"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Christmas Came Early (Tex Marks The Spot)

What’s my take on the Yankees signing Mark Teixeira? Regular readers might already know:

Some samples from the above:

Teixeira was third among major league first basemen in VORP last year, behind only a pair of monster seasons by Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. Pujols is the best player in baseball, an institution in St. Louis, and signed through 2011 (if you count the club option that is all but guaranteed to be picked up). He’s also the same age as Teixeira. Berkman will be 33 on Opening Day, and is also signed through 2011 (again counting a club option for the final year). Over the past four seasons, Teixeira has averaged 55.05 VORP per season. Last year the only other first baseman to surpass that mark was Kevin Youkilis, who is 11 months older than Teixeira.

Though the Yankees are flush with pitching prospects, outside of Montero, they don’t have any coming mashers in their system. Teixeira was fifth among all hitters in baseball in VORP last year. He’s also a superb defender, and won’t turn 29 until April. Prior to this past season, PECOTA projected that Teixeira would hit .284/.384/.502 in his age-34 season in 2014. Teixeira then beat his PECOTA projection for 2008. A seven year contract that would take Teixeira through age 35 would not be a bad investment.

The Yankee system is nearly barren when it comes to everyday player prospects. Center fielder Austin Jackson is the only notable hitting prospect in the organization to have played above the Sally League, and catcher Jesus Montero is the only prospect in the system who projects as an elite run producer at the plate. . . . Whenever an elite run producer becomes available while still in his 20s, the Yankees absolutely must prioritize that player in order to compensate for their failure to properly stock the farm system with bats. When such a player becomes available at a position of existing need at the major league level, as is the case with Mark Teixeira this offseason, the Yankees have an obligation to their fans and the future of the franchise to sign that player.

It’s quite possible that none of the young pitchers listed above will mature into the sort of dominant ace that CC Sabathia has become, but then again, one might. In fact, more than one might. There is, however, no chance of any player in the Yankee farm system maturing into an all-around defensive and offensive weapon on par with Mark Teixeira. If Brian Cashman is serious about the team-building process he began in the winter of 2005, if Hal Steinbrenner is serious about allowing Cashman to execute his vision, the Yankees must immediately revamp their plans to focus on signing Teixeira.

L – Johnny Damon (LF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
S/R – Swisher/Nady (RF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
L – Brett Gardner (CF)

Take Teixeira out of that lineup and it’s not a pretty picture given the 2008 performances of Posada, Matsui, Cano, and Gardner and the advancing age of Damon, Jeter, Posada, and Matsui. . . . Oh, and before I go, here’s one more lineup to consider:

L – Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
R – Dustin Pedroia (2B)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Kevin Youkilis (3B)
L – David Ortiz (DH)
R – Jason Bay (LF)
L – J.D. Drew (RF)
S – Jed Lowrie (SS)
Does it really matter? (C)

That can’t be allowed to happen.

The ideal solution to the Yankees’ production problems would be Mark Teixeira, a player who fits the Yankees’ needs about as perfectly as can be given his position, youth, and defensive reputation, the last of which stands in stark contrast to the Yankees 13th place finish in defensive efficiency among AL teams in 2008. With Sabathia off the market, Teixeira is now the belle of the free agent ball, and while it would be obscene for the Yankees to land both CC and Tex, modesty didn’t stop them from giving Burnett an obscene contract.

. . .

Still, even after the Burnett signing, chasing Teixeira is not out of the question for the Yankees. With big contracts including those of Giambi, Abreu, Pettitte, Pavano, and the retired Mike Mussina coming off the books, the Yankees still have, by my math, $23.5 left over from their 2008 payroll, which is very close to the average annual salary Teixeira’s is likely to make under his next contract, which is likely to resemble Sabathia’s and its $23 million annual average.

Would the Yankees dare hand out another nine-figure deal after spending $242.5 million on a pair of starting pitchers? Stay tuned.

The figure in that last sentence should say $243.5 million, but throw that out; it’s now $423.5 million, nearly half-a-billion dollars, for three players. That’s obscene, but Alex addressed my liberal guilt already, so I’ll not dwell on it. The reality of the situation is that, per the figures quoted above, the Yankees’ 2009 payroll is still roughly equivalent to their 2008 payroll, only the team has redirected the money they had been spending on aging players (including the declining and defensively challenged Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, the 40-year-old Mike Mussina, and the comically fragile Carl Pavano) to a 29-year-old lefty who is arguably the best pitcher in the game, a 29-year-old switch-hitting, Gold Glove first baseman who is among the most productive hitters in the game, and, well, A.J. Burnett (can’t win ‘em all). So, really, the Yankees’ spending is no more obscene than it was before they handed out these three contracts, it’s just a lot smarter (well, at least 67% smarter).

