Jays out of Furcal hunt
Toronto drops out as financial terms for shortstop shoot up
TORONTO -- The race to sign shortstop Rafael Furcal was narrowed on Monday, when it became clear that the Blue Jays would no longer be able to land the free agent. As many as four other teams remain in the mix, and Furcal will likely make a decision this week.
During last week's Winter Meetings, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi made it known that his club was trying to acquire Furcal, but Toronto's financial situation made that possibility remote from the beginning.
"J.P. did all he could, but he couldn't work it out," Paul Kinzer, Furcal's agent, told MLB.com on Monday afternoon. "We appreciate everything he did."
After initially rejecting a four-year offer from Oakland, Furcal now apparently has a new and improved proposal to ponder. According to multiple online reports, the A's have upgraded their original four-year offer. For the time being, Oakland's proposed pact -- believed to be worth $40 million -- appears to be the only four-year deal on the table.
During the Winter Meetings, Kinzer identified the A's, Dodgers, Royals and Blue Jays as the four finalists for the shortstop's services. An unidentified team has since joined those suitors, according to a report on Yahoo Sports, and FoxSports.com reported that the new team is Furcal's former employers, the Braves.
The Royals are pursuing Furcal, but they would need to clear payroll in order to land him -- a situation similar to the Blue Jays'. The Dodgers aren't willing to offer Furcal four years.
According to the Yahoo report, Kinzer has indicated that his client may agree to a contract as early as Tuesday.
Ricciardi said last week that he had gained ownership's approval to add Furcal before making any subsequent moves to free up some salary space. Even so, a source told MLB.com that Toronto wasn't likely to offer a four-year contract -- let alone one that nears the value of the deal Furcal rejected.
Faced with the current fragile economy and the weakened Canadian dollar, the Blue Jays have decided to lower their payroll to around $84 million after operating under a $97 million budget in 2008. That being the case, they don't have the necessary funds to make an aggressive run at Furcal.
It's not clear if the Blue Jays will try to pursue another shortstop this offseason. Ricciardi, who wasn't immediately available for comment, has indicated throughout this offseason that Toronto is content with using Marco Scutaro as its everyday shortstop this season, if necessary. The Jays also have a strong defensive backup at the position in John McDonald.
The 31-year-old Furcal turned down the A's four-year proposal, believed to be worth around $36 million. The Dodgers -- unwilling to match that contract's length in order to retain him -- could turn their attention to free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera, if Furcal opts to leave Los Angeles. The Dodgers have also been linked in the past to Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson in trade talks.
Signing Furcal to a long-term deal comes with some risk, considering he fought back issues throughout last season. With the Dodgers in 2008, he hit .357 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 36 games. In the playoffs, he batted .258 with one homer and three RBIs in eight games between the first and second rounds.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.