Kuroda is fine

I just talked to Stan Conte, who told me the Dodgers have had Kuroda on a strengthening program for his right shoulder, where you may recall he had some soreness that landed him on the DL for the second half of June. He is fine now, but Conte and his team made it very clear to Kuroda that the success of this program depends upon his staying on a regular routine with it all the way through the end of spring training. That clearly includes the time of the WBC. Conte did say that Dodgers officials never specifically told Kuroda he should skip the WBC. But they certainly are happy to hear that he plans to. In the end, this is a perfect case of a guy putting his team’s needs ahead of his own, individual desires. Good for him, I say. … I’m off on another vacation tomorrow. See you on Jan. 9.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Furcal signing is official

This just means he passed his physical, so it’s all done now. If you’re scoring at home, add him to your 40-man roster. This is the official release from the club:

DODGERS SIGN SHORTSTOP RAFAEL FURCAL TO THREE-YEAR CONTRACT

LOS ANGELES – The National League West Division Champion Los Angeles Dodgers today signed shortstop Rafael Furcal to a three-year contract with a vesting option for the 2012 season. General Manager Ned Colletti made the announcement.
“Raffy has proven to be a very important player for us over the last three seasons,” said Colletti. “He sets a great example with his enthusiasm and passion for the game and his teammates.”
“You can’t overestimate Raffy’s value to the team,” said Dodger Manager Joe Torre. “He brings so much more to the table than just his ability to play the game. The players feed off his energy and I think he’s an integral piece of the puzzle. I look forward to having that leadership in a Dodger uniform for the next several years.”
Furcal in 2008 was among several offensive leaders prior to going on the disabled list on May 6 with an injured lower back. Furcal led the Majors with 49 hits and 34 runs scored at the time he went on the DL. He also ranked second in the Majors at that time with a .366 average and third with a .448 on-base percentage. The switch-hitter returned to the club during the final week of the regular season, and went on to start at shortstop in each of the Dodgers’ eight post-season games. The 31-year-old had undergone back surgery on July 3, a microdiscectomy performed by Dr. Robert Watkins at Marina Del Rey Hospital.
Furcal is a career .286 hitter with 259 stolen bases and 788 runs scored in 1,150 games over nine Major League seasons with Atlanta (2000-05) and the Dodgers (2006-08). Since the start of the 2000 season, Furcal ranks fourth among big league shortstops in runs scored, third in walks (468), and seventh in on-base percentage (.352). He also ranks sixth among shortstops in that span with 1,328 hits and 227 doubles. His 259 stolen bases since the start of the 2000 campaign rank seventh among all players.
Since signing with the Dodgers as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, Furcal is hitting .293 (404-for-1378) with 67 doubles, 148 walks, 70 steals, 234 runs scored, and a .362 on-base percentage in 333 games. Despite missing 125 games in 2008, Furcal ranks second on the club in runs scored since the start of the 2006 season behind only Russell Martin (239). He also ranks third on the team in that span with 404 hits behind Martin (430) and Andre Ethier (409). He ranks fourth among Dodgers in average and on-base percentage beginning in 2006 as well.
Furcal in 2006 was voted by his teammates and coaches as the winner of the inaugural Roy Campanella Award, given to the most inspirational Dodger. Furcal collected a career-high 196 hits that season to rank tied for fifth in the National League. He also established career highs in 2006 with a .300 average and 63 RBI, while tying his career high with 15 home runs.
The Dominican Republic native has played post-season baseball in seven of his nine Major League campaigns, including 2006 and 2008 with the Dodgers. Furcal was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2000 and an NL All-Star in 2003. He ranked in the Top-10 in steals in five of his first six full seasons (2000, 2003-06), and stole 226 bases in all from 2000-06 to rank fourth in that time behind Juan Pierre (325), Ichiro Suzuki (235), and Carl Crawford (226).
Furcal has hit 23 career first-inning leadoff home runs. He has 11 such home runs as a Dodger to rank second in franchise history behind Davey Lopes, who clubbed 28 in nine seasons from 1973-81.
Furcal signed with the Dodgers as a free agent on December 19, 2005. He was originally signed by Atlanta as a non-drafted free agent in November 1996.

Furcal’s agent releases a statement

The Dodgers still haven’t officially announced the signing, but this showed up in my email. It’s apparently from Arn Tellem, one of the two agents representing Furcal (the other was Paul Kinzer), and it is in response to statements made by Atlanta Braves officials who felt they weren’t deal with fairly on the issue. Here it is:

With regard to the negotiations between the Atlanta Braves and Rafael Furcal, the essential facts are clear and cannot be disputed.

1. There was never an agreement reached between Rafael Furcal and the Atlanta Braves.

2. In fact, the Braves were fully aware that Furcal was not prepared to make a decision but had requested an opportunity to sleep on it, before deciding.

