- Rafael Furcal's agents apparently had a deal with the Braves for Furcal to sign with Atlanta. But instead of doing so, Furcal took the deal (which had already been agreed upon, according to the Braves) and used it to extort a better deal from the Dodgers, who ended up actually signing Furcal. Furcal's agents are claiming that no deal was agreed to, but the Braves say that they sent the term sheet to Furcal's agents -- which is, in baseball, equivalent to a handshake deal. Furcal's agents reneged, and the Braves are seriously angry. They've vowed never to deal with Furcal's agents again.
I don't know who's telling the truth, but the Braves' story seems more plausible. Granted, no deal in baseball is really official until the commissioner and the player's union sign off on it. But a deal is a deal is a deal, and to go against that rule will seriously hurt your integrity in the future. Furcal's agents aren't stars; they're not people that teams have to work with to get the good players. It seems they made a pretty serious miscalculation, not to mention a breach of ethics, even if no rules were broken. And the person who will end up getting booed over it is none of these guys, but rather Furcal himself.
- Since writing up the Raul Ibanez deal in my last post, I've changed my opinion somewhat. This is mainly due to a fact that I should have remembered when they signed the deal -- Ibanez is a Type-A free agent, meaning that the Phillies lose their first round draft pick to Seattle. On the other hand, the Phillies did not offer Pat Burrel arbitration at all, so they won't get anything in return from the team that ends up signing him.
This makes it that much more mystifying that the Phillies didn't re-sign Burrell. He's not going to command much more money than Ibanez, is younger, and wouldn't have cost them the draft pick. And if the Phils had no intention of bringing him back, why not offer him arbitration? The worst-case scenario is that he accepts, and gets maybe $16 million for one year. That is overpaying on a yearly basis, but considering the money they spent on Ibanez, I'd rather spend the extra $6 million in 2009 on Burrell, keep the draft pick, and end up with the better player without committing yourself for two more years to a player in his late 30's. In a vacuum, the Ibanez deal isn't terrible, but considering the circumstances surrounding it and especially the mismanagement of draft picks, it wasn't the best decision by the Phillies.
- Since my last post, A.J. Burnett has signed with the Yankees for 5 years and $82.5 million. It came down to the Yankees and the Braves, and the Yankees were (apparently) the first team ready to offer the fifth year. This amounts to a little over $16 MM per season. At his best, Burnett is worth that. But throughout his career, he's had maybe three seasons at his best. The gamble concerns which A.J. Burnett will show up in New York.
I'm not incredibly optimistic. Some people have gone so far as to compare this to the Carl Pavano signing, but it's not nearly that bad; Burnett has a much better track record and is just a better pitcher than Pavano was.
But Burnett only seems to turn that potential into reality in free-agent walk years. He's gotten a reputation (which may or may not be true) as a pitcher who doesn't like to pitch unless he's 100%. That could explain why he's only topped 200 innings three times in his career, and has only topped 165 innings three times in the past six years. Burnett's actual injury history isn't so bad, but that's small consolation if he averages less than 180 innings per year over the life of the contract. Burnett does have high upside, so I can understand why the Yankees would take a chance on him. And they are, more than any other team, able to absorb bad contracts.
But the biggest problem with this is that it may hurt the Yankees in their quest for Mark Teixeira. Teixeira hasn't been solidly linked to the Yankees, even though they need him more than any team that's bidding for him, except the Angels. The Yankees haven't had a good first baseman in years, and if they fail to grab this low-hanging fruit at a price that's utterly affordable to them, then they have to be faulted for it. The Yankee offense is what projects to be a problem in the future -- not the defense. The offense took a big step down last year, and it's not going to get much better, since everyone's so old. So signing a free agent younger than 35 (what a novel idea!) to play the field would be jim-dandy. But the Yankees made the decision to go after three starting pitchers in the offseason, which is a bizarre case of overkill, since a good first baseman should rank above at least two of those pitchers.
- This espn.com headline is hilarious: Orioles fill gap at short, sign Izturis for two years. It's a slim market for shortstops, I know, but Cesar Izturis is a backup shortstop. So the Orioles have improved their defense, but at the cost of giving up on one spot in the lineup.
- The Cubs signed non-tendered outfielder Joey Gathright. Because yeah, the Cubs don't have enough outfielders. This surely means they're going to trade Felix Pie, since Gathright has a lot of the skills as the youngster, he's just generally worse at them. Shouldn't the Cubs be worried more about their infield? Can they seriously pencil in Ryan Theriot and Mark Fontenot into their Opening Day lineup?
- Manny Ramirez is apparently upset at all the attention everyone else is getting and even threatened to retire if a good deal doesn't show up. Isn't he just a hoot?
- Despite the fact that owner Fred Wilpon was among those swindled by New York's latest Wall Street swindler "Madman" Madoff, it doesn't appear that it will affect the Mets' financial situation. And hey, even if he does end up out of money, the Mets could just slot him in the rotation -- it's not like they have anybody better for that #5 spot . . .
- The Red Sox have just announced that they're bowing out of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes. Some people wondered all along that the Sox might just be in it to raise his price before the Yankees sign him. But the Yankees don't appear to be in the race to sign him right now -- why not, I don't know. It's now down to Baltimore, Washington, and the Angels. Washington would be utterly stupid to invest so much of their payroll in one player, when what they need is a complete overhaul. But apparently Jim Bowden can do anything he wants and still keep his job, even if it means being investigated by the government.
- New Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez got a little of people excited and angry when he said that the Mets were the "team to beat" in the NL East. This is, so far this year, the dumbest reason to get pissed off about something. Wait until he says that the Mets are "contenders" -- he'll just be the center of a firestorm of controversy! WOW! (Please buy a newspaper ...)
- Speaking of which, baseball was tangentially related to the controversy surrounding Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich apparently threatened Chicago Tribune/Cubs owner Sam Zell to tone down criticism by the Tribune's editorial board, or else he would make things difficult for him. Zell was said to be thinking it over. No, seriously . . .
By the way, I'll give big money to the first person who, on national TV, shakes hands with Governor Blagojevich, then yells out, "He SLIMED me!"