At the end of a couple of curious days, during which Rafael Furcal reportedly agreed to sign with the Atlanta Braves, then resumed negotiations with the Los Angeles Dodgers (depending on one's perspective), the free-agent shortstop reached an agreement Wednesday afternoon to return to the Dodgers.
According to sources familiar with the negotiations, talks between team owner Frank McCourt, general manager Ned Colletti and agents Arn Tellem and Paul Kinzer resulted in a three-year, $30 million deal.
A Dodgers source said the contract includes a fourth-year option for $12 million, vesting with 600 plate appearances in the third year. The deal is backloaded, with Furcal getting $6.5 million in 2009, $8.5 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011. He also will be paid a deferred signing bonus of $3 million at the end of the contract.
The Dodgers' offer had been at two years with an option for a third until Wednesday.
In Atlanta, Braves officials who were so optimistic they had acquired Furcal (who began his career in Atlanta) on Tuesday for three years and $30 million were resigned to perhaps losing the bidding to the Dodgers on Wednesday.
Kinzer had said Monday he expected Furcal to choose Tuesday between the Dodgers, Athletics, Royals and a fourth team, which turned out to be the Braves. Later Monday, he revealed to at least one of the other teams that Furcal had chosen the Braves, whose offer included a vesting fourth-year option. Clearly, the A's (who bid the highest for Furcal) and Royals would have had to overwhelm Furcal in term or annual salary to have signed him.
Braves management, sources said Tuesday, believed they had a “gentlemen's agreement” with Furcal, and that he would submit to a physical on Wednesday.
Meantime, Colletti said at 9 a.m. PT on Wednesday that the Dodgers were still in on Furcal, who after the season expressed a desire to return to the Dodgers, who whom he played the last three years at $13 million a year.
With Furcal's decision, the Dodgers have rebuilt the left side of their infield with the same players – Casey Blake and Furcal – with whom they reached the NLCS. They also signed veteran free-agent utility infielder Mark Loretta and plan to start young Blake DeWitt at second base.
Meanwhile, the Braves have been turned down by a second high-end free agent. Starter A.J. Burnett signed with the Yankees last week.