Here's an example of how one player—in this case, Mark Teixeira—can hold up the entire free-agent market:
The Angels likely will move on free-agent closer Brian Fuentes if they lose Teixeira. The Cardinals, who also want Fuentes, must wait; the Angels are his No. 1 choice.
If the Cardinals fail to get Fuentes, they could go for a more expensive starting pitcher. Or, they could sign a less expensive starter such as Japanese right-hander Kenshin Kawakami and less expensive reliever such as lefty Will Ohman.
And that's just one thread of the pitching market—a market of which Teixeira is not even a part. His impact on the hitting market, obviously, is even greater.
The Angels will need a bat if they fail to keep Teixeira—they're interested in Manny Ramirez, Milton Bradley and others. The Yankees could be after the same group of players if they lose Teixeira, and they're also dabbling with free agents such as second baseman Orlando Hudson.
The Cubs and Rays want Bradley, but can not get him until he exhausts his options with the Angels and Yankees. The rest of the free-agent hitters—Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Jason Giambi, et al—are in the same holding pattern.
"Once Tex signs, it will be fast and furious," one agent says.
Just messing with you
The Yankees seem disinclined to sign Teixeira if his price soars to the $180 million to $200 million range.
Funny time for them to find religion, don't you think?
|The Yanks could deal a blow to Boston by signing Tex. ( / Getty Images)|
The Yankees, in the opinion of one rival general manager, should be pursuing Teixeira as aggressively as they did left-hander CC Sabathia.
"Teixeira is the only great player the Red Sox are after," the GM says. "If the Yankees get Sabathia and Teixeira, the Red Sox can't counter that. There's nothing they can do."
Manny Ramirez, ahem, obviously is not an option for the Red Sox. Free-agent righty Derek Lowe would be a nice addition, but the Sox still would need more offense.
Ramirez is gone. David Ortiz might never be the same. The Red Sox could pursue Bobby Abreu or Adam Dunn or wait for A's left fielder Matt Holliday to become a free agent next offseason. But none of those players is as big a difference-maker as Teixeira offensively or defensively.
As I wrote in my last column, the Yankees project that their 2009 payroll will be lower than it was last season even with the additions of Sabathia and free-agent righty A.J. Burnett. The signing of Teixeira almost certainly would push it higher. But why should a team that bid against itself for the best pitcher on the market suddenly turn passive with the best all-around player?
The Yankees needed pitching, they got pitching. It makes no sense for them to stop at the Red Sox's No. 1 target, a switch-hitter who could pair with Alex Rodriguez to form a devastating middle of the order for the better part of the next decade.
Ramirez would be a reasonable alternative to Teixeira, just as he would be for the Angels. But Teixeira, 28, is eight years younger than Ramirez, a defensive asset and let's face it, less of a threat to A-Rod's psyche. The Material Boy might freak out at the sight of Ramirez and spend the rest of his 10-year contract trying to hit every pitch nine miles.
Surely, the Yankees and every other bidder understand that $160 million for eight years is merely the baseline for Teixeira—the Tigers gave Miguel Cabrera $152.3 million over eight before he was a free agent, and Teixeira rejected $140 million for eight from the Rangers in 2007.
Teixeira, 28, is three years older than Cabrera. His career OPS is nearly identical, his defense far superior. His agent, Scott Boras, says that none of his previous free-agent clients, including A-Rod, were in this much demand.
If the Yankees want to draw a line, they should draw it with paying Andy Pettitte $10 million to be their fifth starter or Mike Cameron $10 million to be their center fielder.
Not with Teixeira, for crying out loud.
The A's McAfee Blues
Upon learning that free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal was deciding between the Dodgers and Braves, one prominent agent expressed sympathy for A's general manager Billy Beane and assistant GM David Forst, saying that they face an uphill fight trying to attract free agents to Oakland.
Furcal ended up choosing the Dodgers on Wednesday.
The A's rarely are major players in free agency, but the agent said that the poor working conditions and occasionally unruly crowd behavior at McAfee Coliseum are turnoffs for his clients.
