The Dodgers could not confirm any agreement, and based on the way Furcal's free agency has gone, that's understandable. A day earlier, the Braves thought they had a deal with Furcal and faxed him a written copy of the terms, but it was never signed and returned. Two weeks ago, Furcal was said to be headed to the Oakland A's, the only team willing to guarantee him a fourth year. The Dodgers rarely confirm any signing until the player passes a physical.
When the Braves entered the picture, the Dodgers countered by finally kicking in a guaranteed third year for the 31-year-old shortstop, even though there is concern over the health of his back, which required July 3 surgery for a bulging disk that limited his play to the first five weeks of the season and the last three series, including the postseason.
He was signed by the Dodgers to a three-year contract three years ago after spending his entire career with Atlanta. He scored 113 runs that first season, but badly turned an ankle in Spring Training of 2007 and played the entire season physically limited, his batting average dropping 30 points.
Furcal and the club were hoping 2008 would be a rebound season and it looked that way throughout the first five weeks, when he hit .366. But he was injured making a difficult play in the hole on a David Wright grounder in May, suffered setbacks both before and after surgery, and rushed to make it back for the postseason.
Furcal sparked the Dodgers to their National League Division Series win over the Cubs, but appeared physically limited while being shut down by the Phillies in the NLCS.
The re-signing of Furcal and third baseman Casey Blake was the top winter priority of general manager Ned Colletti, as it restores the left side of the infield for the Dodgers and stabilizes the batting order, returning Furcal's leadoff presence with Blake a legitimate power bat. Furcal also was pursued by Oakland, Kansas City and Toronto, but he apparently did not want to leave the National League. He spent his first six years with the Braves.
At last week's Winter Meetings, manager Joe Torre spoke up about his offseason priority.
"Raffy can't take a back seat to anybody, as far as I'm concerned," Torre said of Furcal. "He's a special player. When he was healthy, he showed how valuable he is to our lineup."
The Dodgers now figure to turn their attention to replenishing the pitching staff, with a chance that Manny Ramirez will come back to them on a short-term contract after Mark Teixeira is off the market. Among the free-agent pitchers under consideration are Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, Trevor Hoffman and Randy Johnson.