I think it’s worth pointing out that, because Teixeira has switched leagues mid-season each of the last two years, his two best seasons have been somewhat obscured. He won the Gold Glove in his last two single-league seasons (2005 and 2006), and in his last two campaigns posted these lines:

2007: .306/.400/.563 (150 OPS+), 30 HR, 105 RBI, 53.1 VORP
2008: .308/.410/.552 (151 OPS+), 33 HR, 121 RBI, 67.7 VORP

In 2008, he also drew 97 walks against 93 strikeouts. Oh, and on his career he’s slugging exactly .541 against both left-handed and right-handed pitching.

Really, the only reason not to like the Teixeira deal is the length of the contract, but Tex will still be just 36 in the eighth and final year of the deal. By comparison, Jason Giambi was 37 last year and hit .247/.373/.502. Teixeira’s ex-teammate and fellow switch-hitter Chipper Jones was 36 last year and hit .364/.470/.574.  Here’s a quick look at the age-36 seasons of the top seven players listed as most similar to Teixeira at his current age 28 on Baseball-Reference:

  • Carlos Delgado: bounced back from a league-average age-35 season to hit .271/.353/.518. Never had an OPS+ below 129 from ages 28 to 34.
  • Kent Hrbek: retired after a poor age-34 season.
  • Fred McGriff: Production fell off after age 30, but stayed comfortably above average. Hit .277/.373/.452 at age 36.
  • Jim Thome: Save for a season lost to a broken hand, mashed every year through to his .275/.410/.563 performance at age 36.
  • Will Clark: Had just one OPS+ below 123 from age 30 to 36; went out with a flourish as he retired after a .319/.418/.546 performance at age 36.
  • Jeff Bagwell: First OPS+ below 135 came in age-35 season. Hit .266/.377/.465 at age 36.
  • Willie McCovey: Often on DL after age 32, but other than his age-34 season, was still mashing when healthy. Hit .253/.416/.506 in 344 at-bats at age 36.

I’d rate those as four positive indicators (Delgado, Thome, Clark, Bagwell), one negative (Hrbek), and two middling (McGriff with McCovey only because of the injuries).

As mentioned above, Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA, which projects players’ future performance based on the careers of similar players throughout the history of the game, predicted prior to last season that Teixeira would stay healthy and productive through to a .284/.384/.502 performance at age-34 (the PECOTA Cards only show the ensuing seven years). Teixeira has since beaten his PECOTA projection for 2008.

You can never know what will happen in the future. All long-term contracts are risks, but it seems to me that Teixeira is among the best bets in baseball to still be healthy and productive eight years from now. As for 2009, he’s exactly the player the Yankees need. The only catch is that having landed both CC and Tex, they’ll have no excuses if they fail to win it all next year, but then, that’s the way they like it.

. . .

By the way, Alex shot me a note to let me know that Todd Drew had his surgery yesterday. All went smoothly and he is recovering nicely. The Yankees signing Teixeira is nice and all, but getting a good word on Todd was the best news of the day, and the real reason that Christmas came early here at the Banter.

Tags:  Mark Teixeira  Transactions

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33 comments

1 tommyl   ~  Dec 24, 2008 11:36 am

Cliff, I couldn't agree more with you. I have been encouraged by reports that this signing was a result of learning from the Beltran business and also that the team looked ahead to 2010 and saw a weak free agent class. People sometimes forget that nearly their entire OF (except Swisher and whoever the CF is) is coming off the books next year, all large contracts. It shows that they do seem to have a plan (though AJ is still a mystery to me).

The payroll is similar to last year, so far this season we've replaced Pettitte, Mussina, Abreu and Giambi with Sabathia, Burnett, Swisher and Texeira. That's a huge upgrade almost across the board. If they can flip Matsui or Nady for some prospects or cheaper players that could further lower the payroll.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 24, 2008 12:14 pm

Indeed. Don't be surprised if they still go after Holliday next year. Minus the Damon and Matsui contracts and with Nady (if he hasn't been traded) a free agent, they'll both need him, and have the money to spend.

