It's official: Furcal finalizes deal with Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — Shortstop Rafael Furcal finalized his three-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, saying he always wanted to return to the team he played with the past three seasons.

Furcal, who missed most of last season with back problems, agreed to terms of a contract worth at least $30 million with the Dodgers on Wednesday, prompting the Atlanta Braves to claim the 31-year-old switch hitter reneged on a deal with them. He passed a physical Friday.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti acknowledged the risk involved, but said team doctors are convinced Furcal is healthy.

"Those of you who have watched him over the last three years, you know we're a different team with him in the lineup," general manager Ned Colletti said on a conference call. "He never told us that he had anything else in mind, and they were going to give us every chance to come back because this is where he wanted to be.

"He doesn't like not playing. And he doesn't want this to be his last contract. He understands the value of working hard. He's proven to be a difference-maker. We decided to go for it. Every time you sign somebody, every time you make a trade, every time you draft somebody, you're taking a risk."

Furcal hit .357 with five homers and 16 RBIs last season, but was limited to 36 games and 143 at-bats. He had back surgery July 3 and was sidelined until the season's final week, but started each of the Dodgers' eight postseason games, hitting .258 with one homer, three RBIs and nine runs scored.

"You can't overestimate Raffy's value to the team," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said in a statement. "He brings so much more to the table than just his ability to play the game. The players feed off his energy and I think he's an integral piece of the puzzle. I look forward to having that leadership in a Dodger uniform for the next several years."

Braves president John Schuerholz has vowed to never again do business with Furcal's agents, whom Schuerholz accused in a newspaper interview of conducting "despicable" dealings with the team.

Schuerholz and Braves general manager Frank Wren were quoted as saying the Wasserman Media Group, headed by Arn Tellem, negotiated dishonestly by taking the team's signed terms of agreement sheet for Furcal to the Dodgers. Wren said he believed the request by agent Paul Kinzer for a term sheet signed by the Braves late Monday meant an agreement had been reached.

"Having been in this business for 40-some years, I've never seen anybody treated like that," Schuerholz was quoted as saying in Friday's editions of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The Atlanta Braves will no longer do business with that company — ever. I told Arn Tellem that we can't trust them to be honest and forthright. I told him that in all my years, I've never seen any (agency) act in such a despicable manner.

"It was disgusting and unprofessional. We're a proud organization, and we won't allow ourselves to be treated that way. I advised Arn Tellem that whatever players he represents, just scratch us off the list. Take the name of the Atlanta Braves off their speed dial. They can deal with the other 29 clubs, and we'll deal with the other hundred agents."

Schuerholz did not respond to a telephone message left Friday by The Associated Press.

Colletti said as far as he knew, everything the Dodgers did was aboveboard.

"I don't have any idea what transpired with any other club. In the last two weeks, a day didn't go by where we didn't speak," Colletti said regarding talks with Kinzer. "I just know our involvement with him.

"We spoke in Vegas at the meetings (last week). We talked all weekend long. We talked Monday, Tuesday, We talked until we had a deal done."

Furcal said he's been in the Dominican Republic while his agents negotiated with several teams.

"I want to say I'm so happy to be a Dodger again," he said. "I don't know what happened. We decided to sign here. The way they treat me here, I want to come back here. I know the team we have. I think we can make it this year."

Asked if he felt bad for the Braves, Furcal said: "It's something I let my agents talk to you guys about."

The players' association is likely to maintain that a team cannot boycott players based on which agent they retain.

"I've been in touch with Arn Tellem," said Michael Weiner, the general counsel for the players' association. "I intend to be in touch next week with the commissioner's office to make sure the Braves are made aware of their obligations under the Basic Agreement."

Furcal gets $6.5 million next season, $8.5 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011. The deal includes a $12 million team option for 2012, and the option would become guaranteed if he has 600 plate appearances in 2011. He also can earn an additional $1 million annually, including the option year, if he remains healthy.

Furcal also will get a $3 million payment by the end of the January following the contract's completion. He has a limited no-trade provision allowing him to block deals to a specified number of teams.

Furcal began his big league career with the Braves, playing with them from 2000-05. He signed a three-year, $39 million free-agent contract with the Dodgers in the fall of 2005.


AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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