Seemingly on his way back to the Atlanta Braves, Rafael Furcal reversed course Wednesday and agreed to a three-year, $30-million contract to remain with the Dodgers.
Furcal will be paid $6.5 million next season, $8.5 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011, according to sources with knowledge of the situation who were granted anonymity because the deal was still being finalized. The contract includes a $12-million option for 2012 that vests if Furcal makes 600 plate appearances in 2011.
The 31-year-old shortstop will receive a deferred signing bonus of $3 million when the contract expires.
Furcal completed a three-year, $39-million deal with the Dodgers this year. He hit .293 in the three years and was often the Dodgers’ best offensive player when healthy.
Furcal’s agents, Paul Kinzer and Arm Tellem, wouldn’t confirm the details of the contract, but Kinzer said of the negotiations with the Dodgers, “Things look pretty good.”
Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti declined to comment.
Furcal appeared Tuesday to be on the verge of signing with the Braves, with whom he broke into the majors in 2000.
The Braves offered Furcal a contract that was guaranteed for three years and included a vesting option for a fourth. The Dodgers’ initial offer was guaranteed for two years and had a vesting option for a third.
The Dodgers were reluctant to guarantee the switch-hitting leadoff hitter more than two years because of concerns about his medical history. Furcal missed 4 1/2 months this year because of a bulging disk in his back that required surgery to repair. He also was hobbled by a sprained ankle for the entire 2007 season, during which he hit a career-low .270.
Kinzer acknowledged he told the Braves on Monday night they were the favorites to land his client but denied a deal was in place. The Braves evidently thought otherwise.
“I do know we reached an agreement with Rafael’s representative on Monday night,” Braves General Manager Frank Wren said in an interview with WIFN-FM in Macon, Ga.
Wren said he faxed Kinzer a term sheet at Kinzer’s request.
“It was bound from our side,” Wren said. “We had signed it.”
But Kinzer told The Times on Tuesday he wanted to give the Dodgers a final chance to re-sign Furcal, something of which Wren said he was unaware.
The Dodgers improved their offer and Wren said that on Tuesday night, he received a call from Kinzer asking him if the Braves would improve theirs. Wren said they wouldn’t.
“We had an agreement,” Wren said he told Kinzer.
When WIFN talk show host Bill Shanks prefaced a question by saying that he knew Wren couldn’t burn bridges with Kinzer and Tellem, Wren interjected, “That bridge is gone. I don’t have to worry about burning it. The bridge is gone.”
Kinzer’s credibility became a question even for the Dodgers. According to team sources, Colletti was unsure of what to make of the apparent progress he was making in the negotiations.
In addition to upsetting the Braves, Kinzer recently said Oakland was Furcal’s most likely landing spot, only to later turn down a guaranteed four-year offer from the Athletics.
Starting in spring training, Furcal insisted that he wanted to re-sign with the Dodgers. When the Dodgers were eliminated by the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series, he said, “Really, I want to come back. I love it here. I love the city. I love my teammates.”
Kinzer said several times this winter Furcal’s preference was to stay with the Dodgers.
By re-signing Furcal, the Dodgers will retain their starting infield from the playoffs, which was an uncertainty at the start of the off-season. Third baseman Casey Blake was re-signed last week to a three-year contract worth $17.5 million.
As was the case when re-signing Blake, the Dodgers had to extend Furcal a longer offer than they would have liked.
Furcal went into the winter asking for a four-year deal, but to ensure his new contract is that long, he will have to play in 134 games in 2011, assuming he averages 4.5 plate appearances a game. Until he was limited to 36 games this year because of back problems, Furcal made at least 600 plate appearances in six consecutive seasons.
With their infield solidified, the Dodgers figure to turn their attention next to re-signing All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez and adding pitchers to their starting rotation and bullpen.
Ross Newhan contributed to this report.
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The Dodgers’ record with and without Rafael Furcal in the starting lineup the last three seasons:
*--* 2006 WITH WITHOUT 85-71 (.545) 3-3 (.500) 2007 WITH WITHOUT 73-65 (.529) 9-15 (.375) 2008 WITH WITHOUT 19-16 (.543) 65-62 (.512) TOTAL WITH WITHOUT 177-152 (.538) 77-80 (.490) *--*
Los Angeles Times