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Expect Sox to break bank for Teixeira

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  November 19, 2008 08:11 AM

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Here's a prediction: By the time this is over, win or lose, the Red Sox effectively will have made Mark Teixeira the largest contract offer in the history of your storied franchise.

Preposterous, you say? Clearly, you have not been paying attention. Since the Red Sox changed ownership, management, and philosophies early in 2002, the new owners and operators of the Red Sox have stopped at virtually nothing to acquire those things they have coveted most. When the best of the rest were bidding $35 million-$40 million to acquire the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox bid $51.11 million. When the rest of the world wondered why J.D. Drew opted out of his contract in Los Angeles, the Red Sox dropped $70 million in Drew's lap. And knowing what we know now, nothing might have been more aggressive than the $36 million the Sox paid for Julio Lugo.

The point is this:

When the Sox want something enough, they make sure they get it.

In the case of Teixeira, rest assured that the Sox want him, no matter what games are being played by club officials. Publicly and privately, the Sox are saying nothing about their interest in Teixeira and playing dumb every time his name comes up. It's as sure a sign as any that they are preparing to go to extraordinary lengths. Last year, in the midst of the Johan Santana trade talks, the Sox were far more forthcoming about who and what they were willing to offer. When all was said and done, the Sox were not interested in acquiring Santana so much as they were interested in driving up the price for the rival Yankees; as it turned out, they kept Santana out of the Bronx altogether.

Lest anyone think the Sox are now employing a similar strategy, you are mixing apples and oranges. Santana was available only by trade, meaning any interested team had to part with prospects to get him. In the case of the Yankees, New York has an especially limited supply. By forcing the Yankees to give up more for Santana than they truly wanted would have caused some damage to the team's feeder system, hurting New York over the long term. Prospects come in limited supply for any team, no matter how big the major league payroll.

But money? Please. The Yankees have a virtual bottomless pit. Are the Sox really going to do damage to the Yankees in hiking Teixeira's price by $2 million a year? $3 million? $5 million? Last season, depending on the formula, the Yankees spent anywhere from $50 million-$70 million more than the Red Sox on their league roster. After the season, in Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees erased more than $70 million from their payroll. They are moving into a new stadium. They quite literally have cash to burn, even in these economic times.

In fact, what the Red Sox truly fear here is that the Yankees can outbid them on Teixeira, explaining why the Sox have failed to confirm any interest in the player at all. With the possible exception of the New York Mets, who just exercised their contract option on first baseman Carlos Delgado, the Yankees are the only team in baseball who could outbid the Red Sox for Teixeira's services. The Yankees could do it in a big way, too, giving Teixeira the kind of money that would put him in the clouds with Alex Rodriguez.

Remember: The Yankees did it with Johnny Damon, offering him 30 percent more ($52 million over four years) than the Red Sox (four years, $40 million) because they knew they had to overpay by a significant margin.

If the Yankees were willing to give Damon $3 million a year more than anyone else, do you really think they’re going to pull back on Teixeira?

The Sox, on the other, always have a drop area. We learned that when they tried to trade Manny Ramirez for Rodriguez following the 2003 season. The Sox went in with a plan to restructure Rodriguez's contract so they could fit him into their budget, then frustratingly backed out when the players union rejected the proposal. At the time, they believed they were Rodriguez's only real escape route and they tried to leverage that against Rodriguez, the Texas Rangers, and the union.

Of course, as soon as the Sox learned that the Yankees were about to acquire Rodriguez as a third baseman, they fell all over themselves trying to get back in the game, suddenly willing to give up everything necessary to bring Rodriguez to Fenway Park.

Thankfully, as it turned out, they failed.

In the case of Teixeira, the parameters have been in place for quite some time. Roughly 18 months ago, before being dealt by the Texas Rangers, Teixeira turned down an eight-year, $144 million offer that translated into $18 million per season. At the time, Teixeira was still a season-and-a-half short of free agency. Teixeira's resume has only grown since then, which likely places his current value between $20 million-$25 million per season over the next six to eight years at a minimum.

Know what that means? It means that in order to sign him, someone must pay $150 million-$200 million over at least the next six or eight seasons. On the shorter end of that, Teixeira easily will eclipse the annual $20 million salary earned by Ramirez during his productive and somewhat tumultuous time in Boston. On the longer end, Teixeira could end up with a package approaching $200 million, $40 million more than the $160 million deal Ramirez acquired during the winter of 2000-01.

Again, do not be deluded or deceived by the gamesmanship that takes place at this time of year. Anyone who thinks that the Yankees view Nick Swisher as a replacement for Teixeira is terribly naïve. (For weeks following the 2005 season, the Yankees insisted they had no interest in Damon, either.) Teixeira is a 28-year-old switch-hitter with power who plays excellent defense and comes with a great makeup. He is precisely the kind of player worthy of a landmark contract, particularly for a Red Sox team needs to infuse the middle of its lineup with youth.

Two years ago, when the Red Sox signed Matsuzaka, many were stunned at the lengths to which the Red Sox went. We later learned that the Sox had Matsuzaka on their radar for years, that their pursuit of him had been plotted for some time. Now the Sox’ free agent of choice is Teixeira, who long has been due to hit the open market in the fall of 2008 and whom the Red Sox have lusted after for quite some time.

Do you really think they came this far to make him some sort of halfhearted offer?

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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