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11/25/08 11:22 PM EST

Furcal makes visit to Oakland

Free-agent shortstop tours neighborhoods, lunches with Beane

Rafael Furcal toured Oakland on Tuesday, but his next visit could last longer.

Possibly demonstrating that he's in the final stages of his decision-making process, Furcal, widely considered the top shortstop available in free agency, traveled to Oakland to meet with A's officials. Accompanied by his wife, Glenny, and his agent, Paul Kinzer, Furcal stopped at the Oakland Coliseum, drove through neighborhoods where he might live and had lunch with A's general manager Billy Beane.

Kinzer confirmed Furcal's trip, which was initially reported by FoxSports.com.

"We just wanted to look around and see how [Furcal] felt about the area before he went further," Kinzer told MLB.com. "He did like it, and he was fine with the area."

Furcal, who's coming off a three-year, $39 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is reportedly seeking a four-year contract. Kinzer was staying in the Bay Area overnight, indicating that he could conduct face-to-face negotiations with the A's on Wednesday.

Furcal, 31, appeared in only 36 regular-season games last season due to a lower back injury. But that indirectly increased his free-agency value, since he didn't play enough to qualify for the Elias Sports Bureau rankings and thus won't cost the team that signs him a selection in next June's First-Year Player Draft.

Although Furcal was in Northern California, he did not tour the other side of San Francisco Bay -- home of the Giants, his other serious suitor. Kinzer said that he hadn't spoken with Giants officials in two days.

Hot Stove

If Furcal becomes the first free-agent shortstop to sign, he could launch a chain reaction among the eight to 10 teams seeking help at that position. The abundance of available shortstops includes free agents Orlando Cabrera, David Eckstein, Adam Everett, Cesar Izturis, Nick Punto, Edgar Renteria and Omar Vizquel. Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson is said to be available through trade, and Oakland's Bobby Crosby also could be shopped around if the A's sign Furcal.

Furcal, the 2000 National League Rookie of the Year with Atlanta, is a .286 career hitter who stole 22 or more bases in his first eight seasons until 2008.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.