Amid a whirlwind of economic downturn, frightened investors and cautious executives, there are still a chosen few players in Major League Baseball poised to receive obscene amount of money this off season.
The question is: Will teams benefit from these huge signings?
With C.C Sabathia and A.J. Burnett already checked in to the new Ritz Yankee, the biggest player left on the table is the much-talked-about Mark Teixeira. For weeks, analysts and couch G.M’s alike have predicted the Red Sox as most likely to scoop up the hard-hitting Tex. The Orioles and Nationals surprisingly jumped into the race early on, and the Angels have been aggressive, but no one can expect them to match the financial clout of Boston.
Things changed dramatically when the Sox “officially” withdrew their offer from the bidding Textravaganza. Red Sox Nation has been left hoping the withdrawal is some kind of ploy to get Boras and Co. to lower the asking price. While it probably is, the Sox would actually be much better off without Teixeira.
In reality, the Red Sox do not “need” Tex in their lineup. He is just the shiny bauble Boston wants because everyone else wants him too. They have a perfectly capable first baseman in Kevin Youkilis, who dramatically improved his offensive production last season.
Youkilis has a career batting average of .289, which is only a single point behind Teixeira. His on-base percentage is slightly better and he posted an excellent .959 OPS in 2008. Texhas a clear advantage in the power department, but Youk is a great doubles hitter and belted 29 home runs last season, nearly twice what he had in 2007. Both men have exceptional defensive skills and are nearly the same age.
One could make the argument that Youkilis’ 2008 season was an offensive fluke, but his power and contact skills have been steadily improving each season. He already had his legendary plate discipline; now he has developed into a player who can hit and hit for power.
Looking at the numbers, it is clear that Teixeira is not a substantial improvement over Youkilis. Any upgrade Teixeira does offer at first base is not enough to justify a massive eight-year deal.
Tex’s contract would only be the first complication. To make room for the slugger, Youkilis would have to swing over to third base and the Sox would be faced with the daunting task of trading an injured, 34-year-old Mike Lowell. Lowell has over $25 million left on his contract, almost assuring Boston will get a bad deal.
Though he is not the most sensational third baseman in the league, he is still a great defender who can contribute to the team.
Locking up Teixeira to a big deal will also hinder Boston’s ability to deal with their real need. Jason Varitek has hit the offensive bottom and his time as a catcher is almost up. The Sox would do well to search for a replacement to support the prospect George Kottaras.
If the Red Sox are looking for more depth in their lineup, there are plenty of bats just dying to be scooped up (Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu, etc.). They are all guaranteed to be cheaper and provide good offense.
The Red Sox have a strong, balanced lineup, and can become champions again without the help of Teixeira.
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