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Response team

Sox want to counter move with Teixeira

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / December 11, 2008
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LAS VEGAS - Now, for the real prize. With CC Sabathia off the table - not that the Red Sox were ever really sincere in their pursuit of the pitcher - Boston (and the rest of the major players) were able to turn their full attention to a power-hitting first baseman who will likely command even greater dollars than those heading to the new New York home of the Sabathias.

Mark Teixeira, it's your turn now.

And the Red Sox are interested. While masking their near single-minded interest in Teixeira with meetings with Sabathia and the agent for A.J. Burnett, the Sox have been intrigued by the first baseman with an ability to get on base, hit for power, and play defense. He might not be the only player the team goes after this offseason - there is that minor need behind the plate - but Teixeira is certainly the sexiest name on the Sox' radar.

According to agent Scott Boras, who addressed a massive pack of media yesterday, Teixeira now has contract offers from every team interested in him. That would include the Red Sox, along with the Orioles, Nationals, Angels, and possibly the Yankees, though New York is far more focused on pitching. Boras added that every team Teixeira is "involved with" has met with him.

"It's in our best interest not to talk about these things going on," Sox general manager Theo Epstein said, declining to comment on whether the team had offered Teixeira a contract.

But asked if there was a chance the team could sign a marquee free agent this offseason, Epstein said, "I think there's a chance of it. There's definitely a chance that we don't." But he added that the team was "being aggressive, really aggressive" in going after free agents.

Epstein did stress that the Red Sox, in his tenure, have only gone beyond $40 million for two free agents: Daisuke Matsuzaka ($52 million over six years, plus a $51 million posting fee) and J.D. Drew ($70 million over five years). But the Sox could easily add another name to that list, a player they both need and value in one package.

It will likely come down to numbers with Teixeira, though being close to where he grew up (the Baltimore area) could be a factor. According to the Washington Post, the Nationals checked in with an offer north of $160 million for eight years.

"I know there's the position that we're a superpower - we probably are, in some ways, financially - but it seems like every $100 million player that comes around always has the Red Sox in the mix," Epstein said. "We often are in the mix.

"But besides [Drew and Matsuzaka], we haven't given out those free agent contracts. That's been partly responsible for our success. We focus more on long-term building and more on building from within. That doesn't mean we won't do it for the right player, and in that circumstance, we will."

For example, for Teixeira. He batted .308 last season with the Braves and Angels, with a .410 on-base percentage, .552 slugging percentage, 33 home runs, and 121 RBIs. And he went 7 for 15 in his first trip to the postseason, though the Angels bowed to the Sox in the first round.

He brings power and on-base ability, a combination the Sox could use with a weakening offense, given the loss of Manny Ramírez and the aging of David Ortiz. Teixeira's bat is the best on the market the Sox would consider (yes, Ramírez is off the table). He would be a player in his prime in a lineup that could use him.

"We've been working pretty well around the clock here for a couple days," Boras said. "We've certainly had time to meet multiple times with multiple teams. And I've been [through] these things before. They could get done in a short period of time. They could certainly go beyond the time frame of these meetings as well."

So Teixeira will have a decision to make, and the Red Sox will be among the options. But at this point, there is likely still negotiating to be done. And ultimately, Teixeira, who was drafted out of high school by the Sox and didn't sign in a messy and bitter negotiation, will need to determine which of the multiple big-money offers will be the right one. As for his criteria?

"The club," Boras said. "The club's ability to win and win in the long term. Commitment by the owners, long term, to the franchise being successful. Where they play, the city they're in. He's played in both leagues. He's had an opportunity to make an analysis of what's best for he and his family. And, of course, the economics too."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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