Furcal Returns

According to Ken Rosenthal, Rafael Furcal is on his way back to Atlanta. On the radio this morning, I heard the terms stated as three years at $9-10 million per year, with an option for a fourth season. David O’Brien of the AJC agrees with the number of guaranteed years, but I haven’t seen any other reference to the dollars or the option year.

Furcal is a valuable player. He’s a shortstop who can play defense and hit, and he’s only 32 (we think). Over the next three years, I estimate his value to be $49 million ($16.33 per season). If the terms of the deal are correct, this looks to be a good deal. His health is a major factor here. If he’s healthy, he’s worth more; if he’s not he’s worth less.

The deal creates some new questions. The Braves now have three good middle-infielders. DOB suggests this may open the door to a Jake Peavy or Zack Greinke trade. Danny Knobler has a source who claims the Braves plan to move Kelly Johnson to left field. This conflicts with Frank Wren’s recent statements.

Displeasure with Yunel Escobar has been an item on the Braves off-the-record talking points for most of the off-season, so I think the best bet is that Escobar is moved in a deal.

As a fan, I’m a bit disappointed with this move. I understand that there is a distinction between what players do on and off the field. Furcal’s second DUI in the city that I live really soured me. At the time, I wanted the Braves to suspend him for the season. I don’t think he even got the night off. I find it amazing that Barry Bonds can’t find a job because of his association with performance-enhancing drugs, yet you don’t even see Furcal’s drunk driving issues mentioned. It hasn’t even been two years since Josh Hancock was killed in a drunk driving accident.

Don’t individuals deserve a second chance? Yes, he got one: that’s two DUIs. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have trouble rooting for this guy.

UPDATE: According to Mark Bowman, the Braves are planning to move Johnson to the outfield.

Where Furcal would be positioned defensively remains to be seen. But the Braves have no intention to trade either Johnson or Escobar. Instead, they are planning to move Johnson back to left field, a position he played before moving to second base before the start of the 2007 season.

The opportunity to have both Furcal and Johnson in their lineup proved more appealing to the Braves than any of the options they were evaluating in their search to find a power-hitting outfielder.

With Johnson, they feel they have a player capable of hitting 15-20 homers. Matt Diaz could also see some time in left field.

Uh, what about right field?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Apparently, it’s not clear that Furcal is coming to Atlanta. John Heyman sums up the saga.

So to recap, Furcal rejected a four-year deal for about $40 million with the A’s to talk to the Braves about a three year deal for $30 million with a vesting option (and according to the Braves, agree to that deal). And after allegedly wrapping things up with the Braves, he’s believed to be talking to the Dodgers, mostly likely about a two-year deal with an option.

If he takes a two-year deal with the Dodgers, he will be the first player ever to reject a four-year deal to take a three-year deal for a similar annual salary only to reject that for a two-year deal for a similar salary. If this keeps up, the next stop would be a one-year deal.

16 Responses “Furcal Returns”

  1. Jay says:

    Thanks, JC!

  2. Rick says:

    I’m for this deal if it leads to a trade for the folks mentioned above. That is the only reason i can see for this signing to happen. At best, Furcal is a barely above League Average on offense. I’m not sure where he would rank on his defense. Probably above average for his position because of his arm.
    Escobar and Furcal are about the same offensively, with Escobar being cost controlled and younger, and Furcal is probably a little better defensively for a greater AAV, so unless this is a precursor to a trade I don’t really see a solid baseball reason to sign him.

  3. Connor says:

    At best Furcal is barely above leave average on offense?  I guess you were not paying attention before he got hurt last season (.357/.439/.573).  He was bad in 07, but had OPS+ of over 100 in the two years before that.  To say that “at best” he is barely above league average is ridiculous.  Regardless, I definitely think this is a precursor to a trade.  And I understand the DUI concerns.  It was certainly very disappointing.  I’m happy because he (seemingly) took less money to come to Atlanta because he wants to play here so badly, and at least thats a little something to root for.

  4. Rick says:

    I’ll stick by my statement Conner. League Average OPS+ is 100. Here is his OPS+ for his career, minus 2008.
    2000 97
    2001 77
    2002 85
    2003 105
    2004 95
    2005 102
    2006 107
    2007 76
    Three years out of eight he’s been above 100 for OPS+. Yeah, I’d pretty much say that meets the definition of barely above league average in his good years.
    You could also look at Batting Runs, which is based on Linear Weights.
    He had a high of 7.5 runs more than the average player in 2006. That translates into less than 1 win above average that he added to a team. Granted, each win above average is important, less than 1 win above average does not, in my opinion, justify the added cost relative to Escobar.

  5. Ron E. says:

    With Johnson, they feel they have a player capable of hitting 15-20 homers.

    So half of our lineup will be players the Braves feel “are capable of hitting 15-20 homers”: Kotchmann, Francoeur, Johnson, and Shafer. Those players hit 14, 11, 12, and 0 homers in the majors last year. Awesome. Maybe it’s just me but I would have preferred to spend the money on a LF who actually has hit 25+ homers more than once and left Kelly at 2B.

