Fiddling While Rome Burns…

It’s not official yet, and I really ought to know better than to trust a word that Ken Rosenthal says by now, but this sure sounds pretty solid. Via MLBtraderumors, Rosenthal has this:

The Braves are on the verge of a major offseason upset.

Rafael Furcal is coming home.

In a stunning turnaround, the free-agent shortstop has chosen the Braves over the A’s, according to a major-league source.

A contract agreement is expected to be announced Tuesday, conditional on Furcal passing a physical.

87toppsrafaelfurcal.jpgThis one hurts, friends. Furcal was a bit overrated, I will grant. His red-hot April 2008 shouldn’t overshadow his missing the rest of the season or his injury-ruined 2007. But the main theme here is that he was by far the best of the available shortstop crop – and even moreso, all indications are that he badly wanted to return to Los Angeles. I’m not suggesting that the Dodgers should have made sure to be the highest bidder no matter what. I wouldn’t have felt very comfortable offering him four guaranteed years, not with his injury history, but the fact that he turned down what seems to be the only four-year deal he was offered indicates that being in a place that makes him happy is more important than that guaranteed fourth year. It also seems to say that Oakland may in fact be the worst place on the planet, though that’s another discussion entirely.

Now we’ll have to see about the money before we can completely judge this, but in this case it’s been the years that were the main sticking point. This deal with Atlanta sounds like a three year deal with a vesting option for the fourth based on playing time, while the Dodgers were only offering two years with a vesting option – and that’s not really an offer at all. When a guy is getting an offer of four guaranteed years, you have to do better than two to even pretend you made a competitive deal, especially when you know the player wants to come back; especially when your manager has said he’s the most important key to the offseason; and especially when you have no other good options to replace him. If it comes out that he’d have remained in LA had the Dodgers only increased their offer to three years, that’s going to be completely unacceptable. It’s a risk, but in this situation, it’s a risk you have to take, because the team without Furcal right now is a mess.

We’d been patient thus far, because it’s been a slow market, and as much as I would have liked CC Sabathia, I never expected the Dodgers to have an offer anywhere near to what the Yankees put together. None of the other guys that have signed (Burnett, Ibanez, etc.) were good fits for the Dodgers, and I applaud Colletti for refusing to give into Boras’ games with Manny.

But at some point you have to ask - when is Ned Colletti going to do something? Casey Blake as your biggest power threat is simply not going to work… and as much I hate to even consider the thought, without Furcal, there is a very real chance that we’re going to see either Juan Pierre leading off or Angel Berroa/Jack Wilson playing short – or both.

This team still needs a shortstop, a power bat, and at least one starting pitcher, and while there’s excuses to be made about why none of the good free agents are coming to Los Angeles, you eventually need to take a chance and get something done. If Omar Minaya can build a dominating 1-2 punch in his bullpen without spending a hideous amount of cash or his top prospects when everyone in the world knew the Mets needed help in the pen, why can’t Colletti show some creativity to fill our holes? That’s right, Ned. You just got compared to Omar Minaya and you’re not even looking good against him. No one wants another Andruw Jones/Jason Schmidt debacle… but Blake and Mark Loretta can’t be your crown jewels here, either.