3. Moreover, the Baseball rules which all agents and teams operate under are clear that no deal exists between a player and a team unless and until: (i) there is a signed and executed player agreement or; (ii) the Player’s Union and the Commissioner’s office have otherwise confirmed the deal. Neither occurred here.

4. Furcal ultimately decided to accept the Dodgers’ offer, taking into consideration a number of factors the most important of which was his desire to continue playing short-stop and not make the position change to second base that the Braves were requiring.

5. Losing out on an all-star player like Furcal is always disappointing, and we understand the Braves’ frustration with the outcome of this negotiation, but it does not change in any way the fact that we conducted ourselves with integrity and complied with all rules of major league baseball throughout this process.

6. Our primary obligation is to serve our clients best interests, and we will continue to do so in accordance with all relevant rules governing MLB negotiations and the utmost integrity.

7. If it serves our clients we will continue to present opportunities to the Braves, which in accordance with the rules governing Major League Baseball, the Braves must entertain. We hope that once emotions have subsided, the Braves will act in a manner consistent with not only their obligations under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and The National Labor Relations Act, but also the best interests of the franchise. In short, we would not want this incident to color their better judgment.

Nice honor for Hong-Chih Kuo

He is the 2008 Setup Man of the Year, as voted on by fans through mlb.com. Here is the release from the Dodgers:

LEFT-HANDER HONG-CHIH KUO VOTED BY FANS AS 2008 SET-UP MAN OF THE YEAR

Award is part of MLB.com’s “This Year in Baseball Awards”

LOS ANGELES – Dodger left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo today was named the 2008 Set-Up Man of the Year, as voted on by fans on MLB.com. The award is part of the website’s This Year in Baseball Awards. The Taiwan native received 30.3 percent of the vote, ahead of Tampa Bay’s Grant Balfour (19.2 percent), the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol (17.6 percent), and the Angels’ Scot Shields (7.5 percent).
Kuo’s 1.69 ERA (13 ER/69.1 IP) as a reliever in 2008 led the National League and ranked seventh in the Majors (min. 50.0 innings). The 27-year-old bounced back from left rotator cuff and left elbow injuries in 2007 to pitch a career-high 80.0 innings over a career-best 42 games (three starts). Kuo went 5-3 with 12 holds, one save, and a 2.14 ERA overall. He finished tied for second on the Dodgers in holds with Joe Beimel, behind only Jonathan Broxton’s 13.
One of five Taiwan-born players in Major League Baseball history, Kuo struck out 96 batters in his 80.0 innings for an average of 10.80 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. He limited the opposition to a .204 average, including a .202 mark (19-for-94) by left-handed hitters. Beginning July 27, left-handed hitters went just 3-for-23 (.130) against him.
Kuo earned his first big league save on August 14 vs. Philadelphia, closing out a 3-1 win with a two scoreless innings.
In four Major League seasons, all with the Dodgers, Kuo is 7-13 with a 3.90 ERA in 87 games (14 starts).

Correcting the contract numbers

It’s actually three years and $30 million, not $33. It breaks down to $6.5 million in 2009, $8.5 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011, with a $3 million BONUS (not a buyout) that he gets at the end of the contract regardless of whether the option vests. The option is, as previously reported, $13 million, and it vests if he has 600 plate appearances in 2011. That’s a lot of PAs even for a leadoff guy. If you assume 4.5 per game, that’s 133 games, which is very reachable if he stays healthy and not so reachable if he doesn’t.

Contract breakdown

John Nadel at the AP reports that it’s three years, $33 million, with a $13 million club option for 2012. Salaries are $7.5 million in 2009, $9.5 million in 2010 and $13 million in 2011, with a $3 million buyout of the option. The option will vest if he meets certain incentives in 2011, but it isn’t yet clear what those incentives are.

Furcal will re-sign with Dodgers

Rafael Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer, just told me that “things are getting close” and Raffy “is going to be a Dodger.” He wouldn’t get into any details about the length of the contract, but I’m almost sure it’s a three-year guarantee with possibly a fourth-year option. When I asked if it would be premature to say the deal was done pending a physical, Kinzer said it would be. But it sounds like the Dodgers at least know they’re getting him back.

Hold the phone: Furcal still talking to Dodgers

Ned Colletti just informed me that “we have had many conversations today on the subject of Rafael Furcal” and that “I can’t tell you if it’s dead or not. I can only tell you that his people continue to engage me in conversation as if it’s not, and I have been assured by them that it’s not.” What is clear here is that somebody, either the Dodgers or the Braves, is being lied to by Furcal and his people, because the reports out of Atlanta and nationally have this as a done deal pending a physical. Ned still won’t say whether the Dodgers have offered to guarantee the third year, but if they’re still in on Furcal, it’s pretty obvious that they have because the Braves’ alleged done deal is for three years and an option.