Furcal not out of the picture for Braves

Furcal not out of the picture for Braves

ATLANTA -- There might not be a need for Braves general manager John Schuerholz to find a shortstop and leadoff hitter at next week's Winter Meetings. By the time he arrives in Dallas, he might have already learned that Rafael Furcal is staying in Atlanta to continue his service in those roles.

Furcal's agent Paul Kinzer said Thursday night that the Braves are still very much in the running to retain the services of his client. At the same time, he said the Cubs and Dodgers are also still charging hard in the three-team chase to sign the veteran shortstop.

"We're still in discussion with all three teams," Kinzer said. "There have been rumors that we're close to signing with a team. But things are still wide open."

The Dodgers jumped into the bidding just this week, but have immediately made themselves a serious candidate with a three-year offer believed to be valued at an eye-opening $39 million. Kinzer wouldn't comment when asked whether the astonishingly high offer had been made.

"I can't comment on that," Kinzer said. "We're still talking with them. Things are going well. We haven't made any commitments."

Furcal called one of his closest friends from his native Dominican Republic and told him that the Dodgers had made this offer, but that there was still a chance something could be worked out that allowed him to stay with the Braves.

The Braves' original offer was for three years at $24 million. They've since sweetened that deal with a four-year deal that is believed in the neighborhood of $32 million.

Many reports have stated the Cubs have made a five-year offer worth as much as $50 million.

With Furcal still unsigned despite having received much larger offers from both the Cubs and the Dodgers, it hints that Furcal truly wants to stay in Atlanta and will give the Braves a chance to make their final bid at the final hour.

Kinzer has said that he hopes that a decision is made by the time the Winter Meetings begin on Monday.

"I think there's a chance we can have the team zeroed in by then," Kinzer said. "I'm not saying there will be press conferences and official announcements by then. But we should know something."

If the Braves retain Furcal, it will be with what will likely be a substantial hometown discount. He went to an Atlanta Hawks game with his close friend Andruw Jones on Wednesday night, and throughout the past week, has received a few phone calls from manager Bobby Cox, a man he looks at like a father.

"It's Raffy's choice," Kinzer said. "He will decide where he wants to play."

Furcal has said his first desire is to stay in Atlanta if he's able to get a respectable offer. He's been with the Braves organization since signing with them at the age of 19 in 1996. Along the way, he's had the comfort of being a member of one of the most successful and stable organizations in all of professional sports.

The Braves have stood by his side after two DUI arrests and become like family to him. After they won their 14th consecutive division title this season, his probation prevented him from participating in the champagne celebration.

To include him in the celebration, the Braves joined him in their clubhouse's kitchen area and enjoyed a celebratory moment with him.

While the Dodgers are believed to have a very enticing financial offer, they can't currently guarantee Furcal who his manager will be next year. They hired general manager Ned Colletti last week.

One former Braves player said that he didn't think Furcal would choose the Cubs because of the fact that they play so many day games at Wrigley Field. But if the reports are correct, there would be 50 million reasons why he could enjoy playing more games under the sun.

As the days pass and Furcal continues to leave the more lucrative deals on the table, it at least gives the Braves hope that their longtime shortstop and leadoff hitter is simply willing to sacrifice money in order to stay home.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.