Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Gammons [Print without images]

Saturday, December 20, 2008
Trying to make sense of Teixeira dealings


It has been suggested that the best way to decipher the Red Sox-Mark Teixeira negotiations is to pull out your old turntable, put on "Revolution 9" from the Beatles' "White Album" and play it backward. Then you will know what's been offered and what's been requested.

We don't know whether the Angels, were they to lose Teixeira, would turn to Manny Ramirez. We don't know whether Randy Levine, Hank Steinbrenner and the Yankees could win out and buy Ramirez. We don't know whether the Red Sox will decide not to pony up and sign Teixeira or whether there really might be a three-way deal among the White Sox, Angels and Reds that would put Jermaine Dye in Cincinnati, Joey Votto in Anaheim and Chone Figgins in Chicago.

What we do know is that there are many very good players -- Pat Burrell, Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Milton Bradley, Derek Lowe, Rocco Baldelli, et al -- who now are realizing that in terms of free agency, January is the new November. It looks like that is the signing period this year, not early in free agency like years past.

Most free agents probably read Red Sox owner John Henry's cryptic e-mail in regards to the Teixeira negotiations, which probably was a rewrite of something he wrote to Frank McCourt when he was negotiating to buy McCourt's house outside Boston, which, roughly translated, might have read, "If you can get $30 million for the house, you'd be wise to take it." McCourt didn't, and Henry got the house for considerably less.

One source close to Teixeira said Friday that the two sides are not that far apart, and the conciliatory and civilized nature of those words made it obvious that Teixeira likes Mr. Henry's neighborhood, he just wants the kitchen and heating system redone as part of the deal. Teixeira is a very bright man who might be willing to take Washington's money (if it has been offered) or go back to Anaheim or welcome the Yankees into negotiations; he knows what he thinks he is worth, and he knows Scott Boras' math says the Red Sox could sign him, Jason Varitek and Lowe and be right around last season's payroll.

Teixeira has been the model of reliability -- he's played about 151 games a season with a .919 OPS to go with his 34-homer average. Look, CC Sabathia is a great pitcher and an even better person. Plus, he proved this past season how much he cares by risking his arm to try to bring a championship to Milwaukee. And he and Teixeira have helped each other this offseason. Yankees GM Brian Cashman flew to Sabathia's house during the winter meetings and moved the Yankees' offer from $140 million to $161 million because he feared that if Teixeira signed quickly with the Red Sox or the Nationals and the Angels then approached Sabathia with a $130 million-$140 million offer, he might give them the California discount.

Sabathia is worth it to the Yankees, because Cashman can stick to his plan of not trading away his best young pitchers. The Dodgers got the Ramirez, Casey Blake and Greg Maddux contracts eaten by the Red Sox, Indians and Padres because of the value of the young players they had to throw into the deals.

Cashman backed off the Mike Cameron deal because Melky Cabrera has improved his plate discipline in winter ball, and there are voices in the organization who still believe Brett Gardner is going to be a useful major league player. No one will argue his energy and intensity, but watch him take batting practice, and you'll find out he's a lot stronger than he looks. Granted, he has to take it into games, but there is something on which to place hope.

Mike Lowell is sitting in Florida watching the Teixeira drama play out, probably wondering why he didn't take the four-year offer from the Phillies at this time last year and instead decided to remain with the Red Sox for three years.

Then there's Varitek; Boras turned down arbitration and a virtually guaranteed $10 million a year for the catcher, and now Varitek doesn't have one offer. The Red Sox tried to get Miguel Montero from Arizona, but the D-backs wouldn't do Daniel Bard for Montero. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein will not trade Michael Bowden, whom Epstein projects to be a very good major league starting pitcher.

If the Red Sox do not sign Baldelli, would they consider eating the final $22 million of Eric Byrnes' deal to get Montero? That has yet to be seriously discussed, but it's something to consider down the line if the Red Sox can't find a catcher.

That is all for another day. For two years, it has been the Red Sox's plan to sign Teixeira. That plan remains. What remains to be seen is whether the Red Sox can quantify what Boras does or does not have in offers. When one side is talking about something between $170 million and $200 million, there is what Boras calls "the sticker-shock factor." Especially when, in Epstein's six years as general manager, the Red Sox have won two world championships, played in two more ALCS Game 7s and made only two major free-agent acquisitions -- Daisuke Matsuzaka and J.D. Drew, both Boras clients.

We don't know where the truth lies. In reality, Henry and Boras don't know, either.

***

The Red Sox did work out 22-year-old Junichi Tazawa, with the pitcher throwing major league baseballs. The difference between Japanese and American baseballs is even greater than the difference between balls used in college and those used in the minors and majors. This occasionally creates problems and has been a problem for Matsuzaka. Japanese baseballs are smaller and more pliable, and Matsuzaka, who has small hands, has had some problems with commanding certain pitches, so much so that Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell says, "We eventually had to eliminate two of his pitches because of the differences in the balls. Of course, what compounds the problem is that every major league team in Japan manufactures their own baseballs."

Hence the private Tazawa workout with MLB baseballs.