Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Teixeira Reportedly Signs with Yankees for 8 Years, $180 Million

ESPN is reporting that Mark Teixeira has signed an 8-year, $180 million contract with the New York Yankees.

If official Teixeira becomes the third high profile free agent the Yankees have signed. Earlier this month, the Yankees signed pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

Teixeira split the 2008 season between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels acquired Teixeira for Casey Kotchman and a minor league pitcher last July. Teixeira made his first postseason appearance with the Angels although they could not get past the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

There was little chance Teixeira would re-sign with the Angels as he made it clear he wanted to play on the East Coast. Where Teixeira would play was intriguing because as a Maryland native he was entertaining offers from mediocre teams like the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals. Then there was the Red Sox and the Yankees.

The Sox were interested in Teixeira. If he came to Boston, Tex would play first and Kevin Youkilis could move to third. Mike Lowell is breaking down and probably can't play everyday so Teixeira would have fit into the scheme of things. Things wouldn't have been disrupted. But Teixeira's agent Scott Boras is a notoriously difficult and isn't above claiming other teams are pursuing a given free agent when in fact they have no such interest or the player has no such interest. Yes, Boras is doing what an agent should do and that is the get his player the best possible contract. But Boras crossed the line when he announced that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his contract before the Red Sox clinched Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

Anyhow, Boras played this game with the Red Sox concerning Teixeira and Red Sox principal owner John Henry wanted no part of it. Yes, it would be nice to have Teixeira and have him hit ahead of David Ortiz. But the Red Sox are better off spending $180 million on three or four good players rather than putting their eggs in one basket.

Of course, Boras isn't the only one playing that game. The team owners do it too. The New York Yankees had insisted they weren't interested in signing Teixeira. Yeah, the Yankees were about as uninterested in signing Teixeira as Hillary Clinton was uninterested in the White House.

Yet I think spending nearly half a billion on three free agents will work against the Yankees. When the Yankees won four World Series in six years they did it with players like Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez. They weren't superstars but they were steady, they hustled and above all else were team players who thought little of individual statistics.

If anything the signing of Teixeira complicates things. With Teixeira at first, Nick Swisher must move to an already crowded outfield. Swisher joins an outfield that includes Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady, Melky Cabrera and it appears they are going re-sign free agent Bobby Abreu. The Yankees were trying to unload Cabrera but for Mike Cameron, another outfielder. And what if the Yankees decide to pursue Manny Ramirez? The addition of Teixeira is going to cost one or more of these guys playing time and they ain't going to be happy about it.

The Yankees best bet is to unload Cabrera for some middle relief. Outside of Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain their bullpen is mighty thin and won't be able to hold leads for Sabathia and Burnett.

Given that the Yankees didn't make the postseason in 2008 for the first time in 15 years baseball fans knew the Yankees would be busy this off season. But it appears they have made moves for the sake of making moves. If so it will make the $700 billion bailout look like a sound investment based on prudent fiscal policy.

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