On the day Rafael Furcal passed a physical and signed his name on a three-year, $30-million contract with the Dodgers, he found himself deflecting questions about his agents’ dealing with the Atlanta Braves.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Furcal, adding that his preference was always to re-sign with the Dodgers.
Furcal, who spent less than seven minutes speaking to reporters on a conference call Friday night, denied the Braves’ charge that he ever agreed to play for them. The 31-year-old switch-hitting leadoff hitter stood by agent Paul Kinzer’s claim that he couldn’t be reached on Monday night, the night his former team was convinced it had a deal in place to sign him to a deal similar to the one he took from the Dodgers.
Braves General Manager Frank Wren said on WIFN-FM in Macon, Ga., that Kinzer told him that night that he wanted to run the Braves’ final offer by Furcal but was unable to speak to him. Furcal said he was at his mother’s house, where he had phone trouble.
Wren claimed that Kinzer left him a voice message later that night and asked him to fax over a term sheet, which Wren said is customarily done only when an agreement has been reached. Kinzer said on Tuesday that he told Furcal to “sleep on” the offer.
“I never said anything,” Furcal said.
Wren said he learned the next day that Furcal’s representatives, Kinzer and Arn Tellem, were still negotiating with the Dodgers.
Kinzer said one of the reasons Furcal opted to not play for the Braves was because they wanted him to move from shortstop to second base. Of the position change that was proposed, Furcal said, “For me, it’s no problem.”
Braves President John Schuerholz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his team would no longer entertain signing any players represented by Tellem and Kinzer’s Wasserman Media Group, prompting Tellem to issue a written statement declaring that doing so would violate baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. Tellem wrote that an agreement was never reached and denied any wrongdoing, as Kinzer did on Tuesday.
Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti denied knowing anything about Kinzer and Tellem’s negotiations with the Braves, though he said that based on his experience, he didn’t think that faxing a term sheet signifies that an agreement has been reached.
Colletti said that he was told beforehand by Furcal’s representatives that the Dodgers would get a final shot to re-sign their client, who completed a three-year, $39-million deal with them this year.
Colletti said the Dodgers improved their offer to a guaranteed three years “early Monday, if not Sunday.” Kinzer said on Tuesday that Furcal would probably sign with Atlanta.
The Dodgers initially offered Furcal a deal that was guaranteed for only two years and were reluctant to sign him for a longer deal because of his back, which required surgery in the middle of the season and sidelined him for 4 1/2 months. Colletti said that a conversation with Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed the operation and oversaw Furcal’s rehabilitation, convinced him that his back shouldn’t be a problem if he continued his core-strengthening exercises.
Watkins and team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache examined Furcal on Friday.
Furcal’s deal includes a $12-million option for a fourth year that vests if he makes 600 plate appearances in the third. Colletti said that Furcal will receive a bonus for maintaining his core-strengthening program but didn’t provide specifics about the clause.
Furcal said he intended to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic and that he hoped to get 50 to 60 at-bats.