Giants, A's Leading Furcal Sweepstakes

Ken RosenthalAnalyst INovember 23, 2008
The Rafael Furcal sweepstakes, accelerating at a rapid pace, appears to be shaping up as a Bay Area showdown between the A's and Giants.

"It's moving pretty fast," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told on Friday. "I don't know if we're going to be in it or not."

The Dodgers want to retain Furcal, who is a favorite of manager Joe Torre, but might be reluctant to meet the player's desire for a four-year contract.

A team's willingness to offer Furcal a fourth year likely will be the difference-maker in the negotiations, major-league sources say.

When the Dodgers signed Furcal prior to the 2006 season, they gave him three years and $39 million. He is 31 now, and coming off back surgery.

Both the A's and Giants were satisfied by what they saw in Furcal's medical records, sources say.

Both teams also might want to move sooner rather than later on Furcal, fearing that a delay could draw the Braves and Cubs into the negotiations.

The Braves would pursue Furcal only if they traded shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Padres in a package for right-hander Jake Peavy; those talks currently are dormant, but many in the industry expect them to revive.

The Cubs, too, are interested in Furcal, but after re-signing free-agent right-hander Ryan Dempster to a four-year, $52 million contract, they probably could not invest heavily in another player until after the team is sold. Bidders have until Dec. 1 to submit offers, Major League Baseball officials said this week.

The A's, lacking a long-term internal solution at shortstop, would use Furcal as their leadoff man in a revamped offense anchored by their newest trade acquisition, left fielder Matt Holliday.

The Giants' projected shortstop, Emmanuel Burris, 23, could move to second base if the team signed Furcal. The Giants also are negotiating with another free-agent shortstop, Edgar Renteria, according to — and competing with the rival Dodgers for perhaps the biggest free-agent prize, left-hander CC Sabathia.

If the Dodgers lost Furcal, they could turn their attention to Renteria or Orlando Cabrera, the latter of whom they discussed acquiring in a trade last summer.

The team also is trying to re-sign left fielder Manny Ramirez and third baseman Casey Blake, and is expected to make an offer for Sabathia shortly.


A Jack of many trades?

The Pirates, talking about shortstop Jack Wilson with several clubs, are trying to acquire catcher Matt Treanor from the Marlins, then spin both players to the Tigers, according to one major-league source.

But that possibility, first reported by Bucco Blog, was dismissed by another source as "inaccurate" and having "no foundation."

The Pirates want appropriate value for Wilson, not financial relief. Wilson, who turns 32 on Dec. 29, will earn $7.25 million next season plus an $8.4 million club option or $600,000 buyout for 2010.

The Tigers, seeking a shortstop to replace departing free agent Edgar Renteria, have long had interest in Wilson. Treanor, 32, could help fill their catching void, but almost certainly in a backup role.


Five years for A.J.? Not likely from Jays

Though Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi did not rule out offering a five-year deal to free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett, another source with knowledge of the team's thinking says he "can't imagine" the Jays making such a proposal.

As for trading right-hander Roy Halladay, forget it — at least for now.

Halladay, 31, possesses a full no-trade clause, and he is signed for $14.25 million next season and $15.75 million in 2010.

The Jays would not even entertain trading Halladay until after they made a full effort to sign him to an extension — something that would happen quickly if they kept Burnett.


Pirates' McLouth: An interesting catch

Some viewed Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth as a dubious choice for a Gold Glove; McLouth's minus-40 rating according to the plus-minus ratings on Bill James Online was the worst of any player in baseball.

However, according to the final Gold Glove balloting, obtained by, McLouth received 41 votes from the National League managers and coaches — more than any player in the league. The Angels' Torii Hunter led the AL with 66 votes.

The closest races were AL pitcher, in which Mike Mussina edged Kenny Rogers, 24-22; and AL shortstop, in which Michael Young edged Orlando Cabrera, 29-26.

So, how did McLouth fare so miserably in one of the most advanced defensive metrics, yet garner such respect from the managers and coaches who voted? More than likely, they were impressed by McLouth's aggressive style and knack for making spectacular catches.

John Dewan, the creator of the plus-minus system and author of "The Fielding Bible," wrote in a recent blog entry that McLouth is above-average in his ability to prevent base-runners from advancing on hits and his ability to make plays "above and beyond the ordinary." But in covering ground, Dewan said, McLouth struggles "big time."


Mulder: Coming along

Free-agent left-hander Mark Mulder, rehabilitating from a pair of shoulder operations, is making significant progress in his recovery, according to his agent, Gregg Clifton.

After the Cardinals bought Mulder out for $1.5 million, he began working with two new personal trainers, one of whom is Paul Hospenthal, a longtime acquaintance of Mulder's who is the husband of race-car driver Danica Patrick.

Clifton said that Mulder's shoulder is fine, but that he is just now starting to build "functional strength" — in other words, the muscles that will enable him to pitch successfully again.

Mulder, 31, will not begin throwing until December, but could prove a reasonable one-year risk for a team in need of starting pitching.


Around the horn

Here are four possible trading partners for the Red Sox if they sign free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira and need to move third baseman Mike Lowell: The Dodgers, who could lose Casey Blake in free agency; the White Sox, who currently project the unproven Josh Fields at third base; the Tigers, who could move Brandon Inge back to catcher; and the Brewers, who would need to trade third baseman Bill Hall. The Red Sox would need to be creative. Lowell, who turns 35 on Feb. 24, is expected to make a full recovery from hip surgery, but is owed $25 million over the next two seasons ...

Free-agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez plans to play again next season, according to Clifton, his agent. When contacted Friday, Clifton said, "He's in the gym right now." Gonzalez, 41, is four doubles shy of 600, and needs only 28 to tie Hank Aaron for 10th on the all-time list; he is five away from Barry Bonds, seven away from Cal Ripken. Gonzalez hit 26 doubles in 341 at-bats for the Marlins last season. ...

Would you trade for a pitcher who has averaged 13 wins, 192 innings and a 4.59 ERA in the National League over the past five seasons? Say hello to Cubs right-hander Jason Marquis, who will be entering the final year of his contract, valued at $9.875 million. That number likely would scare off many clubs, but Marquis would become more attractive if the Cubs included enough cash to bring another team's obligation down to say, $7 million. ...

The Phillies are confident that second baseman Chase Utley will not be out until June after undergoing surgery on his right hip. "If you know Chase, he'll be ready for Opening Day," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I'm concerned, but not that concerned. I have all the confidence in the world that he'll be back. If it's a couple of weeks into the season, then it is what it is." ...

The White Sox aren't ruling out that their newest Cuban signee, 19-year-old slugger Dayan Viciedo, could contribute next season, possibly at third base. But they will allow Viciedo to develop at his own pace, just as they did with Alexei Ramirez, who finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting at age 26 last season.

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