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Furcal agrees to terms with Braves

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

Free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal has agreed to terms with the Atlanta Braves, a Braves source confirmed Tuesday morning.

The decision comes after six weeks of free agency for Furcal, a fluid period in which only the Oakland A's and Los Angeles Dodgers were constant suitors.

Terms of the contract were unknown. The agreement was first reported by Foxsports.com.

The Dodgers, who had paid him $39 million over the previous three seasons, offered two guaranteed years. Hoping to add a leadoff hitter who would be on base for Matt Holliday and a long-term solution to Bobby Crosby at shortstop, the A's offered four guaranteed years at something approaching $40 million.

Furcal, 31, missed 4½ months last season because of lower back pain and, eventually, surgery to pare a calcified bulge from a disc. For their $39 million, the Dodgers received one very good season (2006), one average season (2007) in which Furcal suffered from knee and ankle soreness, and one 36-game season (2008).

Remarkably, Furcal returned for a handful of late-September games and all eight of the Dodgers' postseason games, batting .333 in the division-series sweep of the Cubs. He awoke with neck pain – unrelated, he said, to his back surgery – on the morning of Oct. 15, however, and in Game 5 of the NLCS committed three errors in the fifth inning. The Phillies scored two unearned runs in the inning and advanced to the World Series with a 5-1 victory.

The Dodgers think Furcal's back is structurally sound and that he could play out his career with little or no back problems. They also think it will take a rigid maintenance routine. Other clubs given access to Furcal's medical files – including the Blue Jays, who would have Furcal on artificial turf – said their doctors did not think Furcal was vulnerable to further back ailments.

The Braves, who signed Furcal out of a small Dominican town near the Haitian border in 1996, came late to Furcal's free agency, and just as the Blue Jays were dropping out. Furcal was National League Rookie of the Year in 2000 and an MLB All-Star in 2003. The Braves gave him up with almost no fight three years ago.

But amid rumors they could trade second baseman Kelly Johnson or shortstop Yunel Escobar to acquire more pitching, they came to the conclusion Furcal would fit again. They acquired Javier Vazquez from the White Sox earlier this month.

The shortstop market now centers on 34-year-old Orlando Cabrera, who had a down year – statistically and socially – for the White Sox after three productive seasons with the Angels. The Dodgers will consider Cabrera as a short-term solution at shortstop.