Word from Rafael Furcal's agent Paul Kinzer is that the free agent will make a decision today about where he will play for the next three or four years. Will it be Los Angeles? How about Oakland? Perhaps Atlanta?
The Braves emerged late Monday night as a serious contender for Furcal's services. He began his career in Atlanta and supposedly has an interest in returning to play for manager Bobby Cox, who helped mentor Furcal when he was just a teenager in a new country.
It still remains to be seen as to where Furcal will land. But this much is evident: If Furcal doesn't return to the Dodgers, there will be a huge hole at shortstop that will have to be filled.
What will the Dodgers do if Furcal does sign with Oakland or Atlanta? Here are the options:
1. Sign free agent Orlando Cabrera
Make no mistake about it: Cabrera is no Furcal. He won't steal bases like Furcal, and he doesn't have the same pop in his bat. Cabrera hasn't hit more than nine home runs since 2004 and he only stole 19 bases last season for the White Sox.
His career on-base percentage is also only .322. Cabrera will also come much cheaper than Furcal, though, and he is a good fielder.
2. Go with another youth infusion with Chin-lung Hu
Hu is only 23 years old and has been accumulating accolades over the past two years in the Dodgers' minor-league system. However, he has struggled at the plate during his brief stints with the Dodgers over the past two seasons.
Last season, in 116 at-bats for the Dodgers, Hu batted .181 and struck out 23 times. If Hu is ever going to be ready, it should be now. He has had plenty of time to learn in the minors, so this may be the time for the Dodgers to fish or cut bait with him.
3. Trade for a shortstop
This sounds good on paper, but it isn't very appealing when you really look at it. No team is going to trade its starting shortstop who is in the plans for 2009 to the Dodgers without asking for the moon and stars.
Who is available?
Jack Wilson with the Pirates. The same Wilson who longs to come back home to Southern California, but whose skills have been declining for the past couple years. Wilson has never stolen more than eight bases during his eight-year career. Last season, in more than 300 at-bats, he had one home run and 22 RBI. In other words, Wilson is slow and he won't do much at the plate.
He is a great fielder, though, if that makes any difference. This trade is a disaster waiting to happen for the Dodgers if they choose to make it.
4. Sign one of the other free agent shortstops from the likes of David Eckstein, Cesar Izturis or Omar Vizquel
The thought of this makes me sick to my stomach. None of these shortstops is worth consideration. The recently signed Mark Loretta is a better shortstop option than any of these wiffle-bat players.
So, what should the Dodgers do at shortstop for 2009? Give Furcal the extra year he desires and pray like heck that he accepts it. Los Angeles needs Furcal as much or more than it needs Manny Ramirez.
The fans may not realize it now, but they will if Furcal ends up playing elsewhere next season.