Furcal's final four includes Royals

Furcal's final four includes Royals

LAS VEGAS -- The Royals have popped up as an entrant in the hunt for shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Kansas City is among four teams reportedly interested in Furcal, a free agent from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The other three teams are the Dodgers, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Oakland A's.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on Tuesday night that he could not comment on speculation, but he did not deny the club's interest.

"We have tremendous support from ownership, and we have all the support necessary to put the best team we can on the field," Moore said.

The Royals have been seeking a seasoned middle infielder to pair with rookie flash Mike Aviles, who could switch from shortstop to second base if Furcal joined the Royals.

Previously, the Royals were not considered serious contenders for Furcal, although Moore did not rule out the possibility here at the Winter Meetings.

Asked on Tuesday night if the report was true, agent Paul Kinzer said only, "Yeah," and then excused himself to go to a meeting.

"Toronto and Kansas City told me the only guy they would go to ownership for is Furcal," Kinzer was quoted as saying in a FoxSports.com report. "They're serious."

That remark seemed to rankle Moore.

"To me it sounds like they're trying to create a bidding war is what they're trying to do," Moore said. "It's upsetting, but I'm not going to comment on that. You know the number we have."

The number that's been used as the probable point for the Royals' 2009 payroll is about $70 million. Owner David Glass approved an increase from last year's approximate $59 million.

"What I would say about going to ownership is that our budget has increased 20 to 25 percent, which is an exceptional amount, and it gives us plenty of opportunity to put a good team on the field," Moore said.

"And for anybody to say that I'm going to ownership or would be, I don't understand that. We've got guidelines, and that's just not something you'd do."

It would be costly for the Royals to snare Furcal, and presumably it would mean shedding salary elsewhere. The Royals already have $46.15 million committed to next year's salaries for 10 players, topped by Jose Guillen's $12 million and Gil Meche's $11 million. Ahead are arbitration cases that will swell that considerably.

It was reported that Furcal rejected a four-year offer worth more than $35 million from the A's last week. The Dodgers have yet to go to four years, which is the contract length Furcal reportedly wants. The Blue Jays acknowledged meeting with Furcal's representatives, but none of the four clubs has commented on the status of Furcal negotiations at this point.

Furcal, 31, was limited to 36 games in the 2008 regular season with back problems, but he hit .357 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 36 games for the Dodgers. San Francisco and St. Louis were said to be suitors for Furcal, but the Giants signed Edgar Renteria and the Cardinals acquired Khalil Greene.

Moore's association with Furcal goes back to the shortstop's six years with the Atlanta Braves, where Moore worked prior to taking the Royals' job.

"We're very interested in improving our team and acquiring the best talent available, and we're in a position to do that," Moore said. "I've operated the same way for the last three offseasons. I've tried to compete for the best players and that's all I'm trying to do."

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