Signing 1B Mark Teixeira worth chaos for Boston Red Sox
By Gerry Callahan Tuesday, November 18, 2008
By Gerry Callahan Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Boston Herald General Sports Columnist
In a perfect world, he would be the perfect player, a cleanup hitter who beats up on opposing pitchers and keeps his hands off the hired help. He would command $20 million a year, but unlike the last Red Sox [team stats] player who pulled down that kind of dough, the team would get more than a good bat for its buck.
The Sox also would get some leadership, pride and respect for others in the organization. His teammates wouldn’t feel like they were living with Lindsay Lohan for eight months a year. The manager wouldn’t feel like he had 24 ballplayers and one Saudi prince in his clubhouse. The owners wouldn’t feel like chumps for forking over $3 million a month to a guy who doesn’t tip clubhouse kids.
In an ideal world, Mark Teixeira would be the ideal free agent pickup for the Red Sox. General manager Theo Epstein would be on him like John Kruk on a Marriott Burger. A switch hitter, a good OBP guy and a Gold Glove first baseman who won’t turn 29 until April, Teixeira is as close to a sure thing as Epstein will find on the free agent market.
The Sox need someone to hit fourth. They want to get younger. They have the money. They have a good relationship with Teixeira’s evil agent, Scott Boras. The Sox would give the player a chance to win his first World Series. And they would put him closer to his home in Maryland (although not so close that he’s forced to play for the Baltimore Orioles).
The Red Sox have everything Teixeira could want in a ballclub, except, of course, a job opening. The Sox have a first baseman, and he will finish in the top three in the MVP race today (something Teixeira never has done). Kevin Youkilis [stats] could slide over to third base, but the Sox also have a third baseman.
Mike Lowell was the MVP of the 2007 World Series (something else Teixeira never has done).
So the Sox easily could take a pass on Teixeira, focus on their catching situation, save themselves about $150 million and go to battle next season with essentially the same team that just won 95 games and beat Teixeira’s Angels in the American League Division Series.
They could sit back, do nothing and fill every seat in their lyric little cashbox next season. But here’s a prediction that’s about as bold and gutsy as a Colin Powell endorsement:
The Sox will do something. It’s the way they operate. It’s how they roll.
Sometimes it leads to foolish moves, such as signing Julio Lugo [stats] to a four-year, $ 36 million contract or trading for Eric Gagne. No Sox fan, however, could ever accuse Theo and the Trio of standing pat and settling for the status quo.
The Red Sox front office looks at its players the way NASCAR drivers look at their wives: Hey, there is always room for an upgrade.
Which is why we expect Epstein to make an all-out effort to sign Teixeira and to unload Lowell. It will be messy, it will be complicated, it will create some dissension among Sox players, but no one can deny that the addition of Teixeira would make the team better.
Lowell is universally admired by teammates, management, fans and media, but the longer Epstein has been on the job, the less he has allowed sentiment to affect his decision-making. He is not a Son of Sam Horn anymore. He is a Son of Bill Belichick, a cold, cunning, ruthless, relentless GM who cares only about putting the best team on the field.
In the past, Epstein traded Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez [stats] and let Johnny Damon and Pedro Martinez walk away as free agents. But this offseason, he will have to tap into his inner Belichick like never before: Jason Varitek [stats], who turns 37 in April, appears to have priced himself out of a job. The catcher’s agent, Boras, compares him to Jorge Posada but leaves out one minor difference: The Yankees catcher still can hit. Anything more than two years for the Sox captain will be money for nothing, and Epstein knows it.
Last year at this time, Philadelphia was offering Lowell four years, and the Sox held the line at three. Lowell decided to forgo the extra year and stay because he was comfortable here. He’s probably not so comfortable anymore.
If the Sox were to sign Teixeira, they most likely would try to move Lowell, who has two years and $24 million left on his contract. Of course, Lowell is recovering from October hip surgery, which will make it difficult to deal him until he proves he can play. That means if the Sox ink Teixeira, they would be forced to bring all three players (Lowell, Youkilis and Teixeira) to spring training.
And you know what? It’s worth the chaos. Signing Teixeira is a rare opportunity for the Sox, a star player who would be a rock in the middle of their lineup for years to come. You don’t pass on that because Mike Lowell is a class act.
It’s not easy for those NASCAR guys either, but have you seen their wives? Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go for the upgrade.