Long Teixeira Discussions Play into Boras' Hands
The answer actually is quite simple.
As one general manager told me a week ago, "Scott hasn't gotten the number he wants yet."
Scott, of course, is Scott Boras, Mark Teixeira's agent and everyone's favorite December villain.
Boras knows that no one will remember when Teixeira signs his free-agent contract. But they surely will remember the dollar amount.
So, the Scott Boras Continuing Education Program — an annual rite of the baseball offseason — continues for the ill-informed.
Not for Teixeira, who is a card-carrying member of Boras' information army, as dedicated and well-versed in contract minutiae as A-Rod, the agent's original dollar freak.
No, Boras' "education" is for the owners in the Teixeira sweepstakes. Most have never bid for a player at this level. And Boras is more than happy to explain to them how Teixeira will transform not just their baseball team, but also their baseball business.
That likely is where the breakdown occurred Thursday between Boras and Red Sox owner John Henry. In Boras' mind, Henry still doesn't get it. And if Henry needs a bit longer to experience his epiphany, Boras is more than happy to wait.
In the meantime, the agent continues to speak with other interested clubs, controlling the pace of the discussions, holding, holding, holding the ball.
This isn't December 2006, when Boras had to sign right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka by a fixed deadline and only could negotiate with the Red Sox.
This is free agency, ladies and gentlemen. Different rules. Boras' rules. Henry can huff and puff and try to call Boras' bluff. But the agent is in control.
The Angels, a team known for acting quickly in free agency, have yet to pull out of the Teixeira discussions, indicating that they retain a certain level of confidence in their chances. The Yankees, at the very least, are lurking on the periphery.
Then there are the Nationals and Orioles, the teams closest to Teixeira's hometown, the Baltimore suburb of Severna Park, Md.
Boras no doubt is citing the 2006 Tigers as an example for those two sorry franchises. The Tigers averaged 101.5 losses between '02 and '05, but reached the '06 World Series thanks in part to their purchases of three Boras clients — catcher Ivan Rodriguez, right fielder Magglio Ordonez and left-hander Kenny Rogers.
Neither the Nationals nor Orioles seem capable of duplicating such a run, even with Teixeira. But both teams are starting to develop young talent, with the Orioles perhaps a touch ahead of the Nats. The addition of Teixeira, 28, would give either a reason to dream.
Of course, to get Teixeira, the Nationals or Orioles would need to satisfy Boras' desire for "pull" value — a premium for "pulling" either franchise out of its respective misery. The Nationals seem more inclined to make such a sacrifice, which could be why Henry is effectively daring Boras to go to D.C.
Henry knows that Teixeira prefers to return east rather than stay west with the Angels. He knows — or at least hopes — that the Yankees are not a serious player. And he knows that, even though the Orioles likely view Teixeira as a homegrown heir to Cal Ripken Jr., they are unlikely to be his $200 million sugar daddy.
But Boras knows a few things, too.
The Red Sox, after carrying a $133 million Opening Day payroll last season, have less than $100 million in commitments for '09. True, they also need a catcher, a fourth outfielder and maybe another starting pitcher. But they possess stunning payroll flexibility.
As for the economy, the Red Sox cannot seriously use it as an excuse for losing their top free-agent target, even after freezing ticket prices for 2009.
The value of the franchise has soared. Attendance and TV ratings are certain to remain strong. You don't exactly see the Yankees operating like General Motors. While the Red Sox lack the advantage of a new park, they are not to be confused with the Kansas City Royals or any other financially challenged club.
Teixeira, then, amounts to a test case for Henry — or at least, that is how Boras might view it. J.D. Drew's five-year, $70 million deal is the biggest contract that Henry has awarded as Red Sox owner. Teixeira might cost nearly three times that much, but the team's baseball people want him — need him to build a powerhouse offense in the post-Manny era.
The Red Sox would counter that no one player is worth such outrageous money, but they've already offered Teixeira the biggest contract in club history — and they're not alone in the bidding. Boras surely is engaging every interested owner the same way he is engaging Henry.
"Arte Moreno, you saw how Teixeira transformed the Angels' offense after the team acquired him last summer. You lose him, you might lose the edge you've built over the Dodgers in southern California."
"Hal Steinbrenner, my goodness, here's your chance to bury the Red Sox. Sign Tex, you improve offensively and defensively — and you keep him away from your biggest rival for the next decade."
Nationals owner Ted Lerner and Orioles owner Peter Angelos are getting the "Be like Mike (Ilitch)" pitch, up close and personal. Laugh if you must at the Scott Boras Continuing Education Program, but it's almost Christmas and none of these teams has bowed out of the negotiations. Evidently, the agent is doing something right.
The most logical outcome — still — is that Henry will cough up the extra $20 million or $25 million necessary to bring Teixeira to Boston. Henry just needs to get used to the idea, as distasteful as it would be for him to concede even an inch to his new personal tutor, Scott Boras.
This article originally published on FOXSports.com.
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