From the Windup is FanHouse's extended look at a particular portion of America's pastime.
Mark Teixeira, merely the best free agent left on the market, is set to choose a team before Christmas. It's probably fitting then that there are four calling birds (and maybe a fifth looming giant) in pursuit of his services.
Teixeira is the ideal Scott Boras client. First and foremost, he's a tremendous ballplayer, but he's also calm and collected with the press, a family man, and, most critically for Boras' purposes, seemingly completely willing to go to the highest bidder.
Let's assume for a second that Teixeira isn't a Boras-bot sent from the future to
lighten up some billionaire owner's wallet. Let's assume that big Tex will consider a wide variety of factors as he makes the most important decision of his baseball-playing life.
Which team, then, should he sign on the dotted line with?Angels
Consider the Halos the safe choice. Teixeira would probably be comfortable since he already spent a few months there this past season. He'd certainly feel needed. The Angels are a mediocre (or worse) offensive team without him in the lineup. He'd be one of the only hitters on their roster with the coveted combination of patience and power and he'd be certain to have a shot at the playoffs and World Series every year, at least in the short term.
On the other hand, despite all of the team's on-field success, Anaheim will probably never be a great place to play baseball, if only because of the thundersticks. Owner Arte Moreno has spent a ton of money to try to overtake the Dodgers in Southern California but succeeded only moderately.
And how long can he expect the Angels to continue their string of dominance in the AL West anyway? Los Angeles' current core is flawed offensively and aging, while its farm system has thinned out in recent years. Oakland and Texas, meanwhile, continue to stockpile young talent and could pass the Angels by the start of the next decade, whether L.A. has Teixeira or not.Red Sox
If the Angels are the safe choice, then the Red Sox are the obvious one. Boston is a baseball superpower, complete with deep coffers, an elite farm system, a a historic ballpark and a rabid fanbase.
The Sox have the talent to win 95 games and get to October just about every year and a management team with the wherewithal to keep them at that threshold even as the roster turns over. There are reports out of Boston that the Sox have extended a franchise record offer to Teixeira, meaning he'll have more than 160 million reasons to make Fenway Park his home. But he'd be just another great player on the Red Sox, albeit the most well paid one.
Boston has climbed the mountain and broken its curse. With or without him, it will contend for a championship next year and for much of the next decade. The Red Sox will offer Teixeira plenty of chances to win, but not the chance to do something special with the rest of his career.*Nationals
The Nats have gone from D.C.'s darlings to borderline irrelevant in the four years since they moved to Washington. They play in a palatial new stadium, but it was rarely full even in its inaugural season and the TV and radio numbers have been astonishingly poor.
There's a reason for all of that. The Nationals are one of the worst teams in the majors and there's little hope for success in the near future. Washington is still at the beginning of a five-year plan. Teixeira would be a small piece in a very large puzzle that the franchise is trying to put together and he'll probably be in his mid-30s by the time the Nats are ready to actually play meaningful baseball.
In short, he won't be the superstar that helps turn this franchise around, but rather a very good player on a very bad team for the majority of his contract.Orioles
On the surface, the Orioles look an awful lot like the Nationals. They haven't had a winning season this decade and their competition in the AL East could keep them in the cellar of the division for years to come. But look a bit closer.
Baltimore has the makings of a terrific young core. Nick Markakis is one of the most underrated players in baseball, Matt Wieters is the best prospect in game and Adam Jones has a great future as well. Pitching help is coming, with prospects Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta leading the way.
Things might seem bleak in the Charm City, but just ask the Rays, things can turn around at break-neck speed, even with the Red Sox and Yankees as rivals. The Orioles have the type of high-level talent on the horizon to engineer such a turnaround.
As for Teixeira, he could be a real difference-maker for the Orioles, a key piece in reviving the tradition of winning in Baltimore. Maybe not now, maybe not in 2009, but soon and for the rest of his new contract. And he could be a hero at home, with the team he pulled for when he was a kid. Teixeira grew up in Severna Park, Md., which is about 18 miles from Camden Yards, and went to Mount Saint Joseph High School right in Baltimore.
Returning to Baltimore might not get Teixeira the most coin, but it does have the most potential for non-monetary reward.
Who says you can't go home again?
*Almost everything that applies to the Red Sox also applies to the Yankees with regard to Tex. I don't believe the Yankees' interest in Teixeira is genuine anyway, but just in case it is, replace Boston with New York in the Red Sox paragraphs and you'll get the same message.
From the Windup: Christmas Is Coming, Where Should Mark Teixeira Go? originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Tue, 16 Dec 2008 15:15:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.