We knew that Brian Cashman had a pretty damn good off-season, and that was before today’s Kat O’Brien article. The Yankees played the situation perfectly, but that might have been more out of luck than out of design. For much of the off-season leading up to the December 23rd signing, the Yankees didn’t think they’d land Teixeira. In fact, Cashman went so far as to say that “Teixeira was never really an option.”
Yet the GM realized what a good fit he was for the team. While they did have Nick Swisher in tow, there’s no comparing him and Teixeira as hitters. The lineup, while potentially solid, was rife with question marks in December, and adding another bat, especially one as consistent as Teixeira, would help shore up that concern and give the Yankees another offensive powerhouse to go with their revamped rotation. Says Cashman:
“It was something I kept pushing, but it was not really being accepted by above me . . . I guess persistence paid off. I knocked on that door, I guess, just enough that someone finally answered. Hal really gave me the OK to pursue it over a few-day period. And at that point, I still thought the Red Sox were getting him.”
Then, to Hal:
“I know you’re not interested, but they’re going to get this guy. He’s going to fall in their lap, and he’s so perfect for us.”
While it’s generally a bad idea to make moves in reaction to an opponent, the Yanks did good here because the move went far beyond countering the Red Sox. It created a swing that could easily affect the outcome of the division this year and for many to come. Teixeira would have improved the Sox offense this year and given them another dependable bat. The alternative, as they’re learning now, is to rely on Mike Lowell to remain healthy and productive for the next two years. Even then, he won’t be as productive as Tex.
Locking Tex into the first base spot for eight years would have made top prospect Lars Anderson a bit more expendable. True, there’s always the chance they could remake him as an outfielder and give him time at DH in the majors, but that’s never an ideal scenario — who knows if Anderson could handle the outfield? This, along with some decent pitching talent throughout the minors, could have enabled the Sox to pull off yet another trade to improve their team now and in the future. Imagine if they were able to trot out a rotation this year of Beckett, Lester, Dice-K, and, say, Matt Cain, with Clay Buchholz and later John Smoltz ready to take the fifth spot from Tim Wakefield. That would give them a devastating lineup and a devastating rotation. I don’t think that many of us would argue with them being favorites for this season.
Things worked out in the Yanks favor, thankfully, and they reeled in the first baseman they’ve been searching for ever since Tino Martinez departed after the 2001 season. Tex can not only pick it at first, but he provides a first-rate bat which can easily replace the production of Jason Giambi’s later years, and then some.
One last interesting quote from Teixeira from O’Brien’s article:
“If the Yankees were a last-place team going nowhere, I wouldn’t be here,” Teixeira said. “So obviously, a talented team helps, and the ability to compete every single year is one of the reasons I signed with the Yankees.”
Booing Orioles fans should think long and hard about that one. They’ve got a core of young talent on board and some pitching in the minors, so they’re not necessarily “going nowhere.” But they’re a last place team in by far the toughest division in baseball. Why would Teixeira sign up for at least two years of agony with only the possibility of a payoff when he could sign for more money with a far better team which has a chance every year? Every Orioles fan would make the same decision.