  6. LaMarcus Anderson says:

    JC, do you really believe this “We’re going to keep Escobar and play KJ in LF business?” Seems like you’ve just decreased Escobar/KJ’s value by shifting them to more offensively-demanding positions.

    My guess is that Wren has to *pretend* he intends to keep both Escobar/KJ in order to not appear desperate to trade either player to another team. Otherwise Kevin Towers might misinterpret the Furcal signing as a concession in the Peavy trade talks.

  7. Connor says:

    Here is the league average production from the SS position in 2008 from Baseball Prospectus:

    NL: .276/.334/.404
    AL: .266/.319/.375

    That’s an OPS of .738 in the NL or .694 in the AL.  I know Furcal wasn’t going to keep this up all year, but his OPS last year was 1.102.  In ’05 and ’06 was .777 and .814 respectively.

    Three out of the last four years he has put up an OPS much better than league average at his position.  Clearly at the minimum he is slightly above average offensive SS, and at best he is much better than that.

  8. JC says:

    Given the negative things that have “leaked” to the press about Escobar, I’d say there is a good chance that he will be traded before the season starts.  The move-KJ-to-left is a convenient PR stand to take while working on a trade. It helps explain away having three starters for two positions. Wren has stated that he already has some deals in place, and he and Cox have been denying the KJ-to-left rumors.

  9. ChuckO says:

    What about right field? Don’t we have that guy from the marketing department playing out there?

  10. LaMarcus Anderson says:

    What are the negative feelings being “leaked” to the press about Escobar? They’re always based on anonymous sources supposedly from within the Braves. What’s going on?

    On paper, Escobar appears to be extremely valuable. His Range Factor makes him one of the best defensive shortstops in the league (just slightly below Furcal). Offensively, he’s already slightly better than Furcal.

    I understand there’s the temper/antics/whistling on the field, but that’s pretty mild. Certainly nothing like the issues that got Lofton / Bob Wickman pushed out the door.

    Anyone know why the Braves wouldn’t mind trading him?

  11. Rick says:

    Hey Conner. We were talking OPS+ here, not straight OPS. He has been above LA less than half of his career. I didn’t include 2008 because he was out for about 3/4 of the year injured. Using last year would be like using the stats from the Arizona Fall League to judge how good a player will be. He is also on the downside of 30. It’s time to start getting worse instead of getting better.

  12. leviinalaska says:

    “Anyone know why the Braves wouldn’t mind trading him?”

    JC obviously isn’t inclined to forgive Furcal’s off the field behavior, but I think the Braves have a history of willingness to work with people who make off the field mistakes. (Look at Chipper or Andruw for examples)

    However, the Braves do NOT have a history of tolerating on the field misbehavior. For better or worse, the Atlanta Braves play baseball on a level that is more professional than most other clubs. Bobby Cox runs the tightest clubhouse in MLB, players don’t wear earrings on the field…even the notoriously malcontent Gary Sheffield always called him Mr. Cox and took his earrings out and never caused a problem while a Brave.

    The facts are the Yunel Escobar does whistle on the field, has shown a temper with umpires, and does flip his bat disrespectfully at times. The house that Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, and Bobby built doesn’t seem to have much room for that sort of behavior.

    [in his best Dennis Miller voice] of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  13. leviinalaska says:

    Sorry I didn’t add this into my above comment, but now that we have Furcal, how about:

    1. Escobar at SS
    2. Furcal at 2nd
    3. Trade Frenchy’s sorry behind to the Royals for Greinke (Dayton Moore has allegedly expressed an interest in JF)
    4. Let KJ play RF.

  14. LaMarcus Anderson says:

    Perhaps you’re right, leviinalaska, but I still don’t understand why. I’m assuming Escobar has no off-the-field issues, and we’ve all seen his on-the-field antics to judge for ourselves.

    Is his youthful overexuberance really so intolerable that we need to trade him?

    The bat-flipping habit is something he does every at-bat, whether he homers or pops out. A few plunkings from offended pitchers should cure him of that habit. The temper tantrums he throws at umpires are not cool, but they’re hardly unusual in baseball these days. Escobar’s never pulled anything close to a Delmon Young before.

    And the whistling on the field? Who cares, so long as he continues to put up amazing RF numbers at short that rival Furcal’s?

    It’s not as if Bobby Cox has always had zero tolerance for on-the-field tantrums. Remember when Terry Pendleton once walked off his position at 3rd during the middle of an inning because Marvin Freeman refused to plunk an opposing batter? Remember the countless tantrums that David Justice threw in front of umpires?

  15. Ron E. says:

    If they trade Escobar and get back an ace starting pitcher or powerful left fielder, then I’m fine with it. I would have preferred to fill those needs in free agency and kept a young, cheap very good short stop instead of signing an older, expensive shortstop coming off major back surgery, but I guess I am not as easily offended by Escobar’s bat tossing as Bobby and Frank.

  16. Ken Houghton says:

    And the Dodgers TURN IT UP TO 11, and are done.