3 Bobtaco   ~  Dec 24, 2008 12:44 pm

How about this one?

Reunite Matsui with Torre in LA, and also include IPK, Nady and Montero.

Get back Matt Kemp to play CF.

Also have the option to sign Manny for DH, to a 2 year incentive laden contract if his price drop continues.

4 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 24, 2008 12:53 pm

I'm happy for you, Cliff. You stood firm on your principle, now I'll be rooting for your faith to be vindicated this coming season >;)

5 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 24, 2008 12:56 pm

[3] I don't let go of Montero under any circumstances. He projects to be a big hitter; you don't let go of big hitters, you find a place for them in the field or on the bench. The others I don't mind, but Kemp is not worth that and Montero.

6 Bobtaco   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:03 pm

[5] OK, I was throwing Montero in there because in all likelihood he won't have a position now that Tex is installed at 1B forever.

What other prospect could be added to Matsui, Nady, IPK that would get that deal done with LA?

7 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:06 pm

The other thing on Kemp, is why trade for youth at the one position you have it (Austin Jackson)? That said, Kemp might prove to be a corner OF in the end, so if the plan is an 2010 outfield of Swisher, Jackson, Kemp, then it makes more sense, but I agree with Will. Don't trade Montero until you're sure he can't catch, and maybe not even then. If Montero does manage to make it to the majors as a catcher (small a chance as that may be) trading him would prove to have been a monumental mistake.

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:09 pm

Bob, maybe you could offer Jackson for Kemp, essentially trading up on CF prospects. Of course that blows the entire point of trading Nady and Matsui (the last thing the Dodgers need is three more outfielders). I think you're forcing things here. I also think the Yankees are pretty much done. Any other moves will be minor (a one-year deal for Pettitte or another fifth starter, lesser, Swisher-level trades, with even the latter unlikely).

9 Bobtaco   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:13 pm

[7] Kemp is cost controlled for awhile, has tools, and is young. Teaming him with AJax seems like a strong OF. I'm just trying to spitball ideas that help the Yankees deal from a position of strength, or abundance, while maintaining or adding to the youthful core.

You agree that they have to deal someone out of Matsui, Damon, Swisher, Nady right? I just don't see then dealing Swisher as he is friends with CC. Damon has the AJ recruitment, and loose clubhouse guy personality. So it seems to me that X or Matsui are the likely ones to go. That being said, where can you send them and what can you get back that is going to help the team the most going forward?

10 mehmattski   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:20 pm

All I could do when I read the news yesterday was raise my arms in the air and yell "Nice!"

To those with trade dreams, remember that Damon and Matsui have full no-trade clauses. Why would they agree to be traded elsewhere?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a great lineup!

11 Bobtaco   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:24 pm

[10] I believe that Matsui might waive the no-trade to play for Torre, on the West coast closer to "home".

That is why I started the idea of dealing for Dodgers. Plus, Cashman seems like he has a good relationship with the GM there, going back to getting Proctor originally, etc.

12 thelarmis   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:29 pm

"Todd Drew had his surgery yesterday. All went smoothly and he is recovering nicely."

THAT'S what i've been waiting to hear!!! WAHOO!!! thanks for posting that. i've been plotzing...

13 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:35 pm

Bob, I completely agree that the Yankees should try to trade Nady immediately, preferably for a fifth starter, backup catcher, or center fielder. I'd trade Matsui as well, but you'd be selling low on Matsui and there's no longer a need to open up DH for Manny. Nady, however, will never be more valuable as a trade chip than he is right now. The need to move him. Swisher can handle RF by himself.

As for the Dodgers, Ned Colletti has only been the GM since 2006. So the only trade Cashman has made with him was for Betemit. The Ventura/Proctor, Brown/Weaver, and even Sturtze/Myrow trades were all with Paul DePodesta, who's now with the Padres in an assistant role. The Padres have no prospects worth getting, and the Yankees don't have what it would take to get Jake Peavy and no longer need Adrian Gonzalez.

14 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:37 pm

Sorry for the post spam, but I think this is important and interesting enough to make sure it stays in the 'current' thread...

From an SI article of not that long ago:

“Teixeira instead signed with Boras and was projected as a first-round pick in the 1998 draft. But when the Red Sox asked him beforehand if he would accept a $1.5 million signing bonus, Teixeira thought he could do better. He tumbled all the way to the ninth round, where Boston finally grabbed him. “The Red Sox told everybody that I wouldn’t sign, and when it got to a late enough round they said, ‘Let’s take a flier on him,’” Teixeira told Baseball America in 2006. “So they spoiled me for everyone else.” Dan Duquette, then the Red Sox general manager, says it was common knowledge that Teixeira would be difficult to sign. “That’s why he went in the ninth round,” Duquette says.