"Many players are uncertain about the atmosphere," the agent said. "They're not as comfortable going to work there or having their families attend games there on a regular basis."
In 2012, the A's are scheduled to move into Cisco Field, which will be located approximately 20 miles south of McAfee in Fremont, Calif.
"That will help them recruit players," the agent said. "Billy and David are as good as anyone in the business. The new park will level the playing field for them and allow them to excel."
Royals wanted Raffy
|Rafael Furcal didn't like the idea of McAfee Coliseum. (Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images)|
The Blue Jays and Royals were unable to bid competitively for Furcal—a particular blow to the Royals, who envisioned Furcal and Coco Crisp at the top of their order, potentially helping the team contend in a weakened AL Central.
Rene Francisco, a special assistant to Royals general manager Dayton Moore, was the scout who originally signed Furcal for the Braves. Furcal also is close with Moore, who was in the Braves' front office during the player's first tenure with the club.
The Royals conceivably could have moved outfielder Jose Guillen to clear salary for Furcal, but club officials value Guillen's power. The team, expecting a payroll jump from $58 million to $72 million, just could not find a way to fit Furcal into its budget.
O's Markakis: Think Utley
The Orioles, trying to sign Nick Markakis long-term, surely want to avoid giving their right fielder the deal that the Phillies awarded second baseman Chase Utley prior to the 2007 season—seven years, $85 million.
But the comparison between the two is valid.
Markakis, 25, is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, the same service level that Utley was at entering '07. He is two years younger than Utley was then, yet his offensive percentages are surprisingly close.
Utley had a batting average/on-base/slugging line of .290/.362/.509 entering his first year of arbitration, while Markakis is at .299/.375/.476. Utley holds more value as an up-the-middle defender, but Markakis is considered one of the top defensive right fielders in the game.
The Utley deal might be a stretch for Markakis; Utley sealed his long-term deal in '06 by producing a 35-game hitting streak along with 32 home runs, 102 RBIs and 131 runs scored.
Then again, Markakis will be a free agent at 28 if he continues on one-year contracts, a thought that surely frightens the Orioles.
Around the Horn
|The Angels could get in the mix for Fuentes. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)|
Free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated bone in his left wrist, has been cleared by his surgeon to resume all baseball activities without restriction. Hudson, who had already begun hitting, now can work on his fielding as well, according to the report his agents received from Dr. Donald Sheridan...
Status quo in the Brian Fuentes negotiations. The Cardinals are pushing hard for Fuentes, but the pitcher's agents might prefer to wait for the outcome of the Teixeira sweepstakes. If the Angels lose Teixeira, they might be more inclined to sign Fuentes. The Brewers also remain interested...
After losing Furcal, the A's plan to wait for free-agent bargains that might develop. Some executives believe that the reeling economy could force teams to adjust revenue projections and roll back payrolls as the offseason continues. Such a development would benefit teams that are willing to be patient...
The Phillies almost certainly are out on free-agent right-hander Derek Lowe now that they've signed free-agent outfielder Raul Ibanez, left-hander Jamie Moyer and righty Chan Ho Park. The Red Sox and Mets remain possibilities for Lowe, and the Yankees conceivably could re-enter the picture if they fail to re-sign free-agent lefty Andy Pettitte, though team officials downplay that possibility...
As of early Tuesday, the Mike Cameron deal between the Brewers and Yankees had a "better chance of not happening than happening," according to one source with knowledge of the discussions. Rather than pay even a percentage of left-hander Kei Igawa's remaining contract, the Brewers might prefer to spend on free-agent pitchers...
The Braves were actively trying to trade second baseman Kelly Johnson for an outfielder even before they closed in on Furcal. Earlier this offseason, they discussed sending Johnson to the Cardinals for outfielder Ryan Ludwick. More recently, they dangled Johnson for Corey Hart, but the Brewers had no interest...
Free-agent left-hander Randy Wolf is drawing significant attention after going 6-2 with a 3.57 ERA down the stretch for the Astros, but buyer beware: As one interested GM notes, the oft-injured Wolf made more than 30 starts last season for the first time since 2003.
This article originally published on FOXSports.com.
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