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Dodgers trying to keep Furcal

They improve offer, even as his agent says free-agent shortstop is leaning toward signing with the Braves.

December 17, 2008|Dylan Hernandez

Faced with the prospect of losing Rafael Furcal to the Atlanta Braves, Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti negotiated with the free-agent shortstop's representatives into the night Tuesday.

"We're still in conversations with Raffy's agents," Colletti said.

Colletti said the Dodgers improved their offer to the 31-year-old Furcal but wouldn't elaborate how and refused to reveal anything more about the nature of the negotiations.

Furcal balked at the Dodgers' initial offer, which was laden with incentives, guaranteed for two years and included a vesting option for a third, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter. The Braves, with whom Furcal broke into the majors in 2000, offered a three-year guaranteed deal with a vesting option for a fourth year.

The Braves' offer is worth $10 million per season, according to multiple reports. Furcal completed a three-year, $39-million contract with the Dodgers this year.

"It's not done yet, but if he chose right now, it would be Atlanta," Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, said Tuesday morning.

Kinzer said he wanted to give the Dodgers a final chance to re-sign Furcal, adding that the Dodgers and the Braves are the only two teams Furcal is considering. Oakland, Toronto and Kansas City have been subtracted from the list of finalists.

Kinzer acknowledged that he told the Braves on Monday night that Furcal was leaning toward signing with them, which he guessed was why several media outlets prematurely reported that his client had agreed to return to Atlanta to play.

Kinzer denied that Furcal was scheduled to undergo a physical with the Braves to finalize a deal.

Braves General Manager Frank Wren remained in talks with Furcal's representatives Tuesday, team spokesman Brad Hainje said.

Furcal hit .293 in his three seasons as the Dodgers' lead-off hitter. His best season with the Dodgers was in 2006, when he hit .300 with 15 home runs and 63 runs batted in.

But the Dodgers have been reluctant to extend a long-term deal to Furcal largely because of his medical history. He was hobbled by a sprained ankle for the entire 2007 season and hit a career-low .270.

Furcal was hitting .366 through May 5 of this year, but hurt his back, underwent surgery in July and didn't play again until Sept. 24. He was limited to 36 regular-season games, but started all eight playoff games.

Dodgers President Jamie McCourt voiced concerns last month about guaranteed contracts, saying, "I think, oddly enough, maybe if things weren't guaranteed, then we could pay for it. If people can't play anymore, it's like, 'Oh well, see ya.' Different story."

Of the Dodgers' recent high-priced free-agent acquisitions, Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones have had to undergo surgery.

The Dodgers are planning to pursue free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera if they fail to re-sign Furcal. Cabrera, 34, hit .281 with eight home runs and 57 runs batted in this year with the Chicago White Sox.

Cabrera's agent, Dan Lozano, said that the Dodgers have expressed interest in his client.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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