The Red Sox still offered Teixeira $1.5 million, but Boras advised his client to go to college instead, take some time to mature, get an education, maybe even meet the girl of his dreams. Ever the ideal client, Teixeira turned down the money — “It was the most I had ever heard of a high school player turning down,” says Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall — and he met an industrial-design major named Leigh Williams at a party his freshman year. Today Teixeira and Leigh are married with two children, Jack Gordan, who is 2, and Addison Leigh, 1.

Teixeira does not like to revisit what went wrong with the Red Sox, lest he alienate a potential suitor. But the experience clearly bound him to Boras and made him somewhat jaded about the business of baseball. “

15 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:38 pm

I think Matsui will be the odd man out, but the trade will happen after he proves he can still hit in spring training...just a thought.

16 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 24, 2008 1:57 pm

[9] [13] Agree 100%. I like Swish and his potenial. Nady seems like the type pf player we want, even if he is not the most talented. Matsui (I believe) will be a better bat, but he's in his last year anyway. Trading Nady would be better for THIS year, trading Matsui gives us a bit more flexibility, future and salary relief. So I lean to trading Nady... but it's close to a toss-up between him and Mats.

If we get Holliday next year, we will have a VERY strong team. If Ajax pans out, an OF of Holliday/AJax/Swisher/Melky -or- Brett sounds very nice.

17 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 24, 2008 2:02 pm

By the way.... any kudos for the 'Man of Cash'? Steve at WW said CC and Tex were the 'obvious' moves, but certainly neither came easily. When CC didn't jump on the initial offer and bid his time, it looked scary for a while. Certainly, while we all hoped for Tex, it really looked like a long shot. And I think the Swisher deal was one of the best. Not a great player, but a great deal.

Yeah, AJ sours things a little, but it is a typical hi-risk/hi-reward kinda thing... and it was only money, so maybe it will turn into a worthwhile deal.

Anyway, big budget or not, I think Cashman has been really great this off-season. I believe he is a man on a mission.

18 Yankster   ~  Dec 24, 2008 3:06 pm

No kudos for Cash - but he is clearly professional.

If a buyer is offering more money than everyone else to play in a town with more endorsement money than anywhere else you, and he gets his man, all he gets is a nod. Whether these deals pan out is now as much chance as anything else. But using the highest offer to sign your man is merely doing your job.

19 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 24, 2008 3:21 pm

I also want to see Nady traded now that he's at his peak, I want it to be for prospects. The ML team is getting stacked, the mL pitching is fine, but some more positional depth would be good. AJax is really pretty much spoken for, and beyond him there's only depth, be it far off, at C.

20 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 24, 2008 3:44 pm

[17][18] What I wonder is whether the muzzling of Hank helped Cash do his job. I'm pretty sure it didn't hurt!

21 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 24, 2008 3:59 pm

[17] While kudos might be too strong a word, at least Cashman didn't feel the need to fire off angry emails when the Tex, CC and/or AJ Burnett negotiations were not preceeding as quickly as planned. Player evaluation aside, Cashman seems to be a very steady and well respected professional, and I can't help but think that does make a difference.

22 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 24, 2008 4:00 pm

[21] Make that "proceeding as quickly as planned."

23 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 24, 2008 4:02 pm

[19] I wouldn't be so quick to trade Nady just yet. I think Girardi could definitely work 5 (Damon, Matsui, Nady, Swisher and Gardner/Melky)players into four slots (outfield and DH). Besides, something tells me Matsui and Damon wil make a trip to the DL and Gardner/Melky wont be the kind of player you want to use everyday.

24 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 24, 2008 4:28 pm

[23] I guess if one thinks Nady will be a Type-A, then it would be awesome to keep him for the season.

Another thing, I think we have to start looking at the decision against offering arb to all the FAs in a better light. It now seems clear they were serious about freeing up money so they could spend it. Perhaps had they been stuck with Abreu and Pettitte at high salaries they wouldn't have been able to land Tex and CC (obviously the AJ deal influences things, but anyway...)

