The Braves have just two major free agents, Rafael Furcal and Kyle Farnsworth. They also have an option on John Thomson: $4.75 million or a $500K buyout. Unlike previous years (when it was pretty clear from the beginning that few top players, if any, would be returning) the Braves might try to resign either Furcal or Farnsworth or both. However, I put the odds of resigning either at about 50 percent.
Last year a lot of shortstops were on the market, but this year it’s pretty much just Furcal. Given the standards set last year, it seems unlikely that the Braves will match the offers he’s likely to get. Edgar Renteria, who is just about even with Furcal as a player, got four years and $40 million last year. Orlando Cabrera got four years, $32 million. Jimmy Rollins, who wouldn’t have even been a free agent yet, got five years, $40 million during the season.
Given those standards, I don’t see Furcal getting any less than Cabrera got, and he might get more than Renteria. Even if the Braves could afford it, would they really lock themselves into four or five years with a guy with two DUIs? At the same time, are they willing to give him up with no real replacement? The Braves do have a shortstop of sorts on the roster in Wilson Betemit, but they don’t trust his defense and don’t seem to really believe in his bat either. There’s no real leadoff type ready to replace Furcal, though personally I think Marcus Giles would be better than Furcal. (OBP+2B > SB.) I think that the Braves would be willing for Cabrera money — $8 million a year would be a $2.4 million raise on his 2005 rates — but I’m certain the Cubs will offer more.
Farnsworth’s disastrous Game Four probably lowered his asking price, but also made it less likely that the Braves would want him back. He did thrive in the regular season with the team. Ironically, since he had such a big lead yesterday it wasn’t a blown save, so he’s still perfect in save situations with the team. I think that the Braves probably want him back, but I don’t see them offering more than two years and he will certainly want more. Still, he might be back, if (a) nobody else will guarantee a closer job, and (b) neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox offer closer money long-term for him to set up.
There are also some older players who are free agents, Julio Franco, Brian Jordan, and Eddie Perez. Jordan and Perez should retire, and Perez probably will. He was trotted out in a game after the Braves clinched apparently for a valedictory AB but can’t catch anymore and never really could hit, and probably will take a coaching job in the organization. Jordan might think he can still play; hopefully the Braves realize he can’t. Franco will certainly be brought back unless someone (the Mets?) makes a better offer. Jim Brower may be a free agent; I’m not sure about his service time. He pitched well enough after coming back from Richmond that I’d like him back but not for any real money.