12/20/08 6:50 PM EST
Teixeira's decision could come soon
Free-agent slugger to choose team this week, source says
By Lyle Spencer and Bill Ladson / MLB.com
The field of serious bidders from Day 1 includes the Red Sox, Nationals, Angels and Orioles, with the depth of the Yankees' interest still difficult to measure.
The source believes the Red Sox remain in the lead for Teixeira's services in spite of the statement by principal owner John Henry on Thursday night that "it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor." This followed a meeting with Teixeira and agent Scott Boras in Dallas and was, in a sense, consistent with the volatile relationship between Boston and Boras over the years.
"This is going to end the old-fashioned way," the source said, maintaining that money will not be the decisive factor. "He wants to be on the East Coast, and his wife wants to be there. I believe the decision will be based on family and geography."
If accurate, that is troubling for the Angels, who sent first baseman Casey Kotchman and Minor League pitcher Steve Marek to Atlanta on July 29 for what turned out to be 58 games with Teixeira in manager Mike Scioscia's lineup. The final four were in the American League Division Series, a demoralizing setback against the Red Sox. Swooping in to nab Teixeira would be tantamount to throwing salt on still-fresh wounds.
The source places the Nationals second in the Teixeira derby. It is believed the organization has been pitching Teixeira, known for his intelligence at the plate and diligence off the field, on the notion that the club has the potential to follow in the Rays' golden path. On a clear day in D.C., they apparently can see themselves vaulting from worst to first by placing Teixeira in a mix that includes the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Lastings Milledge and Josh Willingham.
At the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, the Nationals extended an eight-year, $160 million offer for Teixeira. The source believes the Red Sox offered fewer years, but that the dollars and the exciting lure of The Nation might be enough to land Teixeira.
"If it's based on long term," the source said, "Teixeira will take the Nationals."
There are those in the D.C. media, familiar with Nationals owner Ted Lerner, who think the Nationals are the club most likely to approach Boras' early target of 10 years and $200 million for the 28-year-old switch-hitter born and raised in Maryland.
The Angels, according to an informed source, at least matched the Nationals' eight-year, $160 million proposal at the Winter Meetings but have not upped the ante recently. The Orioles' best offer to find its way into print was for seven years and $140 million to $150 million, and they have said they would consider going higher.
The Yankees continue to hover, as only they can.
Teixeira has been Washington's top free-agent target since the offseason began. Incumbent first basemen Dmitri Young and Nick Johnson have been unable to stay healthy in recent seasons, and Teixeira, who has averaged 151 games per year during his six big league seasons, would be a durable replacement at the position.
Teixeira, who hit a combined .321 with 33 home runs and 121 RBIs for the Braves and Angels this past season, could join Zimmerman in anchoring the middle of a lineup that finished 28th in baseball in runs scored in 2008.
On Saturday, the Nationals agreed to a deal with free-agent starter Daniel Cabrera, formerly of the Orioles, with the hope that he'll find himself in D.C. in a young rotation led by John Lannan and Scott Olsen, who came to the Nationals from the Marlins along with Willingham.
Estimates of Boston's offer to Teixeira have ranged from $165 million to $185 million. On ESPN.com, Peter Gammons wrote that a source said Teixeira and the Red Sox are not too far apart. According to Boras' math, Gammons added, Boston could sign Teixeira, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe and be close to this year's payroll.
Boras hasn't shed much light on the negotiations since the Winter Meetings. He did respond to Henry's statement after their meeting on Thursday with one of his own.
"The Boston ownership was kind enough to request and travel to meet with Mark Teixeira," Boras said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "While it was a very positive meeting, Mark was candid and advised he is in the process of making a decision and is now attempting to eliminate teams."