The Dodgers made their first big free agent signing of the year, re-signing Rafael Furcal to a three year $33 million deal (it begins apparently at $6.7 and escalates and there is a team option in the fourth year).
Furcal is 31 and should be at the peak of his career, but he did have back surgery last season and that is always problematic. But when he did come back he hit well, fielded decently, but did almost no running. Staying healthy has been a problem for Furcal. But, when at his top he's one of the top five overall shortstops in baseball. He fields his position well, not as much range as one might expect, but makes up for it with one of the top three arms at short in baseball. That will be needed desperately by the Dodgers, because Casey Blake (who was re-signed), is a very good fielder and accurate thrower, but for anything only hit within three feet either side of him, has no range into the hole at all.
As a hitter Furcal has surprising power and can easily finish a year with 10-15 home runs and can go on incredibly hot streaks at the plate (like early last season before he hurt his back). He gets on base and, if he is healthy, can steal 30+ bases (combined with Matt Kemp, and even Russell Martin, the Dodgers have good team speed). Martin, Furcal, DeWitt and Kemp make the Dodgers fairly strong up the middle; especially if Martin bounces back a little this year and Kemp continues to progress or even really breaks out this year. DeWitt at second is solid, good defense, will show up and play every day, and provide a little power as he progresses (remember he was supposed to be in AA last season), should hit about .270, and he also has very good running speed.
This is a good deal for the Dodgers, they are paying less that his last three year contract (at $39 million) and it's arranged to give the team a little more flexibility at the front end of the deal. He will only be 35 at the end of his option year, just about when shortstops typically begin to decline.
This makes me more inclined to believe the Dodgers will resign Manny Ramirez as well. It makes no sense for Manny to expose himself to the east coast media again and with the signing Furcal (as the Dodgers did three years ago) it shows that the McCourt's are serious about winning this season. So that may tip the scales for Manny.
The real problems for the Dodgers are, if Manny is signed, what to do with Juan Pierre (who wanted to be played or traded last year; perhaps one of the most laughable demands in recent baseball history), and Andruw Jones. Jones is probably the easier of the two; if he shows up overweight to spring training, give him the DFA form and be done with it. Pierre, who will sulk and be a clubhouse problem if he's not starting, will probably need to go also; but I'm not sure how creative Ned Colletti can be.
The Dodgers lost Chan Ho Park who really ate up a lot of good innings for them last year (why does he keep leaving a park where he has his absolute best pitching stats?). Anything they get from Jason Schmidt has to be considered a gift at this point since he hasn't pitched in nearly two years. Perhaps the Dodgers sneak in and get Jake Peavy, althought that would be another large contract obligation. Another big question will be if Scott Proctor has anything left or if he's done. Derrick Lowe was a big loss, but I think the impact of losing Brad Penny is a bit overblown.
There are certainly major league teams that wouldn't mind a rotation of Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda, McDonald and Elbert. Dodger Stadium is still a reasonably pitcher friendly park (though not as much as when there was about 30 more feet of foul territory in play), and in the NL west that rotation could work. If Schmidt gives them 100 innings or so and/or they acquire Peavy (without giving up any starters) then all the better.Posted by Narnia3 at December 17, 2008 6:38 PM | TrackBack