Teixeira Bans Himself in Boston

By Murray Chass

December 24, 2008

With the focus of every signing or trade being on the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox, this needs to be said first about the Yankees’ signing of Mark Teixeira. The Yankees didn’t snatch him away from the Red Sox because they outbid or outsmarted the Red Sox. Teixeira didn’t sign with the Red Sox, a baseball official said, because he and his wife, especially his wife, didn’t want to live in Boston. If necessary, they were going to choose the big bad city of New York, and they did.

“He just didn’t want to go to Boston,” the official said. “He didn’t want to be a Red Sox so Boras called the Yankees and said he really wants to be a Yankee.”

The agent, Scott Boras, of course, didn’t let his client’s preferences get in the way of negotiating a top-tier contract. If an agent can lure the Yankees and the Red Sox into a negotiation, he is not going to tell either that the player doesn’t want to play there.

Boras’ response to the official’s explanation was interesting for its lack of a flat-out denial.

“I don’t think the geographics were going to be outcome determinative if things were closer,” Boras said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “The family issues and where they reside were obviously part of the decision. Tex and his wife had their discussions. I don’t know what that dialogue was.”

But the agent added, “To say Boston was out of the picture, that wasn’t the case. He strongly considered the Red Sox.”

If Teixeira considered the Red Sox, he did so only until the Yankees jumped in with their 8-year, $180 million offer. Until then, it appeared that Boras was using one of his favorite negotiating tactics – the existence of a mystery team or teams.

They were present at a meeting Boras and Teixeira had at the Four Seasons Hotel in Irving, Tex., Dec. 18 with Boston’s top three officials – John Henry, the principal owner; Larry Lucchino, the chief executive officer, and general manager Theo Epstein. The Red Sox officials thought they were close enough to a deal that a visit might clinch it.

But when the Red Sox offered $168 million for 8 years, or $21 million a year, Boras told them they weren’t even close to other offers they had. It was after that meeting that Henry issued a statement saying the Red Sox were not going to be a factor in a Teixeira signing because of the offers Boras told them he had.

Henry wasn’t saying the Red Sox would cease their pursuit of the first baseman, but he was calling Boras’ bluff, in effect saying if you have the offers you say you have we aren’t going to match or top them, but if you somehow don’t really have them, send us a signal and we’ll continue talking.

The Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, close to Teixeira’s home in Maryland, were also bidding for Teixeira. The Orioles were believed to have offered $150 million for 8 years and the Nationals $160 million for 8. The Nationals reportedly raised their offer to $180 million subsequent to Teixeira’s meeting with the Red Sox. So who made the offers that Boras said the Red Sox weren’t even close to? Ah ha, the mystery teams, of course.

Boras doesn’t like being accused of bluffing or prevaricating.

“Every negotiation I do,” he said, “people don’t really know what teams have an interest. I have a number of teams that felt the team that signed the player they didn’t know was involved. I field offers. Whatever teams tell me I keep in confidence. I’m not going to disclose what offers teams make.”

The Yankees were not a mystery team in the Teixeira negotiations. Boras would never keep the Yankees a secret. He wants everyone to know that the Yankees are bidding for one of his clients. It’s good for business. But the Yankees, as of last Thursday, an official said, had not made an offer. Their first offer came five days later, the day they reached agreement.

At best, according to the official, Boras and the Yankees were talking parameters. General managers like to talk parameters these days. By doing that, they don’t get locked into specific figures, and an agent can’t shop their offers with other teams.

What impact will the Teixeira signing have on the annual race to the death? Who knows? That’s the beauty of baseball. There are no guarantees, not when a team with a payroll less than one-fourth the size of the highest payroll wins its division’s championship and goes all the way to the World Series.

That’s why they play the games. Except when they play the games next season the Yankees will be more prepared to win enough of them to finish first or second than they were last season.

It was only a year ago that the Yankees signed four attractive free agents, as attractive a group as any team has ever signed in a single off-season, and you know what happened. The Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Will CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Teixeira propel them back into the playoffs next season?

The Yankees, outbidding other teams by $75 million for the three players, are betting $423.5 million that they will return to October with Sabathia and Burnett in the starting pitching rotation and Teixeira at first base.

Then again, they thought incorrectly that they would play games last October for the 14th consecutive year after re-signing Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. The Yankees committed a total of $388.4 million to that quartet and saw them and their teammates finish third in the American League East and out of the running for a post-season spot.

All right, you say, this time it’s different. They have added Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira and still have Rodriguez, Posada and Rivera and probably will have Pettitte, too, once he realizes that he might want more than the $10 million the Yankees have offered him, but since they made that offer they have spent $423.5 million and they don’t have any more millions left for him.

With Sabathia and Burnett in the rotation, as long as Burnett avoids injury and the disabled list, the Yankees’ pitching will be a strength, not a weakness the way it was last season after general manager Brian Cashman decided Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were going to pitch the team into October. Hughes didn’t survive April, and Kennedy might as well not have.

Teixeira will inject an on-base and run-producing punch into the offense that was missing last season, when the Yankees scored 179 fewer runs than the year before and plummeted from leading the league in runs scored to being seventh.

It’s humorous to view the signings of the three free agents in the context of Cashman’s stated position a year ago when he talked about spending less money on expensive free agents and focusing on building from within. One missed post-season, and he changed his philosophy instantly, sucked into the Steinbrenner way of doing business.

Cashman should not be criticized for the signings, spending more in a week than George Steinbrenner ever did. But he should at least acknowledge his mistake in thinking that the Yankees could be a playoff team with Hughes and Kennedy in the rotation. That was never going to happen, and it didn’t.

This year Cashman is saying he knew he could afford to pass up a trade for Johan Santana and hold onto the kids he would have had to give up because Sabathia was going to be available. But Cashman has gone far beyond Sabathia with his signings and has left officials of other clubs shaking their heads.

“It is what it is,” Andy MacPhail, the Baltimore Orioles’ head baseball executive, said after the Yankees signed the two pitchers. “There’s no sense carping about it. They operate the way they operate.”

The Yankees operate the way they operate because they can. While the rest of the economy is depressed and showing no signs of recovery, the Yankees are awash in cash. It’s as if they are the beneficiary of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

What they are is the beneficiary of a new Yankee Stadium. Talk about cash cows. They can only hope that runs will cross the plate as abundantly as dollars flow through the stadium gates. Other teams are cutting back; the Yankees are spending full speed ahead.

“We’re in an economy where hearts are breaking, and these guys are going to the public for money,” an official said, referring to the Yankees’ request to the city for additional tax-exempt bonds. “Do you think there are ethical issues?”

“They’re all outraged,” a member of the Yankees family said of other teams. “We know they’re outraged.”

But other teams are only too happy to take the Yankees’ money. The Yankees will pay more than $110 million in revenue sharing and luxury tax this year, and with the added revenue from the new stadium next year they expect the bill to be about $150 million.

That 2009 bill will be a lot easier to pay if the Yankees are 2009 World Series champions.

 

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