Results tagged ‘ Los Angeles Dodgers ’

Hey Fookie, don’t forget to RSVP…

If you thought the Jake Peavy saga was enough to sour the Atlanta off-season… And if you thought it was frustrating when A.J. Burnett chose the Yankees over the Braves… then you must have loved the drama that unfolded when the Braves were scorned in their pursuit of free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Monday morning, it was the Oakland Athletics running out in front of the pack with a four-year offer for Fucal’s services. There was a mystery team in the running, with the Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers all believed to be interested to varying degrees. That msystery team, as we now know, turned out to be the Atlanta Braves, who offered Furcal a three-year deal worth a reported $30 million and included a vesting option for a fourth season.

Everything seemed to be beautiful for a fleeting couple of hours if you’re into the homecoming story of Atlanta’s not-so-long-lost lead-off man. Frank Wren and the Braves front office believed a deal was verbally agreed to and went as far as to schedule a flight and physical for Wednesday. As reports trickled out, it turned out to be news to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who stated that his club was still in negotiations to retain Furcal. That is where we come off the tracks.

Furcal_error.jpgThis story has twisted and turned and finally landed in the completely bizarre. Furcal’s Atlanta-based agent, Paul Kinzer, managed to thoroughly upset the apple-cart as it comes to the Braves front office. Atlanta believes that Kinzer took a signed term sheet (a binding agreement that would have put into motion a full contract following the physical) and shopped it openly to the Dodgers. Is it any coincidence that the Dodgers jumped from luke-warm interest (having made it clear that a 2-year deal was all they were interested in) to making a 3-year deal with a fourth year vesting option for… $30 million?

 

That raised a few eyebrows and more than a few red flags in my book. The fact that the Braves say they were lead to believe that they had an verbal agreement with Kinzer is hard to comprehend. How could they think they had a deal? How do you misunderstand a player agreeing to a deal in principle? I still don’t know how each side can state so fervently that they are in the right. Somebody is lying here folks. And I’m not even going to get into the debate regarding a position switch that may have been a deciding factor working against the Braves. 

Personally, I don’t mind Furcal returning to the Dodgers. His major back surgery is not something that would lead me to believe he is fully recovered after just one week in late September and a handful of post-season games. Back injuries are tricky, and the Braves may have dodged a bullet (much-pun intended) by allowing the Dodgers to step up and “steal” Furcal away for a multi-year deal.

Wren and Braves President John Schuerholz have gone on the record as calling the moves made by Furcal’s agents “dispicable” and have stated they will never do business with the Wasserman Media Group again. Who knows if cooler heads will eventually prevail, but this thing has turned into a full scale fued.

The Braves have work to do, most notably, they need to acquire a front of the rotation starter and one more hitter to solidifty the rotation and the line-up. The free-agent pool offers a few options but it seems logical that one of these needs will be filled by a trade. Could it possibly be Jake Peavy after all this time?

Things are slow in Bravesland, but there’s still time on the clock for Wren to make it happen.

Till next time,

G-Mc

Winter Meetings Shopping list…

Starting pitching, plain and simple

ajburnett.jpgThe ideal trade for Jake Peavy has become a harder than originally expected task. Padres GM Kevin Towers practically wrote the book on how not to trade what should be one of the most valuable commodities by keeping virtually every step of these negotiations front and center in the press. The talks may rekindle, but the Braves and GM Frank Wren will have the option of pursuing A.J. Burnett and other free agent hurlers. Wren will certainly look to provide at least two hurlers who can provide some innings, perhaps the White Sox Javier Vasquez could fit that bill.

Burnett, who turns 32 before the season, is clearly the Braves first choice as an ace. As Braves.com’s Mark Bowman pointed out last week, Burnett’s agent said a fifth year was not necessarily the make or break point. An 18-game winner a year ago, he also fills the role of ace starter which Atlanta is seeking this winter. Expect the Braves to make a big offer to acquire his services.

Atlanta is also faced with decisions on a trio of starters from last season. Tom Glavine and John Smoltz each have to determine their plans on pitching after testing their surgically repaired arms. I have my doubts that Glavine will decide to play on, while Smoltz has proven that you just can’t count him out. If it comes down to being a starter or reliever though, I don’t expect to see Smoltz putting on the uniform to serve as a set-up man next season. Then there is Mike Hampton, who showed he something left to offer after two and a half seasons of injuries. Jerry Crasnick over at ESPN noted that Hampton and his agent are seeking a one-year deal to re-establish his value in the market moving forward. Would the years spent on the sidelines lead him back to Atlanta to do so?

Power hitting left fielder

Griffey_blog.jpgDepending on how everything shakes out with some of the other pursuits this winter, the Braves seem to be looking for a righty hitting middle of the line-up bat to stick in left this season. There are a range of options that starts with free agent Pat Burrell (whom the Braves will almost certainly pass on for his defensive liability and history of foot problems) and including the rumored to be available Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

If you open the running to include left-handed hitters then you start to get some interesting names. Raul Ibanez, who is not interested in becoming the full-time DH for Seattle, and Ken Griffey Jr. top my list of candidates. Ibanez is a consistent performer (averaging 113 RBI over the past three seasons) who hasn’t exactly been in a hitter’s paradise in Safeco Field.

Age and injury combine to temper the expectations from Griffey, who combined to hit .249 with 18 homers and 73 RBI in 143 games with the Reds and White Sox last season. Still, a short term pact with incentives could be a strong option if other free agent options or trade alternatives become too costly in one form or another.

Bullpen reinforcements

The pen was a sore spot yet again for Atlanta last year. It seems like that theme has run through each of the last three seasons. The Braves do have a set closer at least, with Mike Gonzalez anchoring the ninth innings. Things are somewhat dicey after that though. Rafael Soriano is due a huge pay raise ($6.1 million) as part of the two-year deal he signed before last season and will have to prove he can stay healthy coming off just 14 appearances in 2008. Peter Moylan will be coming back from Tommy John surgery, and much is expected of that duo to solidify the late innings in front of Gonzalez.

Atlanta is interested in bringing back lefty Will Ohman, who struggled late but was one of the most important arms last season. Another lefty will be important, as I’m not sure how waiver claim Eric O’Flaherty fits into those plans, but I’m sure that Wren will seek as many options as possible. Ohman and Blaine Boyer finished near the top of the pack in overall appearances, so the Braves will look to add some reliable depth where possible. If there’s ever a place where some trades will happen, I expect it to be in the relief department. 

Kick the tires on some available shortstops

p1_furcal_ap.jpgFor a team that has a young and multi-talented shortstop already, there have been more than a few rumors out there that the Braves will go back to one of their former shortstops this winter. What started with the potential trade of Yunel Escobar (and several others) for Jake Peavy has turned into the potential homecoming of Rafael Furcal, or perhaps Edgar Renteria. Of course, the Braves may not make it to the table for either one – so consider this simply a cursory examination of the available.

A healthy Furcal would be a boost to the top of the line-up, providing a lead-off hitter that has not been present since his departure three seasons ago. The money and years would have to be right, and with the bad back that cost Furcal much of last season, it is hard to say the Braves will be a major player in this sweepstakes. The American League hasn’t seemed to be the place for Renteria on two occasions now. It was just 2007 when he hit .332 for the Braves, so who’s to say the down season with Detroit spelled the beginning of the end?

With a week’s worth of prep time between now and the Winter Meetings in Vegas, many things could change. Wren could wrap up some of his shopping before he heads to Nevada. The Braves figure to have an interesting off-season either way.

Till next time,

G-Mc