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It's official: Furcal finalizes deal with Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Shortstop Rafael Furcal finalized his
three-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, saying
he always wanted to return to the team he played with the past
three seasons.

Furcal, who missed most of last season with back problems,
agreed to terms of a contract worth at least $30 million with the
Dodgers on Wednesday, prompting the Atlanta Braves to claim the
31-year-old switch hitter reneged on a deal with them. He passed a
physical Friday.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti acknowledged the risk
involved, but said team doctors are convinced Furcal is healthy.

"Those of you who have watched him over the last three years,
you know we're a different team with him in the lineup," general
manager Ned Colletti said on a conference call. "He never told us
that he had anything else in mind, and they were going to give us
every chance to come back because this is where he wanted to be.

"He doesn't like not playing. And he doesn't want this to be
his last contract. He understands the value of working hard. He's
proven to be a difference-maker. We decided to go for it. Every
time you sign somebody, every time you make a trade, every time you
draft somebody, you're taking a risk."

Furcal hit .357 with five homers and 16 RBIs last season, but
was limited to 36 games and 143 at-bats. He had back surgery July 3
and was sidelined until the season's final week, but started each
of the Dodgers' eight postseason games, hitting .258 with one
homer, three RBIs and nine runs scored.

"You can't overestimate Raffy's value to the team," Dodgers
manager Joe Torre said in a statement. "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."

Braves president John Schuerholz has vowed to never again do
business with Furcal's agents, whom Schuerholz accused in a
newspaper interview of conducting "despicable" dealings with the
team.

Schuerholz and Braves general manager Frank Wren were quoted as
saying the Wasserman Media Group, headed by Arn Tellem, negotiated
dishonestly by taking the team's signed terms of agreement sheet
for Furcal to the Dodgers. Wren said he believed the request by
agent Paul Kinzer for a term sheet signed by the Braves late Monday
meant an agreement had been reached.

"Having been in this business for 40-some years, I've never
seen anybody treated like that," Schuerholz was quoted as saying
in Friday's editions of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The
Atlanta Braves will no longer do business with that company - ever.
I told Arn Tellem that we can't trust them to be honest and
forthright. I told him that in all my years, I've never seen any
[agency] act in such a despicable manner.

"It was disgusting and unprofessional. We're a proud
organization, and we won't allow ourselves to be treated that way.
I advised Arn Tellem that whatever players he represents, just
scratch us off the list. Take the name of the Atlanta Braves off
their speed dial. They can deal with the other 29 clubs, and we'll
deal with the other hundred agents."

Schuerholz did not respond to a telephone message left Friday by
The Associated Press.

Colletti said as far as he knew, everything the Dodgers did was
aboveboard.

"I don't have any idea what transpired with any other club. In
the last two weeks, a day didn't go by where we didn't speak,"
Colletti said regarding talks with Kinzer. "I just know our
involvement with him.

"We spoke in Vegas at the meetings (last week). We talked all
weekend long. We talked Monday, Tuesday, We talked until we had a
deal done."

Furcal said he's been in the Dominican Republic while his agents
negotiated with several teams.

"I want to say I'm so happy to be a Dodger again," he said.
"I don't know what happened. We decided to sign here. The way they
treat me here, I want to come back here. I know the team we have. I
think we can make it this year."

Asked if he felt bad for the Braves, Furcal said: "It's
something I let my agents talk to you guys about."

The players' association is likely to maintain that a team
cannot boycott players based on which agent they retain.

"I've been in touch with Arn Tellem," said Michael Weiner, the
general counsel for the players' association. "I intend to be in
touch next week with the commissioner's office to make sure the
Braves are made aware of their obligations under the Basic
Agreement."

Furcal gets $6.5 million next season, $8.5 million in 2010 and
$12 million in 2011. The deal includes a $12 million team option
for 2012, and the option would become guaranteed if he has 600
plate appearances in 2011. He also can earn an additional $1
million annually, including the option year, if he remains healthy.

Furcal also will get a $3 million payment by the end of the
January following the contract's completion. He has a limited
no-trade provision allowing him to block deals to a specified
number of teams.

Furcal began his big league career with the Braves, playing with
them from 2000-05. He signed a three-year, $39 million free-agent
contract with the Dodgers in the fall of 2005.