With a number of three-year offers in hand and more teams planning on submitting bids, Rafael Furcal's agent said Thursday it will take at least a four-year deal to land the free-agent shortstop, even though Furcal was restricted to 36 games last season because of a back injury.
"With all the interest, we're heading in that direction," Paul Kinzer said.
Kinzer confirmed that six teams have shown interest in Furcal: San Francisco, Oakland, Baltimore, Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers, his team of the last three seasons. Another team Kinzer wouldn't identify has indicated to him it intends to place a competitive bid as well.
Any number of teams could be the mystery addition, with the shortstop carousel this offseason expected to spin furiously. In addition to Furcal and the two other top free agents, Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera, several shortstops are available via trade, including Atlanta's Yunel Escobar, San Diego's Khalil Greene, Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson and Boston's Julio Lugo.
Because the market is tilted toward the buyers, Kinzer's angling for a longer-term deal could cost Furcal in the average annual value of the deal. When he signed with the Dodgers three years ago, he did so for $39 million, exchanging length for bigger per-year dollars.
This time around, Kinzer said, the 31-year-old Furcal "prefers the years and security. What makes him so attractive is not only shortstop but a lot of teams need a consistent leadoff hitter. And he's pretty much wide open. He hasn't given me any restrictions like NL or AL."
Furcal said moments after the Dodgers were eliminated in the National League Championship Series that he wanted to stay in L.A., and Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti stated that re-signing Furcal was a top priority. But since then it has become apparent to the switch-hitting .286 lifetime hitter that he is a hot enough commodity to explore all options.
Certain scenarios could lop some teams out of the running. The Braves likely will pull out if they don't trade Escobar in the Jake Peavy deal or for a power-hitting outfielder, even though Furcal enjoyed the first six years of his career in Atlanta. The Cubs, with their payroll already extended, could not afford both Peavy and Furcal. The Dodgers are balking at a four-year deal primarily because their top infield prospect, shortstop Ivan DeJesus, is considered only one year away from the big leagues.
Health concerns, along with the expected cost, could keep teams such as St. Louis, Detroit, Oakland and Kansas City away from Furcal, while Toronto and Minnesota may stretch their budgets depending on other maneuvers.
In other news …
• Kinzer said Furcal could sign before the winter meetings. He does not expect the same of his other marquee client, closer Francisco Rodriguez. "We're not in any hurry there," Kinzer said. He understands the market on closers has tightened because of a heavy supply of available ones. While the five-year, $75 million deal Kinzer set as a starting point doesn't look feasible, one general manager expects Rodriguez to fetch four years at around $14 million per.
• If the Padres can't trade Peavy – and, despite the posturing, a deal almost certainly will get done – another salary they would look to cut is Brian Giles'. Whether Giles would agree to a trade is another story. He invoked his 10-and-5 no-trade rights last year when Boston claimed him off waivers, though with San Diego planning to slash payroll, he may change his mind if asked. "Brian intends to play in San Diego," said his agent, Joe Bick, "but we'll keep our eyes open to how the situation develops."
• Although Boston's pursuit of Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett gives the appearance of a price-driving ploy, it is anything but, according to one Red Sox executive. Boston has been careful not to extend itself into bad long-term deals and has only one player, Daisuke Matsuzaka, signed through 2012. So while Kevin Youkilis enters his second year of arbitration and Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester are both a year away from arbitration – the Red Sox want to get all three locked up in deals that take them through at least one free-agent year – Boston has enough expiring contracts to soften the blow should it pony up for Teixeira, Burnett or both.
Josh Beckett and Jason Bay are free agents after next season, Lugo and Mike Lowell following the 2010 season and J.D. Drew after 2011. The Red Sox also hold an option on David Ortiz for the 2011 season.
• The bad news about Chase Utley's hip surgery? Philadelphia loses its best player for at least the first month of the 2009 season, and to the type of injury that has lingered and ruined careers. The good news? If Utley returns healthy, he'll be that much better after looking so off in the second half. And the Phillies get to showcase Olympian Jason Donald, a natural shortstop who should fill in at second after hitting .407 and slugging .747 in 25 Arizona Fall League Games.
• And with Hal Steinbrenner officially taking over control of the Yankees, congratulations to his father, George, who no longer can be blamed should the Yankees spend more money this offseason than every other team combined.