Another suitor has entered the picture, however. The Toronto Blue Jays believe they might be able to swoop in and sign Furcal with money they had earmarked to re-sign pitcher A.J. Burnett, a source said Monday at the winter meetings.
Rafiel Furcal? Yeah, sure, why not?
I mean, yeah, I could break out the analyst hat and worry about his back injury of late, I could note that while he wears the label "true lead-off hitter" his OBP in 2007 was way off his career average (let's call that a fluke for now) but given the lack of other options at SS, I won't.
But there's an entirely different reason why I have a soft spot for this rumor, even if it turns out to be false - if the Jays did throw 10 or 11 million dollars a year at Furcal, it would in one stroke put the kibosh on both the collective moaning about the Jays lack of off-season activity and the collective hand-wringing about not having any money to spend.
Both sad songs I am exceedingly tired of hearing re-played. That alone is enough to make me happy about a Furcal signing.
I don't want to get your hopes up because rumors are quashed as fast as they arise at the Winter Meetings but, just as an intellectual exercise, what would such a deal look like? Well, Furcal is said to want a four year commitment, and the A's were said to have a deal on the table at, or close to, $40 million. It's unclear if the fourth year was guaranteed though. So using that as a benchmark, equaling or beating that might involve a big signing bonus on the front end (5, 6 million?) and a somewhat lower annual amount (9 per?) or possibly some other creative device like deferred money or a fifth year option that had a nice buyout (essentially like putting a bonus on the end) or the fourth year being an option year but with a prohibitive buyout price.
Still, whatever the case - RUMORS!! WHEEE! Someone's talking about US!
I'm sure there will inevitably be an update.
Update: Jordan Bastian quote JP:
"Anybody we add, we're going to have to subtract," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi told reporters on Monday at the Winter Meetings. "I don't think we're able to take on a lot of payroll. So if we want to do some things, we're going to have to eliminate some payroll."
Bastian, contradicting Brown, indicates that JP was speaking of his post-AJ payroll. Maybe there's something he heard beyond that quote which indicates that - JB is generally quite reliable - but those words don't make that clear and JP is notorious for deceptive quotes.
Still, taking Bastian's interpretation, the most obvious way to lose payroll remains B.J. Ryan, albeit if teams know we MUST trade him it weakens our position in what is already a buyer's market for closers. Another possible option is Overbay, but since we'd have to sign a bat in his absence that makes little sense.
One thing that's not often considered though, if the Jays traded Brian Tallet, and non-tendered both Frasor and Bautista, that would amount to a net savings of over $5 million with little discernable impact on the team (basically none save for the value Bautista would have as a platoon hitter vs LHP)
Also, if you are interested, Bastian has an article noticing the Jays are in on Carl Pavano. I'm not so torqued on that one.
Update, the second: DJF links us to a Jeremy Sandler story which agrees with Bastian that JP was specific that AJ's money is only for AJ and not free payroll. He also quotes him as not foreseeing a BJ Ryan deal. But before you go putting too much stock in what JP said, consider this response to a question about listening to offers on Rios:
"I think we'd be open to talk abut anybody, but if you trade a guy like Rios, how do you replace him, too?" he said. "We're not actively shopping Rios. Last year it made sense because we knew Burnett may leave and Lincecum would have stepped right in. But I don't know if there's that type of deal out there that would make sense."
Now, think that through for a second. One year ago, when AJ was still here for another year and the Jays had no viable option for a new RF in the system, it made sense to trade Rios for a SP. But now, with AJ gone and Travis Snider rap-rap-rapping at the major league door (he's a right fielder, didja hear?) NOW it somehow would make LESS sense to trade Rios for a SP.
THIS is the guy you're going to believe about the payroll?
Last Update for the night/early morning:
Here's another JP quote from Bastian, expanding a bit on what's been said earlier:
"We're trying to do something right now," Ricciardi said. "But, obviously, anybody we add we're going to have to subtract. I don't think we're able to take on a lot of payroll. So if we want to do some things, we're going to have to eliminate some payroll.
"Obviously, that means a trade, and that's what we're trying to do right now to make the club better."So, if he's to be believed, JP is or was working on a trade, not a signing. Let me conclude the days festivities based on that to take a slightly different tack.
As interesting as it can be to anticipate a big free agent signing, if we are really a team with payroll issues after all, then the player acquisition move you get really excited about is a quiet little trade that sends, for instance, Davis Romero off for Jaquin Arias or some such - i.e. a deal which addresses the same need with a young under control, inexpensive player instead of a big shiny free agent.
Don't get me wrong, I could get jazzed about Furcal, even with the lingering worry I'd have about his health - but I could also get pretty stoked about Arias, even if the rest of the baseball world was busy chasing down the latest buzz on AJ.
Three more days of the Silly Season remain, stay tuned.