The Atlanta Journal-Constituion’s Dave O’Brien tips Rafael Furcal to re-sign with the Braves.

From the few conversations I™ve had with baseball types in past couple of days, I™m more convinced than ever that Braves are keeping Furcal. Not 100 percent certain, but definitely moved closer to that than the 50-50 proposition I felt it was when I left town a week ago. We™ll see. Not really expecting a decision from him until end of winter meetings next week in Dallas, but I think the Cubs would have to pay far more than they™re willing to offer to pry Furcal away from Bobby Cox and the Braves.

So what would that mean for the future, if the Braves sign Furcal to, say, a four-year contract? What about all the young middle-infield prospects coming up the pipeline? Well, I think if they sign Furcal, Marcus Giles wouldn™t be part of the long-term plans. Maybe he™ll be back this year at more than $4 mill through arbitration but after that, the Braves could move one of the young studs from shortstop to second base and have him ready to step in and play for a few years at a very low salary. And another of the youngsters could move into utility role once Pete Orr becomes arbi-eligible in a couple years and too expensive to keep as a utility guy. But that™s just me speculating, looking ahead.

As for closer, obviously with Billy Wagner and B.J. Ryan off the market and both having signed even bigger deals than anyone projected, it™s going to drive up the price of the remaining options, including two the Braves have considered ” Kyle Farnsworth and Trevor Hoffman. The Braves liked Farnsworth enough in his three-plus months with them to feel comfortable with him as their closer for next couple years, but it just depends how high the Yankees and possibly other suitors drive up the price.

Wednesday morning on XM’s Home Plate channel, Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez suggested that if the Braves failed to keep Furcal after failing to woo BJ Ryan or Billy Wagner, Chipper Jones would be justified in asking for his defered money back.