braves were discussing pitcher Jake Peavy with San Diego.

Furcal is coming off of a three-year, $39 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose initial interest in re-signing him appears to have cooled significantly.

If Oakland does sign Furcal, the domino effect there likely would be a spinoff trade involving incumbent Athletics' shortstop Bobby Crosby. Baltimore, the Dodgers, Cincinnati and the Giants are among the clubs that need shortstops this winter and, as such, would represent potential new homes for Crosby.

Kinzer also represents free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez and has said that serious discussions between the closer and other clubs likely will not commence until the winter meetings.

The Los Angeles Angels are expected to offer Rodriguez arbitration by tonight's midnight EST deadline. Players offered arbitration have until Dec. 7 to decide whether to accept. Rodriguez is expected to be pursued heavily by the New York Mets as well.

Posted on: November 25, 2008 6:52 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2008 6:55 pm
 

Free agency: Calm before the storm?

If you're wondering why there continues to be a whole lot of talk and little action on baseball's Hot Stove front this week, circle Dec. 1 on your calendar.

That's the deadline for clubs offering salary arbitration to any of their own free agents.

Most importantly, of course is this: If arbitration is offered, the signing team must compensate the player's old team with a draft pick. Now that might not be of concern to clubs chasing the biggest free-agent prizes this winter -- Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia, et. al. -- it definitely comes into play with the next-tier guys.

Consequently, many clubs are in wait mode until after Monday. Maybe San Francisco is interested in shortstop Edgar Renteria if Rafael Furcal signs elsewhere, but the Giants surely would wait until after Monday to see whether Detroit offers him arbitration (which the Tigers aren't expected to do).

And maybe Cleveland will make an offer to a free-agent closer -- Trevor Hoffman? Kerry Wood? -- but from where the Indians sit right now, in a market saturated with closers, it makes a whole lot more sense for them to wait and see who might be available that wouldn't cost them a draft pick.

While Dec. 1 is the date by which clubs must offer their free agents salary arbitration or cut bait with them for good, the players have until Dec. 7 to decide whether or not to accept.

Which is why a couple of executives with whom I've spoken this week said they think the winter meetings -- which begin Dec. 8 in Las Vegas -- will be where the action is this year.

***

The economy continues to be on the minds of front-office executives and may wind up affecting this winter's player market more than we thought.

"It's pretty treacherous for us," says Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro, whose needs include a closer and an infielder (second or third base or shortstop). "The economic situation is a real factor here. We're seeing it in season-ticket renewals. Some of our city issues pre-date the international and national economic issues, and those are amplifying our city issues.

"It's a challenge. We're trying to get our arms around it and see how it affects our revenues."

In Toronto, meanwhile, the Blue Jays already are resigned to not filling every item on their winter wish list (starting pitching, big bat in the middle of the lineup).

"The Canadian dollar isn't as strong, and we're taking a hit with the United States' dollar with the exchange rate," Blue Jays GM J.P. RIcciardi says. "The world in general is being affected by this, and to stick our head in the sand and say it's not affecting us is crazy.

"We're talking about people's discretionary spending, and they might not spend it."

Things have changed in Toronto, even from season's end to now.

"What we thought at the end of the season and what we think now is different," Ricciardi said.

***

Random other items:

-- The Los Angeles Angels' sudden turn toward CC Sabathia, explained here by colleague Danny Knobler, should really rattle the Yankees' cage. Even with Milwaukee offering five years and $100 million, until the Angels decided to get so aggressive, most executives with whom I've spoken figured the ace would sign with the Yankees.

"I've heard talk of this guy wanting to do this and do that, but you know what? They all follow the money," one National League executive said. "It's just the facts of life."

"I don't think the Yankees will allow him to go anywhere else," one AL GM said, referring to the enormous contract the Yankees reportedly have offered. "Wherever he goes, it's going to have to be to someone who has a giant payroll and can absorb it if he gets hurt."

The Yankees qualify in that department. So, too, do the Angels.

-- Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi says the Blue Jays don't have an offer out to pitcher A.J. Burnett right now and have not spoken with agent Derek Braunauer about the length of a potential deal.

-- One National League executive on pitcher Jeremy Affeldt's two-year, $8-million deal with San Francisco: "I think Affeldt might be the smartest free agent out there. He had a deal on the table and said, 'Screw it, I'm taking it.'"

-- Clubs looking for infield help are not seeing any quick fixes in a free-agent market that includes Rafael Furcal (the most sought-after, by far), Orlando Hudson, Ray Durham, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Casey Blake and Joe Crede. Hudson and Crede are coming off of injuries, Blake and Durham are into their upper-30s and Renteria is coming off of a miserable season in Detroit during which scouts were alarmed at both his lack of defensive range and his lack of arm. "Extremely thin market," one GM says. "A lot of it is flawed."

-- Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland continue to be the most aggressive suitors for Casey Blake, though his agent, Jim McDowell, did say Tuesday that there is a small group of four or five other clubs that have "stayed close." "I don't expect anything to happen this week," McDowell said. "We've had good discussions with several teams." Blake's versatility -- he can play the outfield and first base in addition to third, and the Dodgers even used him at second base in a playoff game this fall -- may wind up being his strongest selling point.

Posted on: November 25, 2008 6:52 pm
 

Free agency: Calm before the storm?

If you're wondering why there continues to be a whole lot of talk and little action on baseball's Hot Stove front this week, circle Dec. 1 on your calendar.

That's the deadline for clubs offering salary arbitration to any of their own free agents.

Most importantly, of course is this: If arbitration is offered, the signing team must compensate the player's old team with a draft pick. Now that might not be of concern to clubs chasing the biggest free-agent prizes this winter -- Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia, et. al. -- it definitely comes into play with the next-tier guys.

