Braves feel misled in Furcal dealings
Atlanta thought it had an agreement to bring shortstop back
ATLANTA -- Once again, the Braves are forced to feel like they've been left at the altar. But the frustration that surrounded their unsuccessful attempts to land Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett pales in comparison to the anger created after they felt they'd reached an agreement with Rafael Furcal.
"Those two cases [of Peavy and Burnett] were very understandable," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "This one was not."
With Peavy, the Braves found a Padres organization that seemed indecisive and reluctant in its attempts to trade the ace. With Burnett, they faced the reality that New York was much closer than Atlanta to the coveted pitcher's Baltimore-area home.
With Furcal, Wren found an agent who seemingly didn't believe in the binding element of a verbal agreement.
Early Wednesday evening, a baseball official told MLB.com that Furcal had reached agreement with the Dodgers on a three-year contract that includes a vesting option for the 2012 season.
In other words, the Dodgers essentially find themselves exactly where the Braves were on Tuesday morning, when Atlanta felt Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, had verbally agreed to accept Wren's offer, which also included three guaranteed years and a vesting option for 2012.
At Kinzer's request, Wren faxed a signed term sheet that outlined the offer. This was the action that gave the Braves every reason to believe a verbal agreement was, indeed, in place.
A Major League general manager who wasn't involved in these negotiations confirmed on Tuesday that term sheets aren't sent to the agent until a verbal agreement has been made.
But once the Braves sent this signed term sheet, Kinzer began altering his stance. It's believed that he began feeling some heat from his partner, Arn Tellem, who was upset that the Dodgers hadn't been given the opportunity to counter the Braves' offer.
"In this business, you have to have confidence in the people you're dealing with," Wren said. "The worst thing that can happen to you is to lose the confidence of the people that you have to deal with."
Wren's words primarily were directed toward Kinzer, who drew the ire of the Braves in December 2005, when he didn't provide them the chance to counter the three-year, $39 million offer that Furcal ultimately accepted from the Dodgers.
This time around, in a strange turn of events, Kinzer and Tellem allowed the Dodgers the opportunity to counter the offer the Braves felt already had been agreed upon.
Late Thursday night, Tellem issued a statement that once again provided their belief that an agreement hadn't been made. Within this document, he indicated that part of Furcal's decision was based on his hesitancy to move to second base.
After attending a news conference that officially introduced Francisco Rodriguez as a Mets player on Wednesday morning, Kinzer spoke to reporters about how things had changed so dramatically over the course of the previous 24 hours.
Wren read those comments with great interest and was incensed when he came across Kinzer saying, "I'm embarrassed and I'm sure Frank is embarrassed."
"We're not embarrassed," Wren said. "We're mad a deal wasn't honored. I can understand why he's embarrassed."
Wren's take was that you can only feel embarrassed if you do something wrong. From his perspective, he felt he handled everything professionally from the time he and Kinzer began attempting to hammer out a deal on Monday night.
Between 8 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on Monday, Wren and Kinzer had numerous phone conversations that centered on the terms of the deal. Around 9:30 p.m., Kinzer was pleased enough to call the A's to tell them they were out of the picture.
Kinzer and Wren spoke once more around midnight, with the agent indicating that he still hadn't had the chance to speak with Furcal. But at the same time, he said, "Everything looked good."
"I went to bed feeling we were in good shape," said Wren, who awoke on Tuesday morning to find a voice-mail message from Kinzer, who had since talked to Furcal.
Within this message, Wren remembers Kinzer saying, "I talked to Raffy. We're good with everything. Go ahead and send over a term sheet."
With that, Wren felt the negotiations were complete and began planning for Furcal to undergo a physical in Atlanta on Wednesday. As for Braves fans, they began anticipating the return of the exciting shortstop who spent his first six Major League seasons (2000-05) with Atlanta.
But early Tuesday afternoon, Kinzer once again started to answer his phone to tell reporters that nothing had been signed or agreed upon. His message came at least three hours after various media outlets had reported an agreement was in place.
"There's no recourse," Wren said. "You learn who you can do business with and who you can't."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.