25 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 24, 2008 4:35 pm

[24] Agreed on the arb guys. And hey - I wonder how Andy, Abreu, Giambi (among others) are feeling right about now. Andy should consider himself lucky if the Yanks $10mm offer still stands IMO. And Abreu and Giambi will be lucky to get 2 years the way things are shaping up. Or not shaping up as it were...

26 Raf   ~  Dec 24, 2008 5:16 pm

[13]

If anyone is traded, it'll be for prospects. Yanks have signed Kevin Cash, which gives them 3 BUC (along with Cervelli & Molina).

5th starter spot is for some combination of Hughes/Kennedy/Aceves/whatever kid in the minors steps up.

Not sure who'll play CF, but I think Melky/Gardner/Damon should be enough to handle it, with Nady/Swisher filling in in a pinch. If a starter is out for an extended period, then a trade can be made, but for the most part, the Yanks are pretty much set.

27 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 24, 2008 5:23 pm

Given the concerns over AJ's health, Joba's innings limit, and the notion that you simply can never have enough SP, I'd resign Pettitte [Andy WTF is wrong with you - take the 10mm!!], and either call it an offseason or then try to deal Matsui for prospects.

28 Joseph   ~  Dec 24, 2008 7:05 pm

[18] Cashman is basically in a no win situation. If his moves backfire or don't work out he gets roasted. If they do, people say, well, anybody could do that if they had that much money to spend. Nobody knows what has went on behind the scenes this offseason. But I feel Cashman flying out to Vegas early to meet with CC, then again during the meetings, and then flying to SF to meet with Sabathia and his family, all with the intention of making CC and his wife comfortable with the idea of playing and living in NY, had to have an effect on getting CC to come to NY. Not every GM would have done that. There's no doubt CC wanted to play on the west coast, and if Cash hadn't made Sabathia feel good about coming to NY, he could easily have waited for offers from California teams, which certainly would have come. Of course the $$ were big, but Sabathia was going to get a ton of money wherever he signed.

As for Tex, I really feel that Cashman's stealth approach was at least partially responsible for Sox owner John Henry's decision to call Scott Boras' bluff about higher offers. The thing is, Boston thought they had Tex. They didn't fly down to Texas to use up some frequent flyer miles. Henry was furious when Cash swooped in and grabbed Tex, as he fired off another whining, sour grapes e-mail complaining of the Yankee's spending, just as he did after the Yanks traded for ARod.

Anyway, did Cash make the difference in these deals? Who knows? But I think he deserves more than a nod. Perhaps a pat on the back and a, "well done Brian." Or maybe, a, "way to go Cash, you rule man, were baaack!!!"

All I know is Cash and the Yanks have made my Christmas a lot merrier.

29 RollingWave   ~  Dec 24, 2008 11:25 pm

a. another guy I would be intrigued in signing after 09 is Carl Crawford. at this point I actually like him a bit more than Holliday everything considered.

b.we could just go ahead with a Swisher / Damon / Nady OF with Melky or Gardner filling in CF for defensive and/or if Nady bombs / Swisher fail to rebound. Damon in CF is risky but i highly doubt he'll come anywhere close to 05 Bernie bad .

c. Matsui is the only true slugger in our OF mix right now, I don't think we really should trade him.

trading one of Damon / Nady make some sense but if money isn't a true issue then why?

30 Rich   ~  Dec 25, 2008 12:26 am

I want Nady traded (or packaged if necessary) for the best position prospect that can be acquired.

31 Bobtaco   ~  Dec 25, 2008 12:46 am

I still think Manny is on the way too.

32 Rich   ~  Dec 25, 2008 1:56 pm

[31] Isn't a team limited to signing three Type A free agents?

33 SteveAmerica   ~  Dec 25, 2008 2:35 pm

Coupla things:

1) Merry Christmas, and for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, Merry Thursday!

2) I'm over the moon about the Tex signing, especially when you consider that they got him and Sabathia.

3) As for A.J. Burnett...I'm taking the John Wayne route on this, "I didn't vote for him, but he's my President and I wish him the best."

4) I'm sick of the "Teh Yankz spent half a billion dollarz O noese!!!" meme. Half a billion over how many years? The use of the word billion is inflammatory rhetoric. Also, I don't care how much they spend. The Rays almost won the W.S. last year and they don't have any money. The Phillies did win the W.S. and they don't spend close to what the Yankees spend. The Yankees had the highest payroll in baseball and didn't even make the playoffs. It's a silly topic.

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