LONG BEACH— Rafeal Furcal has rejoined the Atlanta Braves (pending physical).
No wait. Furcal has joined the Dodgers (pending physical).
No, wait. Furcal has gone to the store for some kleenex and q-tips.
It appears Rafeal has shunned the AL, and in particular, the Oakland A’s, by signing with his former team. Reports are, he took less money and years to come back to Atlanta than were offered by the A’s.
That’s nice of him.
But reporst are also coming in that the deal isn’t agreed to yet.
That’s mean of him. Just sign already and be done with it!
Should it go down as reported, the Braves would also be getting him for nine million less than the Dodgers paid over the same length of time.
So the natural question is, why the discount? And why the move by Frank Wren?
First the discount, if you can call it that. Furcal blew out his back last year. He had back surgery. Atlanta fans are familiar with the results of back surgery. Mark Kotsay came to Atlanta fresh off the slab, out from under the knife. He played well. Then his back problems flared up. Then he returned and played well. Then he was traded. So while Furcal is a “known quantity” on paper, he is an unknown for next year. This provides ample room for issues in 2009.
Now, to 2009. Why would Frank Wren make this move?
A little back ground is needed for this. Last off-season Frank Wren became the GM of the Braves. He made a quick move shipping out a short-stop (Edgar Renteria) who had performed wonderfully for the Braves. In return he received Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez. Jair was equally wonderful, and easily the best pitcher for the Braves last year. All his competition ended the season under the knife. Ominous isn’t it?
After Frank traded Edgar, he took a swing for nostalgia. Glavine was pulled back to Atlanta after five years with those filthy, filthy Mets. Glavine immediately picked up where he left off with the Mets. Then he fell apart.
So, after watching an aging rotation crumble before his eyes, Frank vowed to rebuild the pitching staff. Two top-of-the-order guys were to be acquired. Also, an outfielder that can actually hit home runs. Also, no more falling back on nostalgia. That plan didn’t work too well.
So here we are, December 16th, 2009, deep in the heart of the off-season. Frank Wren has been at work attempting to achieve his goals. First the pitchers…
Ryan Dempster was targeted by the Braves. He re-signed with the Cubs.
Jake Peavy was targeted by the Braves. Kevin Towers went mad.
Japanese phenome Tazawa was offered a major league deal. He signed with the Red Sox to be with his idol, Dice-K.
Mike Hampton was offered a contract. He took less money to play with the Astros.
A.J. Burnett was in sight. He used the Braves to leverage a guaranteed fifth year at a high annual salary from the Yankees.
After such rejection Frank decided to take aim at the bullpen. He acquired a lefty reliever from the White Sox who generously included Javier Vazquez in the deal.
Javy, as they call him, was an after thought. But Frank couldn’t afford to let yet another starting pitcher slip by. So he grabbed him and presented him to Atlanta as a fulfilment of part of his off-season goals.
Top of the rotation starter? Check. (Not many in the Braves nation were fooled. Vazquez is a middle to back of the rotation starter on a contender).
Off to the outfield power Frank went. Raul Ibanez was rumored to be of interest to the Braves. He signed with the Phillies.
I’d imagine that, at this point in time, many an explative was shouted in Frank’s office. Fortunately for the Braves, during all of this, they have not wasted prospects or money, or even lost a draft pick. They still are a third or fourth place team, but a financially sound third or fourth place team.
So back to Furcal. Why would Wren return to nostalgia? Why would the Braves sign a short-stop? The team already has a short-stop. They are seeking a power hitting outfielder and some pitching! Two things Rafeal Fucal is not.
The spin is, this move would mean Furcal goes to second base and Kelly Johnson goes to the outfield.
Kelly to the outfield? That’s the outfield power bat? Another 15 to 20 home runs from an infielder converted to outfielder converted to infielder converted to outfielder?
This is not the answer Braves fans were hoping. A nostalgic player from the past with an injury concern and still no answer to the outfield power outage and the lack of quality pitching in the rotation.
My belief is, despite what Mark Bowman and David O’Brien are reporting that the Braves front office is saying, another deal is in the works. Another deal which will address the pitching and/or the outfield power. A deal which will require trading either KJ or Yunel.
We shall see…
In the mean time the Dodgers have no infield. So that’s an interesting turn of events.