Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Empire Strikes Back

If you’re a Yankees fan, you’ve got to be thrilled with the Bombers’ latest blockbuster signing. And you surely love their management team; they always get their man. Nothing stands in their way. They have the benefit of being financially loaded, which has lead to a roster equally loaded with high-powered, highly paid stars over the years.

What has to be most appealing to the Yankees and their fans is this: they stuck it to the Red Sox by stealthily striking at the last moment, stealing Boston’s free agent prize.

The Yankees quiet interest in Teixeira grew when the Red Sox couldn’t seal the deal in Dallas, and when the Angels announced that they had pulled out of the Teixeira sweepstakes. Apparently, Teixeira favored the Yankees all along and he conveyed that to them this week. And the Yankees were willing and able to trump the Red Sox $170 million offer. What's more, the first baseman also received a $5 million signing bonus, bringing the contract’s full value to $185 million.

However, it should be noted that over the last eight years the Yankees ability to attract the most coveted free agents hasn’t served them very well: Hideki Irabu, Jason Giambi, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, Randy Johnson, Hideki Matsui, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Kei Igawa, A-Rod, and Johnny Damon were all supposed to be key pieces to a championship, and even a dynasty. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out like that. Many of them were flat-out busts.

The Yanks free agent bonanza this offseason will cost them their first, second and third-round draft picks, further retarding a player development system that was once the best in the major leagues.

As for the Red Sox, while some may expect them to redirect their focus toward another free agent slugger, the question is who? It's hard to imagine the Sox contemplating any of the second tier guys, such as Milton Bradley, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreau, or Pat Burrell, who are all corner outfielders. That's simply not their need at this time. And Jason Giambi is a soon-to-be 38-year-old first baseman/DH with defensive liabilities.

The reality is that the Sox don't need a corner outfielder or a first baseman. Teixeira was the most unique player available this winter, and the Red Sox were willing to reconstitute their roster to obtain him. He was perfect for the Sox due to his age (29), plate discipline (more walks than Ks last year), switch-hitting ability, and defensive skill (two Gold Gloves).

Now the Red Sox will have to burnish their relationship with Mike Lowell, who probably came to feel unwanted as this saga unfolded. After leaving more than $12 million dollars on the table from the Phillies last offseason (in the form of a guaranteed fourth year, which the Red Sox wouldn't match), you have to wonder if he is now regretting that decision.

The absence of Teixeira makes the re-signing of Jason Varitek less likely at this point. The Sox need offense from all positions now, in a way they wouldn't have with Teixeira in the order. Now the Sox need an offensive-oriented catcher, as well as a utility infielder and fourth outfielder that can hit. With Teixeira, the Sox would have also felt more comfortable with letting Jed Lowrie mature and develop. There would have been less pressure on the young shortstop, and if he hit .270, with six to eight homers, it would have been acceptable. Is that the case now?

The Red Sox need offense, and Teixeira would have been a difference maker. Their loss is the Yankees' gain. That's a double-whammy.

The offseason has developed into its own unique theater between the Red Sox and Yankees. At this point, all the Yankees have won is the PR battle and the headlines. Whether that translates into victories on the field remains to be seen.

On paper, at least, the Yankees have gotten better, while the Red Sox have largely remained the same to this point. They may still improve themselves in some way, or ways, but nothing will likely compare to the impact Teixeira would have had on the batting order. Offensively, the Sox may only be able to improve marginally now. If they could find a way to land an ace like Roy Oswalt or Jake Peavy, that would supplant the loss of Teixeira. But such an acquisition is probably just a pipe dream.

One thing's for certain in the highly competitive AL East; if you're not getting better, you're getting worse.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.

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