Furcal to sign with Dodgers, not Braves

At the trade deadline last July, the Atlanta Braves thought they had a deal worked out to acquire outfielder Jason Bay from Pittsburgh. But the Pirates backed out at the last minute.

Now the Braves have been burned again. And this time it is worse.

Free agent Rafael Furcal backed out of what the Braves thought was a verbal agreement and agreed to return to Los Angeles on Wednesday when the Dodgers extended their offer to three years with a vesting option.

That was what Atlanta had offered Furcal, with the deal worth $10 million per season.

"I think you have to be upset," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We were very surprised."

Atlanta's indication that Furcal might play second base, with Yunel Escobar remaining at shortstop, might have been the deal breaker. The Braves had planned to move Kelly Johnson to left field.

Wren admitted that the Braves didn't have a signed contract with Furcal, but the general manager said that they did have a verbal agreement. Agent Paul Kinzer denied that.

"We had, 'Things look very good and Raffy's going to sleep on it,'" Kinzer said after a New York press conference for client Francisco Rodriguez, who signed with the Mets.

"I'm embarrassed and I'm sure Frank is embarrassed," Kinzer added.

Now the Braves, who have missed the postseason the last three years, must try something else as they try to salvage a disappointing offseason.

Atlanta failed in trade talks with San Diego for 2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy and was out-bid by the New York Yankees for A.J. Burnett, who won 18 games last season with Toronto. Now the Furcal fiasco.

The only move that Wren has been able to pull off was a trade with the Chicago White Sox for starting pitcher Javier Vazquez and left-handed reliever Boone Logan. The Braves are still in need of at least one starting pitcher and must also address the hole in their lineup without the addition of Furcal.

The Braves had been exploring several possibilities for left field, but decided that the signing of Furcal and the move of Johnson was their best alternative.

Furcal, 31, hit .28 with a .348 on-base percentage and 189 stolen bases in his earlier six-year tenure with the Braves. Atlanta hasn't had a player record more than 17 stolen bases in the three seasons since Furcal left. He had 46 steals as a rookie and 40 in his final season with Atlanta.

Furcal hit .357 with the Dodgers last season, but was limited to 36 games and had back surgery in July. He batted .300 and .270 the previous two seasons, with a total of 73 stolen bases.

After making the postseason for 14 consecutive years, the Braves haven't made the playoffs since Furcal left to sign a three-year, $39 million deal with the Dodgers.