For those of you just hearing, Mark Teixeira has reportedly signed an 8-year deal with the New York Yankees for $170 million, possibly more.
I'm going to do my best to make this less of a fantasy baseball article, and more of an MLB baseball article. I love fantasy baseball, but the dollars involved in Teixeira's upcoming contract are only partially related to fantasy sports. And I think he's going to be worth every penny he's paid, and even more (which means I think the Washington Nationals should've ponied up the dough).
First off, the talk is an 8-year deal worth $21.25 million per year. How does that compare to other salaries in baseball? Well, it's near the top. Listen, nobody's going to argue that Teixeira won't be that expensive. He absolutely will be among the highest paid players in baseball. Among contracts already signed, only Alex Rodriguez, Johan Santana, and CC Sabathia will also be members of the $20 Million Club (notice two future teammates of Teixeira on that list; don't even bother trying to argue that the Red Sox or Mets are on the same level as the Yankees when it comes to spending). Remember, though, that many of the best players in baseball are still on their initial contracts, or are going through arbitration, and thus haven't been paid full market value yet, like Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, and Matt Holliday. Furthermore, remember that there are a number of MLB veterans who've got fat contracts and aren't performing at that level, like Troy Glaus, Barry Zito, Garret Anderson, and J.D. Drew.
So why is Mark Teixeira worth the money that those players aren't? Because Teixeira is the real thing. His career lows are 26 HR and 84 RBI (both in his rookie season), and has the following five-year averages:
.285, 100 R, 35 HR, 118 RBI, 80 BB
Can you guarantee that kind of production over the next 8-10 years? No, of course not. Don Mattingly, Kent Hrbek, and Mo Vaughn were all top-tier hitters at 28 and out of baseball by their 36th birthdays. But Mark Teixeira has been amazingly consistent as one of the premier power hitters in baseball for five years, and he's succeeded in three different uniforms. I'm as close to certain as I can be about anyone that Teixeira will be a legitimate cleanup hitter for years to come, and those are guys you have to pay for. The reality is that nobody as good as Teixeira is available in free agency this season other than Manny Ramirez, and Manny comes with his own set of issues. Issues that apparently the Yankees were loathe to endure.
The Orioles apparently offered $140 million over 7 years and didn't budge from that, which was essentially conceding that they wouldn't sign Teixeira barring a dramatic hometown discount (which was unlikely with Scott Boras as his agent). The Nationals were in the $20 million per year range, but over 8 years, putting them in the same range as the reported offers by the Red Sox and Angels. The word on the street was that the Nationals would have to pay $200 million over 10 years to get Teixeira.
They should've done it.
Having a guy you can lock into the cleanup spot for at least the next 5-6 years (and probably longer; look at Carlos Delgado or Jim Thome) is an extremely valuable asset. Additionally, signing Teixeira immediately makes your team a legitimate destination for future free agents, as well as giving your still uncommitted fan base a reason to come to the ballpark.
I'm still an Orioles fan first and a Nationals fan second, but I want the Nationals to grow into my new favorite team. I loved the Expos; it's only right that I should like them when they move into my back yard. I was salivating at the thought of Teixeira coming this season, then the Nationals throwing a big contract offer at Matt Holliday next offseason, and riding those two guys in the heart of the lineup for years and years. I can only hope that the new stadium in New York doesn't offer the same short porch in right field, or it could be a long half-dozen years for the AL East.
Oh, who am I kidding. It's going to be long either way.
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