Consequently, many clubs are in wait mode until after Monday. Maybe San Francisco is interested in shortstop Edgar Renteria if Rafael Furcal signs elsewhere, but the Giants surely would wait until after Monday to see whether Detroit offers him arbitration (which the Tigers aren't expected to do).

And maybe Cleveland will make an offer to a free-agent closer -- Trevor Hoffman? Kerry Wood? -- but from where the Indians sit right now, in a market saturated with closers, it makes a whole lot more sense for them to wait and see who might be available that wouldn't cost them a draft pick.

While Dec. 1 is the date by which clubs must offer their free agents salary arbitration or cut bait with them for good, the players have until Dec. 7 to decide whether or not to accept.

Which is why a couple of executives with whom I've spoken this week said they think the winter meetings -- which begin Dec. 8 in Las Vegas -- will be where the action is this year.

***

The economy continues to be on the minds of front-office executives and may wind up affecting this winter's player market more than we thought.

"It's pretty treacherous for us," says Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro, whose needs include a closer and an infielder (second or third base or shortstop). "The economic situation is a real factor here. We're seeing it in season-ticket renewals. Some of our city issues pre-date the international and national economic issues, and those are amplifying our city issues.

"It's a challenge. We're trying to get our arms around it and see how it affects our revenues."

In Toronto, meanwhile, the Blue Jays already are resigned to not filling every item on their winter wish list (starting pitching, big bat in the middle of the lineup).

"The Canadian dollar isn't as strong, and we're taking a hit with the United States' dollar with the exchange rate," Blue Jays GM J.P. RIcciardi says. "The world in general is being affected by this, and to stick our head in the sand and say it's not affecting us is crazy.

"We're talking about people's discretionary spending, and they might not spend it."

Things have changed in Toronto, even from season's end to now.

"What we thought at the end of the season and what we think now is different," Ricciardi said.

***

Random other items:

-- The Los Angeles Angels' sudden turn toward CC Sabathia, explained here by colleague Danny Knobler, should really rattle the Yankees' cage. Even with Milwaukee offering five years and $100 million, until the Angels decided to get so aggressive, most executives with whom I've spoken figured the ace would sign with the Yankees.

"I've heard talk of this guy wanting to do this and do that, but you know what? They all follow the money," one National League executive said. "It's just the facts of life."

"I don't think the Yankees will allow him to go anywhere else," one AL GM said, referring to the enormous contract the Yankees reportedly have offered. "Wherever he goes, it's going to have to be to someone who has a giant payroll and can absorb it if he gets hurt."

The Yankees qualify in that department. So, too, do the Angels.

-- Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi says the Blue Jays don't have an offer out to pitcher A.J. Burnett right now and have not spoken with agent Derek Braunauer about the length of a potential deal.

-- One National League executive on pitcher Jeremy Affeldt's two-year, $8-million deal with San Francisco: "I think Affeldt might be the smartest free agent out there. He had a deal on the table and said, 'Screw it, I'm taking it.'"

-- Clubs looking for infield help are not seeing any quick fixes in a free-agent market that includes Rafael Furcal (the most sought-after, by far), Orlando Hudson, Ray Durham, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Casey Blake and Joe Crede. Hudson and Crede are coming off of injuries, Blake and Durham are into their upper-30s and Renteria is coming off of a miserable season in Detroit during which scouts were alarmed at both his lack of defensive range and his lack of arm. "Extremely thin market," one GM says. "A lot of it is flawed."

-- Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland continue to be the most aggressive suitors for Casey Blake, though his agent, Jim McDowell, did say Tuesday that there is a small group of four or five other clubs that have "stayed close." "I don't expect anything to happen this week," McDowell said. "We've had good discussions with several teams." Blake's versatility -- he can play the outfield and first base in addition to third, and the Dodgers even used him at second base in a playoff game this fall -- may wind up being his strongest selling point.

Posted on: November 24, 2008 5:55 pm
 

Furcal decision probably coming next week

In the midst of a wide-ranging flurry of reports Monday, the agent for shortstop Rafael Furcal said that he continues talking with a handful of teams and would like to "narrow it down" this week.

However, Paul Kinzer said that "narrow it down" doesn't necessarily mean sign with a club, something that might not happen until next week.

"We're still talking to three teams," Kinzer said. "We'll try and narrow it down this week."

Oakland and San Francisco remain the most aggressive clubs pursuing Furcal.

Kinzer said there are also "two" other teams who continue to seriously discuss the free-agent shortstop, though he said he promised at least one of them that he would not disclose the club's name.

Kinzer called inaccurate a report from the Dominican newspaper El Caribe that Oakland had offered four years and $48 million.

"Those numbers, those aren't the exact numbers," said Kinzer, who said Furcal has a four-year offer on the table from a team other than Oakland.

It is believed that the Athletics may have a three-year offer to Furcal with a vesting option for a fourth year.

Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs also are believed to have expressed interest. The Braves are on hold, though, as long as trade talks with San Diego regarding Jake Peavy remain at a standstill. Atlanta's pursuit of Furcal is contingent on whether the Braves trade shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Padres as part of a package for Peavy.

Based on where the free agent talks and contract terms currently are, the Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom Furcal played for the past three seasons, currently are not serious players for Furcal barring a dramatic shift, according to the agent.

"That's possible, but there's still time," Kinzer said.

As colleague Danny Knobler noted in a blog post earlier Monday, the Dodgers would like to retain Furcal but so far haven't been willing to offer him four years. The Dodgers have been attempting to limit their long-term commitments with several young players on the verge of arbitration.

"We aren't going to make a decision this week," Kinzer continued. "We're going to narrow it down to a couple of teams and see where it goes from there."

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com