Teixeira Will Get His Payday, but Is He Really Worth It?

Ken RosenthalAnalyst IDecember 20, 2008

Mark Teixeira doesn't hit like Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols or Manny Ramirez. But any day now, he will sign a free-agent contract that all three of them will envy.

Whether Teixeira joins the Red Sox or another club is an open question. Whether he merits $180 million over eight years — or whatever the final number will be — is another subject of debate.

For now, though, we're in the familiar Scott Boras Staredown Phase, in which an ardent suitor attempts to call the legendary agent's bluff.

The Sox are experienced at this game.

Boras stuck it to them in Dec. 2005, when Johnny Damon signed with the Yankees without giving the Red Sox a chance to match New York's offer, according to Sox owner John Henry.

The Sox struck back in Dec. 2006, when team officials flew to Boras' home turf in Southern California and forced him to accept a take-it-or-leave it proposal for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The shenanigans resumed Thursday night. First, news broke that Sox officials were meeting with Boras in Texas. But at 10:45 p.m. ET, Henry issued a sad lament to selected reporters via e-mail.

"We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him," Henry said. "After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."

Cue the violins. And check back in an hour.

Wherever Teixeira ends up, and Boston is still the best guess, his deal is certain to exceed the eight-year, $160 million deal that Ramirez signed with the Red Sox in 2000 — a deal that included $31 million in deferred payments, significantly reducing its present-day value.

Then the question will become: Is "Tex" worth it?

Aside from the obvious, "No player is" — especially in the middle of a worldwide economic crisis — the answer is indeed arguable.

Among active players, Teixeira ranks only 19th in adjusted OPS — his rate above the league average expressed as a percentage.

Pujols is first in that statistic, Ramirez third and A-Rod tied for sixth. Teixeira is just behind David Ortiz, just ahead of Jason Bay and J.D. Drew. Nothing spectacular.

To view Teixeira in simpler terms, he never has finished higher than seventh in the MVP balloting — seventh!

Why, then, is he the most intensely pursued free agent that Boras has ever had?

- Age. Teixeira turns 29 in April, so his best years might be ahead of him. In each of the past two seasons, he produced a career-high adjusted OPS.

- Durability. It's easy to trust a player who averages 151 games per season, as Teixiera.

- Switch-hitting prowess. Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman and Teixeira are the three best switch-hitters among active players.

- Defense. A two-time Gold Glove winner, Teixeira is a difference-maker at first base.

- Personality. Pleasant and boring, which, in the post-Manny era, will serve him well in Boston.

That is, if he goes to Boston.

Even with Teixeira, the Red Sox still would need to figure out their catching, find a fourth outfielder and trade third baseman Mike Lowell, who has gone from World Series MVP to surgically repaired afterthought in a matter of 14 months.

Lowell signed a three-year contract last off-season, but the Red Sox possess the resources to adjust when their deals become obsolete — or, when in the case of a player such as shortstop Julio Lugo, they turn into outright mistakes.

The Teixeira deal will be a head-scratcher, no matter which team gives it to him. But a lot of unfortunate things would need to happen for it to be a mistake.


Braves: Back to Square One

Rafael Furcal held unique appeal for the Braves. His leadoff skills, club officials believed, would have transformed the team's offense.

Now, with Furcal headed to the Dodgers, the Braves could acquire another second baseman if they still intend to move Kelly Johnson to left field or include him a trade.

That plan, however, no longer is as attractive.

Brian Roberts is the same type of offensive player as Furcal, but it remains doubtful the Orioles will trade him, even though his contract negotiations are at a standstill.

As for free agents, no player on the open market — not David Eckstein, not Mark Grudzielanek, not even Orlando Hudson — would have the same impact as Furcal.

Hudson is a dynamic player, but not a leadoff man. Eckstein's .351 career on-base percentage is only one point lower than Furcal's, but he no longer is a stolen-base threat.

No, the Braves wanted Furcal and only Furcal. Without him, they're back where they started, looking for a quality starting pitcher and run-producing outfielder.

The Braves are not seriously interested in free-agent right-hander Derek Lowe, and Wren's pledge to avoid further negotiations with Furcal's agents seemingly would eliminate lefty Randy Wolf.

Raffy didn't like the thought of switching to 2B. (Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images)

Japanese right-hander Kenshin Kawakami remains a possibility, though some teams fear that he wants the same deal that the Dodgers gave Hiroki Kuroda last season — three years, $35.3 million.

Righties Ben Sheets and Jon Garland and lefties Oliver Perez and Andy Pettitte are among the other free-agent starters still available. The Braves' preference for a young pitcher with upside points to a trade as more likely.


Furcal's side responds

The Braves' desire to possibly move Furcal to second base was "the most important" factor in his decision to remain with the Dodgers, according to a statement issued Thursday night by his lead agent, Arn Tellem.

