Friday, December 26, 2008
Red Sox didn't need Teixeira
The Red Sox are in trouble. Just ask Nick Cafardo
The Red Sox never needed Mark Teixeira.
That's what I kept hearing from Sox defenders after the Yankees scored a knockout punch in the heavyweight fight with Boston. The Yankees, as we warned all along, swept in and grabbed the prized free agent of the 2008 offseason.
Of course the Red Sox needed Teixeira.
If they didn't, they wouldn't have offered an eight-year deal for $170 million. If they didn't, they wouldn't have flown to Texas to meet with Teixeira, then kept talking right up until yesterday afternoon when the Yankees came in and trumped them.
The Sox were willing to invest in Teixeira long-term, even with young Lars Anderson about a year or two away from the big leagues, because they believed a player of his caliber would not be available again in free agency for a while.
Those who think the Sox didn't need Teixeira can make the argument that they already have a pretty formidable team that reached Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. But they had targeted Teixeira as the piece that could take them over that hump.
Right. The Game 7 hump. Because everyone knows that winning one game depends on replacing one player with another, slightly better player.
I don't mean to pick on Cafardo. At least he does list all the counter-arguments, and falls short only in failing to realize that the counter-arguments actually carry the day this time.
Look, there's a big difference between needing and wanting. First, make a list of the things you want. Then make a list of the things you need. The second list is a lot shorter than the first, right? The Red Sox obviously wanted Teixeira. They've got an immense amount of money to spend, and there aren't actually many players worth spending it on. Teixeira is worth it, and the Red Sox know the math a lot better than I do. So, of course, they wanted him.
Needed, though? Hardly. Last season, the Red Sox outscored both the Rays and the Yankees handily, and (more impressively) they led the American League in OPS in road games. The Red Sox featured a championship-quality attack in 2008, and figure to do the same in 2009.
And then, of course, there's young Lars Anderson, who just turned 21 and has already spent half a summer tearing up the Double-A Eastern League. The odds are against Anderson becoming anything like Mark Teixeira; few prospects do. But there is a considerable chance that Anderson will, in four or five years, be (roughly) as good as Teixeira.
The Red Sox wanted Teixeira, I think, because he was the best player out there, and next winter the free-agent crop will be exceptionally thin. The best available infielder next winter might be Adrian Beltre, and the only eligible outfielders worth mega-deals might be Jason Bay and Matt Holliday (and I suspect the Red Sox will try to lock up Bay between now and then). The Red Sox, I think, were worried about that $170 million burning a hole in their pockets.
Which leaves me to wonder: Where can the rest of us sign up for a "need" like this one?