Market Watch: Mark Teixeira
1B Mark Teixeira, free agent
Age: 28 (turns 29 on April 11)
Career stats: .290 BA, 203 HRs, 676 RBI in six seasons
Agent: Scott Boras
Ask any agent to describe their ultimate free-agent scenario, and it would look like this: The client would be a young, clean-cut slugger who hits from both sides of the plate, plays Gold Glove defense and almost never gets hurt. The marketplace, meantime, would be characterized by serious interest from both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, as well as the big-spending, Los Angeles-market team attempting to retain the player. For good measure, toss in a handful of additional, "mystery" teams with owners prone to impulse buys.
Voila, first baseman Mark Teixeira, who appears set to become baseball's next $150 million man -- and that's just a baseline figure. He already turned down a reported offer of $144 million over eight years from the Texas Rangers, just before they traded him to Atlanta in July 2007, and that was with only one team bidding for him.
Compare Teixeria's situation to that of another free agent (and Scott Boras client), Manny Ramirez, and it is easy to see why Teixeira is so highly valued. Ramirez is almost eight years older, is high-maintenance (to put it mildly) and a defensive liability -- and he's probably looking at a three- of four-year deal worth $25 million annually. In the last six years (since Teixeira debuted in 2003), Ramirez has only slightly out-homered (217 to 203) and out-RBI'd (689 to 676) Teixeira, but Teixeira is still on the way up, while Ramirez is almost certainly on the way down.
As for the marketplace, it is every agent's dream to have a premium client in an offseason in which both the Red Sox and Yankees are looking to reload. The Red Sox, who lost to Tampa Bay in the ALCS,believe they never adequately replaced Ramirez's towering presence in the middle of their lineup, while the Yankees, who missed the playoffs for the first time since before the Joe Torre era, are moving into a new stadium, have shed tens of millions of dollars in payroll and need a run-producing first baseman.
And then there are the Los Angeles Angels, who traded for Teixeira in July and feel as if they need to retain him in order to remain World Series contenders in 2009.
Now, a word about our local nines, both of which - understandably -- appear to covet Teixeira, a Severna Park native.
It is admirable, to a point, that the Washington Nationals have expressed interest in Teixeira, but there is virtually zero chance he would sign there. First of all, until we see evidence the Lerner family is willing to spend even $10 million on a free agent, we have a hard time imagining them spending in excess of $150 million for one player, no matter how appealing. (On the other hand, you know what they say about desperate times....) And in my past discussions with Teixeira about his impending free agency -- well, he didn't say much, but he said he wanted to play somewhere where he would have a chance to win championships. Sure, the Nationals could blow everyone else away with a ginormous offer to Teixeira, but does anyone really see that happening?
The Baltimore Orioles, on the other hand, deserve some attention, if only because their owner, Peter Angelos, has a history of impulsive offers to big-time free agents. In Nov. 1998, while his front office was meeting to discuss its strategy for free agency, Angelos -- on his own -- completed a deal for Albert Belle, whom everyone had assumed was going to the Yankees. Then, in Dec. 2001, as Boras was putting the finishing touches on Alex Rodriguez's ground-breaking $252 million contract with the Rangers, Angelos suddenly made a significant offer for Rodriguez -- too little, too late, as it turns out.
The Orioles, arguably, need Teixeira more than anyone else does, staring at a string of 11 straight losing seasons and plunging attendance figures. But unless Teixeira completely backtracks on his stated desire to play for a winner, the Orioles, too, would have to vastly overpay to land him.
The Yankees provide the most seamless fit for Teixeira -- they are without a starting first baseman, having finally rid themselves of Jason Giambi's albatross of a contract - and have the most money to work with. (By the way, after Teixeira, the rest of the market for free agent first basemen is downright sad, with Eric Hinske and Kevin Millar arguably the best available.)
The Red Sox, on the other hand, would need to shuffle pieces in order to accommodate Teixeira -- which may not be as difficult as it looks. On the surface, a Teixeira signing would force Kevin Youkilis to left field, with Teixeira at first base and veteran Mike Lowell at third. But the more logical outcome would be for Youkilis to wind up at third base, with Lowell - who is owed $25 million over the next two seasons -- either traded (if he's healthy) or parked on the disabled list (if he's not).
And if the Yankees and Red Sox get into a bidding war for Teixeira, we may see some truly head-spinning contract numbers being lobbed around. This one could be fun to watch.
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