The majority of Tellem's statement concerned the Braves' criticisms about the way the negotiations were conducted.

The statement said, in part:

With regard to the negotiations between the Atlanta Braves and Rafael Furcal, the essential facts are clear and cannot be disputed.

- There was never an agreement reached between Rafael Furcal and the Atlanta Braves.

- In fact, the Braves were fully aware that Furcal was not prepared to make a decision but had requested an opportunity to sleep on it, before deciding.

- Moreover, the Baseball rules which all agents and teams operate under are clear that no deal exists between a player and a team unless and until: (i) there is a signed and executed player agreement or; (ii) the Player's Union and the Commissioner' office have otherwise confirmed the deal. Neither occurred here.

- Furcal ultimately decided to accept the Dodgers' offer, taking into consideration a number of factors, the most important of which was his desire to continue playing shortstop and not make the position change to second base that the Braves were requiring.

- Losing out on an All-Star player like Furcal is always disappointing, and we understand the Braves' frustration with the outcome of this negotiation, but it does not change in any way the fact that we conducted ourselves with integrity and complied with all rules of major league baseball throughout this process.

- We hope that once emotions have subsided, the Braves will act in a manner consistent with not only their obligations under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and The National Labor Relations Act, but also the best interests of the franchise. In short, we would not want this incident to color their better judgment.


Going, going ... not gone

The A's have placed shortstop Bobby Crosby on outright waivers, major-league sources say, enabling a rival club to claim him and assume his entire $5.25 million salary.

Bobby Crosby just might remain with the A's. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

The Royals and Blue Jays still are trying to upgrade at short, but neither is likely to claim Crosby, whose .645 on-base/slugging percentage last season was the third lowest in the majors.

It's telling that the A's are willing to lose Crosby for nothing without an obvious internal or external replacement. But if Crosby clears waivers, which expire at 1 p.m. ET Friday, he is virtually certain to stay with the A's.

There is zero incentive for the A's to send him to the minors; Crosby, as a player with five-plus years of major-league service, could reject the assignment, become a free agent and still collect his entire salary.

The White Sox went through a similar situation with reliever Mike MacDougal last month, but McDougal — as a player with four-plus years of service — could not block his removal from the 40-man roster.

No team took MacDougal in the Rule 5 draft, so he stands to earn $3 million next season working toward a possible return to the White Sox at Class AAA.


Mariners: In need of a bat

Please, no more talk about how Endy Chavez, Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro could give the Mariners the most formidable defensive outfield in the game.

That outfield would have almost zero punch, and Jack Zduriencik, the team's new GM, freely admits, "We'd like to get a legitimate power hitter, if possible."

Zduriencik says he has made "some contact" with the agents for free-agent sluggers. But the Mariners, like many teams, are waiting for bargains to develop.

The M's preference, Zduriencik says, is for a left-handed hitter. Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Garret Anderson, Jason Giambi and — of course — Ken Griffey Jr. all fit that description.

"Our eyes and ears are open, that's for sure," Zduriencik says.

Around the horn

Asked if Jake Peavy wants out of San Diego, his agent, Barry Axelrod, said, "I wouldn't say it in that way. The Padres have communicated with us. We have an understanding of what their situation is. I don't think it's pleasant for anyone — for the team, for Jake, for anyone. But we recognize it for what it is. They've been open about it. We understand they have to do what they have to do to make the ballclub better — if that's possible in the current situation."

The Indians still want to add an infielder with upside, but ultimately could go for a veteran free agent such as Mark Grudzielanek or Craig Counsell. Club officials would need to decide whether either would be a significant enough upgrade over what they have — Josh Barfield, Jamie Carroll and Luis Valbuena competing at second, with the potential to move Asdrubal Cabrera to short and Jhonny Peralta to third ...

Gary Sheffield to the Rangers makes baseball sense — the Rangers are too left-handed and the Tigers too right-handed. Problem is, the Rangers are short on money, making it particularly unwise for them to invest in a 40-year designated hitter who will earn $14 million next season. If the Tigers are motivated to move Sheffield — as it appears they are — they will need to include a significant amount of money ...

The Rockies are debating whether to sign free-agent right-hander Tim Redding or trade for Cubs righty Jason Marquis. Redding, 30, tied for the team lead with 182 innings last season, though he posted a 4.95 ERA. The Nationals non-tendered him because they did not want to pay him $3 million to $3.5 million in arbitration. Marquis, also 30, is owed $9.875 million next season, but the Cubs are willing to assume a significant portion of his salary ...

Left-hander Randy Wolf's asking price is believed to be $30 million for three years. The Astros are believed to have offered him between $22 million and $24 million before pulling their proposal due to economic reasons. The Dodger appear a perfect fit for Wolf, but their experience with righty Jason Schmidt might make them gun-shy to give big dollars to another starting pitcher with a lengthy injury history.

This article originally published on FOXSports.com.

Click here to read more of Ken's columns.


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